Green Technology: Coming together for environmental awareness
One of Australia’s research and development goals is to enable the country to move towards a greener economy. This can be a long and complicated process, so partnerships and collaborations are vital. Australia has found such co-operation with Malaysian researchers; the two nations are helping each other in the transition.
“One of the important potential synergies between Australia and Malaysia is that we share many similar environments and this allows us to learn from each other. This is important because a lot of these solutions are context-specific and not easily translated from distant parts of the world,” says Dr Helene Marsh, Distinguished Professor of Environmental Science at James Cook University.
“Malaysia has a great range of environments by its topography; Australia has an even greater range of environments. Australia has environments that are very different from Malaysia and also environments that are similar,” adds Professor Robert Wasson Adjunct Professorial and Research Fellow at the Charles Darwin University. “This is quite helpful for Australian researchers to have good connections with Malaysia because if there is something that works in the Malaysian environment, it could be taken over to Australia and implemented there.”
Professor Tim Brown, Deputy Vice Chancellor and Vice President (Research) of La Trobe University, agrees: “Australians come to Malaysia and take home experiences that enable them to reach new ideas and implement different approaches, and vice versa.”
Dr Marsh says that environmental problems are social problems and one has to understand the human dimensions and coming to another place with another human dimension can really sharpen the eyes of people.
Professor Brown cites an example of this in the Murray-Darling Basin. “This area is very geographically and topographically different than all of Malaysia but some of the problems are quite similar in terms of water use – how much water needs to be kept and maintained in a sustainable way, how much water can be responsibly used for agriculture and what’s the balance in the effect on ecology of agriculture. That’s a very live debate in Australia and there are probably very different debates in Malaysia but the human aspect of it can be quite similar.”
Public awareness of environmental issues is of great concern in Malaysia, notes Professor Wasson. He goes on to say that one of the revolutions in Australia has been in local water quality management and how the local community can gather together their various skills to find a solution for the problem.
“Perhaps this is a learning that Malaysia can take from Australia in increasing societal awareness,” he says.
“A good place to start is with children and more often than not children in primary schools are more environmentally aware than their parents. This is because they are inculcated with environmental ethics at primary school in Australia through various programmes like ‘Green Day’ where children go out and plant trees and ‘Rubbish Day’ where they go out and pick up rubbish,” Dr Marsh adds.
“There are plenty of programmes in school that the children get involved in which teaches them the importance of sustainability. If schools start getting parents involved, it can slowly build up and become a community event, which will result in more awareness. This is how it should start. Then as time passes, the town council can come in and it can grow from there,” Professor Wasson says.
Coming together and sharing their own unique ideas and expertise will benefit both countries greatly. By learning from each other and by using technology that is native to one country and applying it in an alien setting will certainly pave the way for more effective solutions and ideas in the war against global warming.