Earth Day 22nd April 2021: Restore The Planet !
It began as an Earth Day commemoration: April 22nd was conceived 51 years ago to bring into the public consciousness, front and centre, awareness about climate change and global warming. This year’s theme is “Restore the Earth”. The EcoHub Commuity, in collaboration with the STEM4All@Makerspace organized a series of Workshops and an ongoing Creative Upcycling Competition in Selangor, Malaysia to encourage action and participation in initiatives that focus on the urgent need for environmental sustainability and climate solutions.
The EcoHub Community is an informal network, co-ordinated as a project of the Global Green Chamber of Commerce movement, of likeminded eco-enthusiasts, dedicated to cultivating Eco-Centric Communities by developing community awareness and activities at the grassroots level for the natural environment, green living and consumption, urban waste management and recycling.
The Workshops on vermicomposting, bokashi composting and creative uses of used cooking oil focused on using kitchen waste were well attended and warmly received by participants as informative and timely. They were intended to encourage households to inculcate a zero waste mindset, and treat their organic waste as a resource they could use instead of disposing them into the garbage bins destined for landfills or worse the drain.
While the politicians and policy makers deliberate and implement measures to encourage reduction of waste, the crucial front is at the community level where the battle for hearts and minds to promote the Green Agenda is keenly waged. A deep environmental consciousness has to be actively cultivated to the point where communities achieve an eco-centric outlook; what affects the natural ecology and the environment will also affect their neighbourhood and their homes.
The standout Workshop was the third in the series; on herbal and medicinal plants by Prof Dr Kim Kah Hwi, from the Department of Physiology, Faculty of Medicine, University of Malaya, where he emphasized the importance of herbal and medicinal plants in treatments in conjunction with conventional medicine. His research work over 30 years had yielded him 17 patents and many prizes in global competitions. A healthy lifestyle with adequate exercise and balanced diets he stressed, was key to maintaining physical fitness and mental acuity into old age.
This particular Workshop was organized to identify and popularize growing herbal and medicinal plants in homes and households so that communities would have their own natural pharmacies in addition to the conventional ones; aimed at preventing illness and promoting wellness. As one would have it, this would be part of the notion of “Green Medicine”.
The other component of EcoHub Community’s Earth Day commemoration was the Household Waste Creative Upcycling Challenge, closing date now extended to 30th April 2021 to encourage more participation and entries. The competition/challenge rationale is to encourage recycling and reuse of household waste into useful and creative products that can used at home or has potential to be sold as products in a community. Participants are encouraged to find an item their home and use it to create a completely different item, with a completely different purpose. The following judging criteria would be adopted:
1) Nature of waste material used and impact on environment;
2) Utility of the finished recycled product; and
3) Creativity of the finished recycled product.
Earth Day is being commemorated around the globe. In the US, New York city in particular, where a Mayoral race is heating up, Suzanne Ventura, founder of Greeningfullife and the Regen Resource Project is organizing a roundtable on embracing a circular economy for New York, the biggest city in the United States. It would be interesting to see how the candidates approach this issue, especially former US presidential candidate Andrew Yang.
Another important proponent of encouraging use of waste resources is Diane Cohen who runs Finger Lakes ReUse Inc, https://ithacareuse.org/ out of Ithaca, New York, who is building up a replicable Community ReUse Centre enterprise model with community development in mind, achieved through education in the wide-ranging skills of reuse. Current programs include the eCenter Computer Refurbishing program, accepting all electronics by donation, the Ithaca Fixers Collective, and the ReSET (ReUse Skills & Employment Training) Job Training program. The overall programme is aimed at reducing waste, relieving poverty, and teaching job skills through reuse activities.
The Commuity ReUse programme already channels USD 2 million worth of repurposed items through its network and Diane is inundated with requests to set up more similar facilities. This programme deserves a further look, especially in Malaysia and if it can be replicated successfully as a social enterprise.
There is a sentiment that we should make every day an “Earth Day”, rather than just observing it once a year. This should certainly be the case as we develop communities with earth-centric values where ecologically friendly practices naturally emanate. Our care for the environment should come as “first” nature rather than “second” nature. This begins with reflecting on our relationship with the natural environment; that we are indeed dependent on the natural ecosystem, instead of being apart from it, extracting the resources we need and polluting it with our wastes without care.
We are “earthlings” in every sense of the word; born of this earth, existing as an integral part of it. We forget this too easily, focused on our own selves, livelihoods and providing for the family. But we have to remember too, that we are part of a larger family, not only of humans, but connected to every other living creature and life on this planet. Earth is our HOME in more ways than one, as we do have to in every way, Honour Our Mother Earth (HOME). Happy Earth Day everyone !