In a world where climate change is becoming increasingly severe, the need for sustainable living practices has never been more urgent. Sustainable living is about fostering harmony between human activities and the natural environment, mitigating the adverse effects of urbanization, and promoting responsible resource management.
In this interview, we engage with Dr. Fong Chng Saun, a lecturer at the Institute for Advanced Studies (IAS), Universiti Malaya, to explore his research in the field of climate action. Dr. Fong, an urban environmentalist with a strong background in environmental science and technology, delves into the significance of his work in the sustainable urban ecosystem, and the impact of initiatives such as "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle," water conservation, tree planting, and sustainable transportation.
The foundation of sustainable living often begins with the three pillars: Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle. Dr. Fong explains that his research chose to focus on this concept due to a lack of awareness about Planetary Health. It is also important as it directly relates to his advocacy of Planetary Health. Many people need to fully grasp the implications of their actions on the planet. His work emphasizes an additional "R," which is to "Rethink" before making consumer decisions. The importance of reducing waste generation and conserving natural resources is critical. Dr. Fong discovered that water resources are particularly affected, especially given unpredictable weather patterns and extreme heat.
The research findings indicate that simple changes in individual consumer behaviour, such as avoiding plastic bags, opting for walking over driving, and consistently seeking ways to reduce one's carbon footprint, have the potential to significantly reduce landfill waste and promote sustainable consumption patterns.
In this section, we explore the challenges and successes of encouraging individuals to make eco-conscious purchasing decisions, particularly regarding the use of reusable shopping bags. Dr. Fong believes that enforcement is key in this aspect. While prompting people to make these choices is important, the success rate is much more promising when laws and regulations support eco-friendly behaviour.
Water conservation is another integral aspect of sustainable living. Dr. Fong’s work provides practical tips for individuals to adopt water-saving habits in their daily lives. These include practices like reusing water from cooking or bathing for plant irrigation. Other measures such as rainwater harvesting are also another effective and easy way to conserve water. Small changes in daily routines can lead to significant water conservation efforts.
Planting trees is crucial for the environment, especially to mitigate the heat in cities. Dr. Fong emphasizes that consideration should be put into tree selection such as the tree structure, placement, and species to achieve optimal effect in cooling the surrounding environment in cities. He suggests that any greenery contributes positively to energy conservation, air quality improvement, conservation of biodiversity, and climate change mitigation.
Moving on to his next point, walking not only benefits personal health but also reduces emissions from cars, contributing to improved air quality and climate change mitigation. Sustainable transportation options like walking, cycling, or using public transit play a crucial role in environmental conservation.
Dr. Fong's research underscores the transformative potential of individual actions in creating a more sustainable world. Key takeaways from his work highlight the importance of adopting sustainable practices like reducing waste, conserving water, and embracing sustainable transportation. Furthermore, he recommends policy initiatives such as "15-Minute City", an urban planning concept where most daily necessities are found close by the neighbourhood.
He also encourages Universiti Malaya's sustainability initiatives such as the Sustainability Blueprint, Carbon Neutrality Blueprint, and Sustainable Campus. These are seen as practical steps toward fostering a more eco-friendly and sustainable society.
As the effects of climate change become increasingly evident, it is clear that sustainable living practices are not just an option but a necessity for the future of our planet. Dr. Fong's work serves as a guiding light, illuminating the path toward a more sustainable and harmonious coexistence between humanity and the natural world.
Zoom meeting with Dr Fong Chng Saun as he enthusiastically shared his efforts on sustainable living.
Ms. Priscilla Diniesha
Priscilla Diniesha is an MA student in English Literature who has a deep passion for language and writing. When she landed a job in copywriting and unlocked skills she never knew she had, she realized it was her calling after all.
Dr. Kumuthini Chandrasekaram, Research Officer, Universiti Malaya.