Against the backdrop of worrying climate change and sustainability issues, more and more voices are making themselves heard to bring green thinking and living to the forefront. Top 10 of Malaysia now takes a look at its list of the nation’s top 10 most inspiring of these local eco warriors who are putting full use of their talents and positions to change the world. From architects to business directors, musicians to politicians, PhD holders to non-profit founders, these inspiring individuals are united in a cause bigger than themselves, leaving a lasting legacy in their wake.
Dato’ Dr Dionysius Sharma
Ever since he was a child, Dato’ Dr Dionysius Sharma, or more fondly known as Dr Dino, had a penchant for the outdoors and wildlife conservation. The Universiti Malaya graduate in Ecology began his illustrious career in conservation when he joined WWF-Malaysia in 1990 as a Trainee Scientific Officer. His 25-year career has led him to work on endangered species such as the leatherback turtles, green turtles, painted terrapins, Malayan tigers and many more. As the current Executive Director/CEO of WWF-Malaysia, a post which he took up in 2007, he has been actively involved in offering guidance on conservation strategies, spearheading fund raising initiatives, advocating on environmental management issues and providing thought leadership and opinions on conservation-related issues in forums and the media.
Businesswoman, writer and philanthropist Ruth Yeoh is YTL Singapore Pte Ltd’s Executive Director and helms YTL Group’s sustainability division, which she established to find ways of minimising the group’s impact upon the environment. To Yeoh, being an environmentalist is more than just a personal conviction, it makes for a good corporate strategy as well. The multi-talented lady has also co-authored a book on climate change in 2007. In 2009, she became a Trustee of Reef Check Malaysia, a non-profit body focused on coral reef conservation.
Ar. Sarly Adre Sarkum
Ar. Sarly Adre Sarkum is passionate about sustainable architecture with a heart for building the nation. He is the youngest council member of Malaysian Institute of Architects and the founder of Sarly Adre Sarkum Architecture Sdn Bhd, which promotes state-of-the-art architectural designs based on sustainable development and community-centric solutions. As the President of the Malaysia Green Building Confederation, a non-profit organisation established in 2007 to promote sustainable buildings in Malaysia, Sarly is committed to see more townships adopting green building practices which will significantly impact the nation’s energy consumption.
Adrian Yeo found his calling in nature conservation when as a Boy Scout in Kuala Lumpur, he witnessed the desecration of forests due to development. He then worked and participated in various environmental-related meetings and conferences, such as YOUNGO, the youth constituency at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) COP15 in Copenhagen, UNFCCC and United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD) Rio+20. As an official presenter at Al Gore’s The Climate Reality Project (TCRP), Yeo was trained extensively by Al Gore on the climate crisis issue. In 2014, he became the organiser of Power Shift Malaysia to initiate climate action on local and national scales.
Dr Renard Siew
Dr Renard Siew is an Environmental Advisor for Sime Darby Bhd’s Group Sustainability division, having graduated as Civil Engineer from the University of New South Wales (UNSW) under the sponsorship of Yayasan Sime Darby and completed his PhD at UNSW supported by the Australian Postgraduate Award (APA) scholarship. He puts his research interest in climate change and sustainable development to good use by helping to strategize Sime Darby’s impact on the environment, and is responsible for coordinating the Group’s carbon, water and waste management initiatives in line with the needs of institutional investors.
After working as an assistant engineer for five years, Gurmit Singh opted out of the rat race and dedicated his life to environmental activism. He is the Chairman and founding Executive Director of the Centre for Environment, Technology and Development, Malaysia (CETDEM), a non-profit organisation dedicated in improving environmental quality using technology and sustainable development. Known for being outspoken and uncompromising on environmental issues, some of his victories include halting the proposed Tembeling Dam and the Asian Rare Earth Sdn Bhd operations in Bukit Merah. Gurmit’s efforts earned him the Langkawi Award in 1993 and in 2000, he was bestowed an Honorary M.Sc. from Universiti Putra Malaysia. He practises green living with his wife, who is an organic farming activist.
Yii Kah Hoe
Sibu-born Yii Kah Hoe is a music lecturer at SEGI College who uses his music as a platform to bring media attention on important environmental issues, especially those affecting his homeland, Borneo. His bold and unique compositions borrow sounds and rhythms from cultural and traditional instruments. To date, he has performed in many countries including the US, the UK, Paris, Italy, Russia, Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia. Recently, Yii participated in EnviroLab Asia, a five-college initiative in Claremont, California, to highlight Asia’s environmental issues. There, he gave rousing and enlightening speeches, and his musical compositions, which reflected upon environmental destruction, were performed to great public acclaim.
Harrison Ngau Laing
Since the 80s, Harrison Ngau Laing, who hails from the Dayak Kayan community, has tirelessly campaigned against the vast deforestation in his beloved state Sarawak. He was even imprisoned for his actions in leading groups of indigenous folks to block logging camps and access roads. In 1990, Ngau was bestowed the Goldman Environmental Prize and used the prize money to campaign for a seat in the Parliament, which he won that same year. He was instrumental in the legal battle to halt the Bakun Dam development. Now, as a lawyer, he continues to represent his people in fighting against the logging of Borneo’s rain forests.
Serina Hijjas Kasturi
Renowned architect and founding member of Malaysia’s GBI, Serina Hijjas Kasturi, has been deeply involved in the area of energy efficiency and sustainability since her early days of architectural practice in London some 20 years ago. She is the director of Hijjas Kasturi Associates Sdn Bhd, which is involved in the Masterplan Core Island Boulevard for Putrajaya and Putrajaya International Convention Centre (PICC), Cyberjaya, Telekom Malaysia Headquarters (TMHQ), and 1Sentrum @ KL Sentral, to name a few. She won three ASEAN Energy Efficiency Awards for her work in TMHQ (2005), Securities Commission Headquarters (2003) and PICC (2007), and frequently speaks in green architectural seminars.
Frustrated with the lack of locally-produced environmental audio visual materials, marine biologist and environmentalist Yasmin Rasyid founded EcoKnights while at her dining room table over a decade ago, with the aim to create awareness on environmental issues using films and videos. Through EcoKnights, the International Kuala Lumpur Eco Film Festival (KLEFF) was birthed in 2008, reaching out to some 80,000 Malaysians through its environmental-focused film screenings and programmes throughout West Malaysia. Yasmin also helms the Malaysian Environmental NGO (MENGO), which is focused in empowering young minds, and dabbles in aquaponics projects in her free time.