Long overdue post from Malaysia!

Forest Research Institute Malaysia (FRIM)

Meeting with Dr Elizabeth Philip, 23 January 2017

We visited the Forest Research Institute of Malaysia (FRIM) whilst in Kuala Lumpur at the end of January. As we were in Malaysia anyway (to make the most of the stopover back from New Zealand to the UK), we wanted to find out about offsetting initiatives happening there. We were lucky enough to meet with Dr Elizabeth Philip, Head of the Climate Change and Forestry Program at FRIM. She gave us insights relating to activities and challenges Malaysia faces in relation to forest protection, which we set out in brief below.

Dr Philip told us about a collaboration between FRIM, Malaysia Airlines, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (NRE), and the Forestry Department of Pahang, which started in 2011. Malaysia Airlines provided some funding for a voluntary carbon offsetting project in the peat swamp forest of South East Pahang (east of Kuala Lumpur). This project illustrates some of the challenges that can come with forestry management projects.

The peat swamp forest in Pahang is rich in biodiversity (home to animals such as the Malayan sun bear and the Asian elephant), and stores lots of carbon. However the forest is at risk from deforestation, and has been degraded in many areas due to human influences.

There were some initial troubles with tree selection, but the project seemed to achieve successful replanting of a small degraded area, thanks also to the involvement of the local community.

Unfortunately, in 2014 due to the abnormally hot conditions caused by El Niño, the replanted area of forest was destroyed in a forest fire, and since Malaysia Airlines’ disastrous 2014, they have stopped providing funds.

It seems that Malaysian Airlines went into the project with good intentions but, for reasons outside of their control, the money they invested probably hasn’t yet led to carbon reductions due to the fire. What is promising is the shift in strategy at the site – FRIM and their partners are now focused on water management to reduce the risk of future fires. Hopefully FRIM will be able to find the funding to continue the project and redouble the initial efforts funded by Malaysia Airlines.

A key question for any offsetting scheme is – ‘is it additional to what is already being done?’. In response to the question of how useful the voluntary offsetting money from Malaysia Airlines was, Dr Philip stated that the Pahang project wouldn’t have been carried out so fast without it (which is something!) but it certainly seems like it would be difficult to measure how much carbon was saved per dollar spent for Malaysia Airlines (and hence also for anyone who used their voluntary carbon offsetting scheme).

Besides this offsetting scheme, Dr Philip mentioned various other efforts around forest protection. She told us that they are trialing the use of biodiversity credits in Sabah (to offset biodiversity losses elsewhere) but so far have had little success due to a lack of funding. Dr Philip noted that multinationals are not as interested in peat forest as they are in charismatic megafauna such as orangutans, and also suggested that Malaysia does not attract as much attention from large funding organisations due to the larger emissions reduction potential of nearby Indonesia.

After meeting Dr Philip, we took a guided tour of the FRIM canopy walkway, which was awesome!

 

 

Walking through the canopy!

Walking through the canopy!

“Doing something” in Calais

It is amazing how much a team of short-term volunteers can get done with Help Refugees at their warehouse in Calais – going even for just a day or two lends itself to helping sort and organise all the donated items coming in.

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Anyone thinking of going, I would highly recommend it for the tangible help you can provide. It’s also great insight to the amazing team behind the efforts to remember that people living in the Calais & Dunkirk camps are people too.20160501_110141

 

I had no idea how much was involved in the process from turning donated clothes into ‘packs’ for new people arriving at the camps. It also gives me a better understanding and respect for the efforts behind the scenes at any charity shop on the high street!

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Speaking about my trip in Cambridge…

On Tuesday 28th April, I will be giving a short talk about my trip, the people I met, initiatives I came across and lessons I learnt. If you want to come along, please do. Details below:

Tuesday 28th April | 18.30-19.30 | Graham Storey Room, Trinity Hall | https://www.facebook.com/events/1576068459316888/

You are invited to attend a short talk by Emily Dunning, who has just returned from a 6-month trip to New Zealand, via the Trans-Mongolian Expressway, China and Japan and a few other countries in-between. She has been meeting people working on sustainability initiatives, particularly those inspiring others to take action. They vary from youth climate action groups in Taiwan to clean-up events in Russia to the social enterprise ethos inspiring change in Japan.

Expect half an hour of sharing some of her stories, introducing some of the people she met and the lessons she has learnt, then half an hour to engage in conversation about what it means for you, and the activities going on in Cambridge and the UK.

Who’s it for?
– Anyone interested in grassroots sustainability worldwide
– Those who want to hear about social enterprise in other countries
– Anyone wanting inspiration for travel
– Anyone who is a bit dissatisfied with where they’re at right now needing that gentle nudge to do something different.

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Lessons learnt, experiences in summary

A longer reflection on the headlines below can be found on the Centre for Social Innovation blog

At the risk of sounding clichéd, travelling really does re-instil the goodness of human nature.

It is difficult to live in the here and now.

Culture, society and infrastructure significantly affect how easy it is to be green.

Most common response to the greatest challenge of those working towards environmental sustainability? “Money”.

Most common response to how behaviour change is measured? “It’s difficult!”/”It’s a work in progress”.

What first motivates people to take action on environmental issues? Varied BUT common themes – teacher/parent/friend, nature, seeing injustice, having children.

And the most important three of all:

Individuals really can and do make significant changes.

Individuals who do make changes are empowered, confident, and believe in their ability to make a difference.

Connecting with others is key for creating wide-spread change.

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Events galore today

I’m on my way to London at the moment to go to two conferences:

This Changes Everything – a swish-looking event based around Naomi Klein’s book, creating a space for people from different social & environmental movements to join together.

New Directions for Local Action – a collaborative event between a few NGOs involved in campaigning, providing training and workshops around local movement building.

They are within walking distance from each other so I’m intending to flit between both!

Hopefully I’ll be feeling inspired and motivated to be part of plans leading up to the Paris climate change conference in November by the end of the day.

Wrapping up

Getting in touch with everyone I have met on this trip…
Dear all,
I hope this email finds you well.
My trip has come to an end and I am now back in the UK – it has been a phenomenal journey, all thanks to all of you who I met along the way.
I am currently reviewing and rounding up all that I learnt, and putting together some final outcomes.
I wanted to get back in touch with each of you, for a number of reasons:
- to maintain our connection, and to reiterate to get in touch if any of you come to the UK in future – it would be great to see you again!
- to ask if there is any useful follow up you would like us to have (e.g. for me to share some of my experiences with you that might be particularly relevant to your circumstances/initiative, to promote again what you are doing through my networks, or something else I might be able to help with!)
- to offer to link you up with any organisations/initiatives I have met elsewhere that are particularly relevant/useful to what you are doing (note I will only do this on agreement of both sides).
More than anything else, this trip has taught me the importance of sharing and of linking up and staying in touch with others working towards shared aims – it is the way real change happens and spreads, how positive actions take root, and, as far as I can see, it’s the way we will move from small pockets of fantastic things happening to full-scale sustainable living.
It has been a privilege to meet every one of you and to learn about the contexts you are working in, the challenges you are facing, the great things you are achieving, but most of all the drive with which you are acting. I hope you all continue to have great success.
With so many incredible people working on these efforts, I feel more positive about the challenges we are all trying to overcome, and more motivated to keep working on them. I hope that these words convey the inspiration you have all given me, and I hope I can reflect it back to give you extra motivation too!
Thank you for meeting with me, and please keep in touch.
I look forward to hearing from you!
Emily
@changeseeking