I am now finishing up my first week in Malaysia with four more days of research and touring left and it has been nothing short of an eventful few days. When I got to my hostel I was greeted by the amazing manager, Jeff, and a barbecue on the hostel’s rooftop balcony. It was a nice taste of home, as we grilled hot dogs and chicken on what happened to be July 4th. My patriotic side came out as I dined with my fellow travelers.
The next morning, I woke up early and headed to CETDEM, The Center for Environment, Technology, and Development, Malaysia where I met Anthony Tan Kee Huat, the Executive Director. He showed me around their model house that doubles as their headquarters. The house has a number of renovations including solar panels on the roof, improved insulation, and a really interesting air flume in the middle of the house that carries hot air up and keeps the house cool without the AC units used to cool most Malaysian homes. Anthony also gave me a history of the organization which has been working since 1985 on issues “no one cared about until recently.”
CETDEM’s motto is “Promoting Sustainable Development Always.” You may ask , “why the always?” Anthony’s go to answer: “you can’t have sustainable development sometimes.” When you think about this word, always, you realize how important living a completely sustainable lifestyle is if one wants to have any real impact. So many people may buy local and organic produce while driving hundreds of miles each day, or stress recycling while leaving their lights on at home all day long. What I have seen from those at CETDEM is the importance of a complete lifestyle change that can be done through a number of social, economic and environmental changes and the drastic improvements these changes can have on one’s life and one’s surroundings. CETDEM’s work is all about personal changes, focusing on individuals and searching for ways to live a completely sustainable lifestyle.
I spent my first couple of days getting to know the organization and the city of Kuala Lumpur. One interesting thing that I got to do was sit in on an Information Ministry meeting on promotion of Green Technology. CETDEM was invited to attend the meeting of a number of different governmental branches where each branch presented what they were doing to promote the field in the coming months. It was an eye opening experience in how the Government of Malayia was attacking this new and growing field.
Another day, I got the chance to join one of the CETDEM founders, Mrs. Tan, at the NGO’s Organic Farming Community Centre. Here, Mrs. Tan and a number of volunteers teach classes on Organic Farming, Composting, and Slow Food Cooking (a counter movement to fast food). I spent the morning helping Mrs. Tan turn a compost pile to be used in the Centre. Below is a picture of me as I help pack down the pile so that more garden waste can be added on top. For those who do not know composting it is the process by which food and garden waste is decomposed and made into a fertilizer. In Malaysia, roughly 40% of all landfill waste could be composted and made into a useful product.
So far I have had some great experiences with CETDEM but still have four more days packed with interviews and visits to other NGOs in Malaysia. It should also be noted that I have had some free time to see the sights and traveled to the KL Tower, the Masjid Jamek, and the Batu Caves. The view of the city from the top of the KL tower was amazing, even on a foggy day.
Finally, as most of you probably have heard, Saturday in KL was quite the adventure as 50,000 Malaysians took to the streets to push for election reforms. I myself was away from the action most of the day at CETDEM headquarters, 20 minutes outside of the city. Getting back was a different story, as the stop by my hostel on the light rail train was shut down. I ended up taking the train as close as I could at which point I found a bus to get me closer to my final destination. After getting off the bus, it was about a 15 minute walk, so I took to foot, only to be turned back by a police barricade. After waiting that out for about an hour, the LRT system was up and running, so I was able to head home. When I got back to the hostel, the other travelers had stories upon stories of marchers, police standoffs and even a few tear gas stories. In the end, everyone was safe and the demonstrations ended that day. Check out a few pictures of the police barricade and marchers.
Only a few more days until I head off to my next stop on this around the world adventure.