You know that feeling when you hear someone say something like “This changed my life!” after attending a two-hour seminar? You'd be like “Huh?!” and wonder how genuine that statement is, really. Because those words have become too cliché for our liking; it has lost its meaning.
Indeed, very few things cause a major detour or change in the trajectory of our lives independently, but a series of small events do. My three-week Bario trip created, for me, those minion series of events that has led to a change of mindset and behaviour as a leader and a human being, and I can’t believe it. Nevertheless, it is what it is. One of the changes in my life, inspired by the “Land of the Wind” (Bario) and the Kelabits, is my commitment to green living. Yes, you read that correctly. I am now committing to a green lifestyle. Here’s why:
As we flew across that great span of earth occupied by jagged mountains covered with fresh green vegetation, some mountains as high as the elevation of the aircraft we were flying in, I looked around me and what I saw amazed me. Like C. S. Lewis describes, “It was something quite different from ordinary life, and even from ordinary pleasure. Something as they would now say ‘in another dimension’.”
Greenery is not alien to me. I grew up playing in the bush, sometimes catching butterflies with my hands. Just beyond the fence of the estate where I lived, was an undeveloped land. But this idea of green living, which gained momentum in recent years hasn’t appealed much to me. The idea was set up by the rage over the global warming phenomenon, which I thought was only a big political fuss. I gave the notion of living green a lick and a promise, until I returned from Bario.
I was inspired by the lives of the Kelabits. They live a much richer life than many of us living in major cities. They live longer than most people in the urban cities. They live in better health than many urban people. They enjoy non-chemicalised (natural) food and fruits. Most inspiring is how they nurture nature, and know the value and usefulness of specific naturally occurring plant species.
For example, my Tepuq (translated as “respected elder” in English language), and her husband (Mr. Daud) are above 50. Yet, these were some of the young looking and agile few in Bario. They feed on the organic produce from their rich land and as a result, age slower and are much stronger. In a conversation, I heard that very few Kelabits get cancer, and those who do are exposed to the urban lifestyle more compared to those who don't. Isn’t that a message?
How would you imagine meeting the aunty of Mr Daud? Yes, she is still alive and strong. She works ten hours a day or more, just as most of them do. They eat their breakfast, lunch and dinner harvested from their farms the jungle. During my stay, we often went into the jungle to pluck vegetables for lunch. My favorite was tengayan. Also, their naturally-ripen pineapples are the sweetest I have eaten! You can’t get that in the city where I live in.
Every morning, I woke up to the crowing of hens, and the barking of dogs. I woke up to a cold, fresh, windy, clean, and quiet atmosphere, except for my super awesome batch mates chattering around the dining table. There is no need of air-conditioning units. My Tepuq says, “We have natural air-conditioning here in Bario.” As I stepped outside, in a gentle walk to Tepuq’s house, I am greeted with the smell of fresh dewy leaves, beautiful sunrise, the sight of growing paddy fields (rice fields), the beautiful view of the mountains, and the bright colors of various edible fruits. Tepuq lives in a house outside of the longhouse where we stayed. Along the walk from the longhouse to Tepuq Bulan's house, there are crops like tomatoes, chilli, durian, mata kucing, and lots more. Well, that distance is about the same distance between two blocks where I stay in Kuala Lumpur. But between those two blocks are restaurants and car parks. The difference is clear.
Now, the question is, must we go to Bario before we realize the need to live richly and healthily? The answer is No. This richness of life can still be attained by us if we commit to green living. It begins with three commitments like I did.
I was privileged to meet Mr. Matthias Gelber, an avid environmentalist, green entrepreneur, speaker and author who was voted the “Greenest Man on the Planet”. He is the author of “The Greenman’s Guide to Green Living and Working.” We had a wonderful discussion one night and during our five-hour climb and descent from the Prayer Mountain (more than 3,000 feet above sea level). After our discussion, I decided that when I return to Kuala Lumpur, I will make efforts to live a richer and healthier life in the little way I can, and to lead a lifestyle with low environmental impact.
I state this publicly through this post for two reasons. Firstly, so that you can join us on this journey. And secondly, so that we can help one another live up to this commitment.
Here are three behaviors I wish to uphold from henceforth. The first is of personal benefit, the second is of collective benefit (low environmental impact), and the third is of communal benefit (encouraging others to live a richer life):
2. Collective: Reduce my electricity bill by using less air-conditioning. Use fan or natural air as often as possible.
3. Communal: Learn more ways to live a greener lifestyle and incorporate it into my practice as an engineer and a youth speaker/trainer.
Won’t you join us?
You can make this simple commitment with me today. Comment below this post if you mean it like I do, and we will create means to support each other.
In the words of the Greenest man on the planet “Together we are stronger!”