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Going green at the grassroots

By K.C. Boey - posted Thursday, 7 August 2008

Time flies. It seemed like yesterday that I looked out the aircraft window to the summer brown below close on 20 years ago. Three observations struck me on that first arrival in Melbourne.

Stepping out into the neighbourhood, to be greeted by a cheery "G'day", was a pleasant welcome, from people I did not know. Australians are friendly, I thought.

The wasteful consumption, I struggled to accept: the throwaway habits that conceived of the Styrofoam cup, cling wrap and plastic bag.


And the short-term fixation on instant gratification seemed at odds with the preferred model of deferred capital accumulation.

Am I the misfit katak (frog) who had strayed from beneath the tempurung (coconut shell), I wondered.

David Korten assured me. Dr Korten, founding head of the People-Centred Development Forum then based in Manila, had come on a lecture tour.

Korten's message was in the vein of alternative development advocate E.F. Schumacher (Small Is Beautiful, 1978).

Schumacher and Korten argue that the developing world is being led down the path to over-development. That model has imposed on the world a complexity that inhibits sustainable development, and damages the global environment.

Phew, I thought. Katak me has not been left in the wake of development after all; just down a different path.


These past weeks have affirmed the virtue of that path, with the precipitate action that government has initiated on climate change and global warming.

There has been much argy-bargy - as they say down under - since climate change adviser to the government, Professor Ross Garnaut, released his draft report on July 4.

Between those convinced about the science and those who are yet to be persuaded; among those who have no doubt, but know there will be a cost, and squabble over who should pay; and among those "woe is me" wringing their hands over what anybody can do about the problem.

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First published in the New Sunday Times on July 27, 2008

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About the Author

K.C. Boey is a former editor of Malaysian Business and The Malay Mail. He now writes for The Malaysian Insider out of Melbourne.

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