During a Sekolah Falsafah session at the Pusat Rakyat LB, the philosopher-instructor Fuad Rahmat remarked that how insane it is that, in this polluted season, construction workers are still busy building on another skyscraper.

Perhaps soothed by its annual occurrence, Malaysians seem readier to endorse the haze than dodgy donations. It is business as usual in the Klang Valley, with employees dutifully going to work and a controversial rally planned on Malaysia Day. There is no news of a proposed protest in front of the Indonesia embassy, nor is there any indication there will be. We are really a tolerant and docile lot, in the most curious manner.

During Idearaya last Sunday, Professor Syed Farid Altas commented that the papers are wrong in using haze as the term to describe this breathing crisis. Pointing to the Malay word jerebu, he argued that the English equivalent, smog, better describes our dusty skies. This is because haze seems like a natural phenomenon. Smog, on the other hand, implies a man-made catastrophe, an unnatural abomination.

This wordplay is not meaningless if we could internalise the nuances. The very fact that our own oxygen supply is threatened should be more than enough to trigger alarms to launch us into angry action. There is little point in politicking and highbrow talk about human rights when our noses are blocked and our throats run dry from annually consistent forest fires, an envious reliability we miss when our partners forget important anniversaries.

Yet even if this internalisation aka education is successful on a large public scale, it is not enough. Education cannot change situations without action. Our lawmakers, both state and federal, must convene, condemn, and construct an action plan to remove this threat for good. Malaysian civil societies should take the lead in rallying Malaysians to a display of our concern and anger, preferably in front of the Indonesian embassy. The current calm and contentment to do nothing on this challenge to our respiration is inexcusable and could literally be fatal.

Where hymns and praises once played in the air, burnt wood and dusty soot now fill the atmosphere. Money is to the company as God is to the church. It is time we fight this God, not only with the strength of our minds, but also with physical protests. After all, it is our human right to oxygen.

3 replies on “Humans, Rights, and the Haze”

  1. "Humans, Rights, and the Haze"

    Just to share this…

    Did you see big C in the haze?

    Don’t inhale: Scientists look at what the Indonesian haze is made of…!

    As part of the workshop, the team measured the levels of gas and smoke particles in the air—including those that can get into the human respiratory system when inhaled—to understand the severity of the impacts on human health.

    “There is a complete envelopment of smoke all over the place,” said Martin Wooster, Professor of Earth Observation Science at King’s College London.

    “And if you’re here without a mask, you are breathing much of that smoke into your lungs, which is obviously, I would say, extremely hazardous for your health.”

    The names of just some of the noxious components of the smoke are enough to show why: ozone, carbon monoxide, cyanide, ammonia and formaldehyde.

    What’s clear is that the economic impact of fires … is going to far outweigh the benefits of expanding agricultural land.
    Louis Verchot

    "The effects of any smoke on human health are well documented: headaches, dizziness, fatigue bronchitis, asthma, pneumonia, and cardiovascular disease. In Central Kalimantan, however, the full extent of long-term smoke inhalation on local people remains unknown. But given the levels of toxic gases measured during the workshop, researchers fear the effects of the fires may be far worse than they had anticipated…"

    Don’t inhale: Scientists look at what the Indonesian haze is made of – http://blog.cifor.org/36467/dont-inhale-scientist

    October 26, 2015 – Indonesia investigating Malaysian company for open burning – http://www.theborneopost.com/2015/09/26/indonesia

    Oct 22, 2015 – Message from the Director of Kalaweit, to the Indonesian President, Joko Widodo

    My name is Chanee, I come from Europe, but I have lived in Kalimantain for 17 years , in the central province of Palangkaraya.

    I'm proud to have obtained Indonesian nationality 3 years ago, because I really love Indonesia.

    But Mr President, allow me to convey to you today my anger.

    I'm not angry just because my son has a respiratory infection, like hundreds of other children.

    I'm not angry just because thousands of people have difficulty in breathing, or because they cry and pray to be able to see the sun.

    I'm not angry just because the forest in Kalimantan is in the process of being destroyed.

    Mr President, I'm angry because all of this suffering exists because of the palm oil industry.

    The decisions of both the previous governments and the current government, are at the root of this problem, which occurs every year, and today is even further aggravated by El Nino.

    Earlier in June I had identified, from the sky, dozens of fires, burning in peat swamps to allow the expansion of palm plantations.

    At that time, before the smoke haze made headlines, these fires could still be extinguished.

    But this didn't happen. The helicopter water-bomber arrived 2 months later.

    The teams on the ground can do little once the fires have spread, especially as they burn in peat.

    The owners of the land in which fires occur will not be punished.

    It's not me who'll teach you, Mr President, that corruption, nepotism, and intimidation, are common to support the expansion of palm plantations.

    When you have, Mr President, made the decision to create new channels in the central province of Kalimantan, you have simply aggravated the situation even further.

    These channels will drain water from the forest, creating even drier conditions to exacerbate and accelerate the next fires.

    Mr President, I'm angry, not simply as an activist for the environment, but also as a father, husband, and someone who really loves Indonesia.

    Slowly, the leaders of these fires steal our health.

    Is this what you want Mr President? For the Palm Oil Industry?

    Oct 22, 2015 – Chanee – Message from the Director of Kalaweit, to the Indonesian President, Joko Widodo – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QDeZtqFbVrE

    Oct 22, 2015 – Chanee Kalaweit VIDEO: – https://youtu.be/X2-CNNXCt5g

    You be the judge.

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