Written by: Wu Wen Qi and Jaclyn Heng
Edited by: Supriya Sivabalan
“Industrial Revolution 4.0” (IR 4.0), such a trending word often intrigues young minds. IR 4.0 and sustainability are often intertwined as they are the keys to the sustainable development of an organization and also a nation. It’s also hoped that IR 4.0 underpins the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
To familiarize the community with energy and environmental sustainability, the Sunway Project for Asian and International Relations (Sunway-PAIR) organized “Beyond Tomorrow” with the main sponsorship of Husk’s Wave. Beyond Tomorrow is an event which consisted of plenary talks and forums, held on 7th September 2019 at JC 2. The event was themed after environmental sustainability and IR 4.0, and was open to the public.
At 8.30a.m., registration started and the hall started to fill up with enthusiastic participants. Once every participant was seated accordingly, the guests of honour arrived and were warmly welcomed by the audience. With that, the president of Sunway-PAIR, Chiew Yi Kuan gave us her welcoming speech.
In her speech, she brought to light the topic on life in an interconnected and complicated world where there is a need to have multiple perspectives to understand today’s problems.
With that said, the keynote session began and Dr. Nagulendran Kangayatkaraasu, the Deputy Secretary General in Environment and Climate Change came up to the stage to enlighten us with his talk centered around “Plastic, Pollution, and Policies: Taking the High Road”.
Dr. Nagulendran asked the audience to face the facts, backed up by statistics, that showed Malaysia as one of the countries with the most plastic waste worldwide – alongside other bigger countries such as China and the United States. With the topic of plastic pollution in hand, Dr. Nagulendran went as far as talking about how most recently, microplastics have even been found in cancer cells.
Besides that, he mentioned that we are all entering an Anthropocene era – a period where human activity is the dominant influence on the climate and the environment. Based on that, the environment is dealing with more damage than ever before since there’s been an increasing rate of infrastructure development. He joked about how people trivialize the situation by using breeding as the main solution, saying that humans don’t fully understand the gravity of the situation and that animals expect a random male and female to mate and reproduce as if they were characters falling in love in a Bollywood movie.
He then reassured the audience that there are actions being done to solve such problems. However, it is still not enough. One of his examples was the Paris Agreement by UNFCCC which aims to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change by keeping the global temperature rise in this century to below 2 degrees Celsius and even to further limit the temperature rise to below 1.5 degrees Celsius. In line with that, Dr. Nagulendran mentioned how there is a problem with international agreements. For one, Donald Trump – the current President of USA, a known climate change denier, took the liberty to not attend the convention and subsequently withdrew from the agreement – sending a negative message to the entire world.
Dr. Nagulendrean does pay tribute to the invention of plastic, calling it one of man’s greatest inventions. However, “the single-use plastics are the culprit.” Dr. Nagulendran states the real truth that plastics are such an integral part of modern life and banning it completely is virtually impossible. With that, he calls for the public to minimize the use of single-use plastics in an effort to minimize the impact we have on the environment. Other than that, the most recent changes take in Malaysia with the aim to save the Earth was the 20 cent charge for plastic bags and ban on plastic straws.
A short refreshment break took attendees outside for light snacks before proceeding with the special forum with panellists Ms Choo Wai Meng, Executive Director of MIDA, Mr Faisal Ariff, CEO and Founder of Borderpass, and none other than our very own Dr Elizabeth Lee, CEO of Sunway Education Group, joined by moderator Ms Anne Edwards, Company Director of AECO.
The forum largely focused on the topics of digitalization and sustainability, and how those two things can be highly contrasting, yet able to go hand in hand. As Dr Elizabeth brought up the popularity of sci-fi movies a few decades ago, she says that there is no more science fiction in today’s world, as it has become a scientific reality.
Mr Faisal, when asked about the future of cloud passports, commented on the ongoing trend of technology taking over regular jobs in the workforce, with everything being created in an automated version. “Why not automate something that has huge implications?” he asked, giving the example of one third of the world shipping traffic going through the Straits of Malacca. “Why don’t we automate that?” He brings up how his company, Borderpass, is currently working on automated immigration passes in Malaysian airports to cut down on passenger’s queuing time, and how Malaysia was the first country in the world to have automated gates in airports, inciting an audible “woah” from the audience.
When discussing the topic of cybersecurity in the forum, Dr Elizabeth was sure to mention how Sunway Education works to keep the students’ data safe from hackers, and addressing the digital vulnerability that comes with increasing adoption of technology in everyday lives. She joked that with the talent of students in Sunway, it would be more likely that it was Sunway students hacking into the system rather than outsiders looking to steal information. She mentioned how the youth nowadays are more aware of their surroundings and are doing more for the environment, working towards solving the problems caused by the older generation. Ms Choo commented further on the topic, focusing on how the future of investments has to involve cybersecurity, and how it is not an option. In her words, “Data is the new oil.” She says that moving forward, there has to be digital trust that comes with the exchange of commodities to ensure the data that lies with businesses are secure. Mr Faisal further supports the ladies’ arguments with his own stand that users’ data belongs to the users and consent must be obtained.
Dr Elizabeth highlighted the efforts of Sunway in supporting the SDGs by bringing to light how the trees in Sunway South Quay are actually the trees that used to be scattered around the carpark which used to stand in place of the current University building. Instead of killing those trees for the construction of the new building, millions was spent to transport the trees to South Quay where they could continue to flourish. Then came a surprise announcement from the CEO herself: Sunway is going to make the walkway from Sunway University to Sunway Pyramid fully air-conditioned and powered by solar panels as to retain the sustainability that Sunway has been trying hard to maintain.
Ms Choo commented that moving forward, readiness assessments were going to be carried out to provide free “health” checks and Technical Vocational Training to manufacturing companies to help them move into IR 4.0 as her mandate to provide more investments in the near future. Mr Faisal added on his thoughts, saying that the law will always lag behind technology and social acceptance will lead to the normalization of the increasing presence of technology in modern society.
To conclude the panel session, each of the panellists left the audience with their pieces of advice. Dr Elizabeth advised the public to adopt one or two SDGs close to their heart and go all out in the efforts to support those SDGs. Ms Choo advised that with less inputs and more outputs in the industry, IR and industrialization can work together. Finally, Mr Faisal left us with a simple piece of advice: work on the things you care about.
As the final portion of the day’s events, a special address was presented by Y.A.M. Tunku Zain Al-’Abidin, Founding President of the Institute of Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS). He talks about how he is particularly passionate about the 17th SDG, Partnerships for the Goals. He believes that governments, the private sector, and civil society must work together to ensure a successful, sustainable development agenda. He talked about how we must work at all levels to seek inclusive partnerships, build upon principles and values with the shared vision to prioritize people and the environment. He forces himself to think about how economic, social and environmental goals can be achieved at every possible opportunity, guiltily admitting how he struggles to reconcile his love for driving with his passion to support environmental goals.
Y.A.M. Tunku Zain called himself a classical liberal, believing that the government has to ensure that the people have freedom to chase their goals. He concludes that the reality is that there is no point in anyone fighting for liberty and justice if in the future, there is no world to fight for. If only people understand the problems and commit themselves to solutions will the actions become self-sustaining.
He elaborated on the “butterfly effect”, bringing up how having leaders who engage in corruption will result in resources lost and fundamental institutions compromised, having politicians who stoke division in society will result in ethnic violence locally and war abroad, having policies reward destruction of environment for short term economic gain will result in catastrophic climate change. Finally, he inspired the audience with the potential of people in all levels of society to be able to make change towards the good cause of sustaining the environment.
At the end of the event, all attendees left the hall a little more knowledgeable than when they had come in. We left inspired knowing that despite the growing destruction of the environment are at the hands of mankind – we have the potential of the people, and with enough awareness and passion, hold the power to make change for the better!