KUALA LUMPUR Sept 21 ― Today, Malaysians will finally join Global Climate Strike which kicked off in various major cities around the world yesterday to protest climate change.
The protest will start at Sogo KL and head towards Dataran Merdeka at 4.30pm.
Inspired by 16-year-old Greta Thunberg from Sweden, this movement stands out for being particularly youth-centric and at the forefront of the Malaysian chapter is Klima Action Malaysia (KAMY) which is unsurprisingly led by young people.
Since their formation in April this year, KAMY has already participated in two other climate change protests; one on April 21 at Dataran Merdeka and the second one on July 7 from Masjid Jamek to Sogo KL.
Malay Mail spoke to three of its co-founders who, despite their diverse backgrounds, have combined their resources to become one of the leaders of the Climate Strike protest today.
Nurul Fitrah Ahmad Merican, 30, said she got the idea while attending another protest by Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) students in Penang.
She had returned to the university after completing her Masters in Microbial Ecology at Universiti Malaya (UM) earlier this year.
“(I) met a few people there and decided to meet the group striking in KL and the rest is history,” she told Malay Mail.
Fitrah was a student activist during her undergraduate years at UM, and subsequently joined several other NGOs where she was known as someone very passionate about the environment.
“I think it is essential to start the conversation on climate change now with the people close to us ― our friends and families. The average layman is ignorant of the issue as Malaysia has always been a country safe from natural disasters.
“As we are experiencing more and more extreme weather, I think it is crucial to make these stories known to the public to create awareness,” she said.
Another co-founder Nia Raj, 23, said she was briefly with environmental organisation Ecoknights while she was a student.
She too agreed that Malaysians think climate crisis is a faraway issue and there is a definite need to build awareness.
Nia said that those who care about climate change are not necessarily environmentalists as the issue is huge.
She cited the haze issue which seems to stem from greed and reflected on how people ignored the obvious problems.
“I do not hold myself to be an environmentalist as it sets me apart from everyone else. We need to be conscious people of this planet, it's very basic.
“Just as the causes of the haze is very basic, us, greed, as we are intentionally burning our lungs to make space for the things we do not need. Haze is not a naturally occurring disaster as it is intentionally done by us to satisfy the never-ending hole of greed,” she said.
The youngest of the group, IT student Aroe Arjoeni, 20, held her own solo protest in front of her college before she met other members of KAMY.
“I did the first climate strike in KL, stood in front of my university every Friday 12pm for two weeks. After that, I met the other members of KAMY which led to us right now,” she said.
Aroe believes that the movement should stem from individual actions not just to promote, but also counteract negative perception that might surround their work in spreading awareness.
“Individual effort is important because at the end of the day, it will spark a mass movement if you speak up about it. Individual efforts such as reducing waste, recycling, and going vegan can help the people around you to understand climate crisis.
“This issue is mostly portrayed in a negative way, but individual efforts can help change that perception,” she said.
Aroe said instead of just workshops, talks and engagement, the group used the arts to help people understand the issue.
“KAMY is important because we are raising the issue of climate change in Malaysia and try to make it relatable to Malaysians. We use art as a form of expression and a medium to spread this complex climate change issue.
“We have panel discussions, climate workshops, banner-making workshops, we go to other rallies held by our partners, open booths at other events, and more.
“We make sure that the climate change issue in Malaysia is being spread in Bahasa Malaysia. Like I said, we use art to help people understand the complex issue,” she said.
They have already made an impact on lawmaker Fahmi Fadzil who openly supports today’s climate change protest.
The Lembah Pantai MP attended the “Youth and Climate Crisis: Ambassadors for Change” event held at KL Gateway Mall on Wednesday organised by KAMY and Amnesty International Malaysia.
Fahmi, in his speech, called on people to join the protest and demand action be taken on those responsible for climate crisis including the haze problem itself.
He also said the public should take its cue from the movement and talk about issues brought up by Global Climate Strike and for the team to present their case to the Malaysian Parliament.
“It should become part of everyday conversation in coffee shops, workplaces, longhouses, public transport, schools, houses of worship and wet markets.
“At the next Parliament sitting, you should all come and share your ideas as well. Tell it to the prime minister.”
Among the NGOs joining KAMY in the protest today are Greenpeace, Zero Waste, Centre for Environment, Technology and Development, Kelab Bangsar Utama, Komuniti Hutan Shah Alam and Komuniti Nelayan Pulau Pinang.