Let's move from 3R to 7RWritten by Shahino Mah
Notwithstanding the current cooler spell, Malaysia is hotter than ever before, and the trend shows no signs of reversing to the temperatures enjoyed by Malaysians over the last few decades.
This fact was also acknowledged by Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad in his speech at the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York last month.
He had urged the global community to pay serious attention to combating extreme climate change. He also highlighted the importance of survival initiatives, such as alternative shelter and food production, in case of a calamity.
Indeed, a majority of countries are experiencing the drastic effects of climate change, as evident from UNGA where almost all leaders brought up the issue.
Most climate scientists agree that human activity is the leading cause of global warming, which in turn triggers climate change. Previously, the natural emission of carbon dioxide (CO2) was the most significant factor in global warming as it formed the largest concentration in the Earth’s atmosphere compared with other greenhouse gases (GHG).
However, human activity stemming from industry, energy production, transportation using carbon-based fuels, and the sum of agricultural activities, food production, land-use and forestry now contribute up to 29 per cent (i.e. more than one-fourth) of the total global GHG emissions.
In this regard, the world needs to shift its attention to sustainable resource management and development practices to curb climate issues.
The transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy has taken place in many developed and developing nations, reducing their carbon footprint.
Among the progressive measures has been the increase in facilities for renewable energy, including solar farms, wind turbines, biomass and hydroelectric plants — creating a sustainable “energy mix” ecosystem. In addition, “energy efficiency” and “energy conservation” practices were also introduced.
Energy efficiency requires consumers to invest in equipment that can operate with less energy for the same or more load, while energy conservation requires consumers to reduce the use of electrical appliances.
These measures can save natural resources from depletion, keep the environment free from pollution, and save some money in the long run.
The best environmentally friendly activities include the 3R practice of “reduce, reuse, and recycle”. Some might extend this idea up to seven (7R) in a circular flow — rethink, refuse, reduce, repurpose, reuse, recycle and rot.
These ideas are commonly applied to daily products or consumables, but the concept can also be applied to other human activities such as transportation. For instance, first, we should rethink whether or not it is necessary to drive fast and recklessly. Driving fast will consume more fuel, release more carbon and might put other people at risk. As a result, the second step would be to refuse to make it a practice.
Third, we should reduce our driving activity by prioritising what is important or at least make the most out of a single trip by accomplishing multiple tasks. Additionally, instead of using a car for a single purpose, a car-sharing practice will make better use of its capacity; this can be considered as repurposing or reusing.
This, in turn, will reduce traffic congestion and pollution, while adding value to the car owner. Finally, as the car reaches a certain mileage, we must plan whether to restore, sell or recycle the vehicle.
Ideally, the process of managing resources will form a closed-loop system; this circularity is aimed at eliminating waste and promoting the continual use of resources — a model known as the circular economy. Unlike the traditional linear economy with the “take, make and dispose” approach that lets waste end up in landfills, the circular economy adopts the “regenerative” approach where “all waste should be food for another process”, inspired from the natural system.
It will mainly involve “reuse, remanufacturing, and recycling” processes. According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation paper, “Completing the Picture: How the Circular Economy Tackles Climate Change”, switching to renewable energy could cut GHG by 55 per cent, and the circular economy could reduce the remaining 45 per cent emissions mainly from the making of products and food production.
In Muslim countries, the concept of the circular economy has been a subject of rigorous discussion especially by those in the Islamic finance circle. Several Islamic concepts in relation to managing resources and the ecology, such as mizan (universal balance), miqdar (proportion), khalifah (stewardship) and maqasid (purposeful use) are supportive of the circular approach.
These Islamic principles can serve as catalysts, among others, to encourage the Muslim community to live in a sustainable system, thus contributing to the efforts to address the climate issue at the global level.
Published in: The New Straits Times, Saturday 26 October 2019
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