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Blog – 2023

2023 Annual Wrap-Up

31 December 2023:  What were the key environmental news issues in 2023? We discuss these in some detail:

NRECC’s performance | Encouraging conservation in Pahang | Rare earths | Marine protection | EU Deforestation Regulation | Climate crisis and food security

Grain's Anatomy - Heirloom Rice For Malaysia's Food Security

31 December 2023:  From highland rice recipes to how to ensure enough rice for everyone, we discuss the history and future of heirloom rice farming in Malaysia. Also, what steps can be taken to further enhance its contribution to food security and economic development in rural areas.

Based on our story Sowing Seeds of Resilience in Heirloom Rice. It features Liani MK (contributing writer, Macaranga), Wong Siew Lyn, (Editor, Macaranga) and Peter Tadam, a tour guide from the farming community of Long Semadoh, Sarawak.

The story was supported by Internews’ Earth Journalism Network.

Semai and Tuai 2023

11 December 2023: We held our first physical event called “Semai & Tuai 2023” last Friday (8 Dec) at WORQ TTDI. Forty-eight participants turned up: journalists, environmental groups, and public members who wished to learn and talk about making Malaysia a better place to live in.

Semai & Tuai aimed to provide a safe and casual space for participants to connect and to discuss environmental issues. We wanted ideas to flow freely and for strangers to become friends (or webinar-acquaintances to finally meet!). 

And we likely succeeded: participants stayed back and were chatting excitedly even an hour after our event was supposed to end. At 11.30pm, we had to switch off lights in the hall to usher people home.

We kickstarted the evening with blitz talks from the Malaysian Nature Society, Reef Check Malaysia, Sahabat Alam Malaysia, and TRAFFIC. These NGOs spoke about environmental concerns that warrant our attention in 2024—urban green landscapes, mass tourism, rare earth mining, and wildlife trafficking.

Participants then got into groups for more intimate discussions with the NGO speakers and a trio of journalists from BERNAMA, BFM89.9 and Malaysiakini. Each group had 10 minutes with their hosts before they moved to the next speaker for a new discussion.

The excitement from the discussions continued even as Semai & Tuai was winding down. Participants mingled and conversations flowed. The booths set up by Zero Waste Malaysia, TRAFFIC, Coralku Conservation, and Urban Biodiversity Initiative were very popular.

A big thank you to everyone who joined Semai & Tuai 2023! We also thank WORQ for sponsoring the venue.

That 1.5°C Threshold to What Again?

10 December 2023:  Siew Lyn was pleased to give a public talk at the beautiful Ilham Gallery on the climate crisis. She focussed on the temperature rise threshold of 1.5°C – why this limit, how did the world choose this, where are we now, and is it too late to do anything? 

Framed by the powerful artwork of Nirmala Dutt on unsustainable development, she also regaled the audience on covering the Bakun dam as a young reporter in 1994. Her aim was to demonstrate the criticality of a just energy transition today. Behind her was Dutt’s critical ‘Bakun’ on exactly that, a critical work dominated by a blood-red dripping ‘X’.

Siew Lyn also did a pre-talk survey of what the audience thought about the climate crisis – the results are interesting (see photos below).

Monthly Wrap-Up: November 2023

30 November 2023:  In this wrap-up aired two days ago, we focused on two issues: 1) Sarawak’s newly enacted Environment (Reduction of Greenhouse Gases Emission) Bill, the first bill to address climate change in Malaysia, and 2) the many gaps revealed in the Auditor-General Special Audit on Forest Management and Environmental Impact. Listen to our #MonthlyWrapup with BFM89.9.

Talks on Data Journalism and Forest Plantations

30 November 2023:  November has been a busy month of talks and workshops for us. On 15 November, we were invited by Pulitzer Center and The Fourth to the “Rainforest Realities” event to share our stories and also give a workshop on using data to do environmental journalism. 

Then on 22 November, we were invited by Nottingham University Malaysia to present our findings on forest plantations to their students. 

Developing Stories on a Just Energy Transition

8 November 2023: Macaranga is running a 3-month mentorship programme on how to cover a just energy transition. “Green does not mean ‘just’, says climate activist Ili Nadiah Dzulfakar, who gave the expert’s introduction to the programme.

We kicked off the mentorship with a media workshop covering environmental feature reporting and writing,  and using data and multimedia.

Stories are currently being developed. Look out for them in the new year from the 3 participating newsrooms: Bernama Garasi, Free Malaysia Today and Macaranga.

This mentorship programme is supported by Klima Action Malaysia. The workshop was hosted by the Swiss Embassy to Malaysia.

Monthly Wrap-Up: October 2023

8 November 2023: October seemed a month of concerning issues. We look back at (1) Kelantan’s planned removal of forest protection categorisation (2) the threats of aging dams on water supply (3) permission for Lynas to treat its radioactive waste. Listen to our #MonthlyWrapup with BFM89.9.

Salty Takes on #SeaWorld

8 November 2023: Did you catch us on radio, our webinar or live for #SeaWorld? We did lots of outreach on the findings of our stories on marine issues, which we spent this year working on.

Thanks to our guests who appeared with us: Quek Yew Aun, Dr Jarina Mohd Jani, Affendi Yang Amri and Prof Claire Hellio; and Juliet Jacobs of ‘Earth Matters’ BFM89.9 Radio, and Alliance Francaise & the French Embassy to Malaysia.

The year-long #SeaWorld series on marine issues is supported by the French Embassy to Malaysia. Look our for upcoming translations in BM, Chinese and French!

Left: Screenshot – Macaranga webinar: ‘A Salty Take on Protecting Our Oceans’ with marine biologist Quek Yew Aun. Supporters only. Supporters may log in to access the recording.

Right: ‘What’s in Our #SeaWorld Roundtable’ at the Alliance Francaise – a great time was had by all.

Listen to ‘Stories from the Sea’ as we cover the role local communities play in managing the commons that are our oceans.

Training on data and wildlife crime

2 October 2023: We’ve been busy conducting training the last couple of months. In August, we gave a 45-minute workshop on data and climate journalism as part of EB Impact’s “Sustainability Media Academy Satellite Workshop” in Kuala Lumpur. Participants comprised journalists, public relation officers and environmental NGO staff.

Then last month, journalists went through a 3-day workshop on solutions journalism for reporting on nature crimes in Malaysia. Organised by the US Agency for Global Media, participants researched trafficking data,  made a field reporting trip to Bukit Bintang, and developed story ideas on everything from crocodiles and orchids to corals. 

Monthly Wrap-Up: September 2023

2 October 2023:  We highlight wins for indigenous people: Timber giant Samling withdraws its defamation suit against NGO Save Rivers in Sarawak on lack of FPIC; and coming up is a judicial review hearing of the Temoq Orang Asli of Pahang‘s suit against the EIA approval for clearing of traditional land without FPIC.

The last section of limestone hill Gunung Kanthan in Perak, is under threat of quarrying with the eviction of a 100-year-old monastery after the Court of Appeals reversed an eariler judgement in favour of YTL subsidiary Associated Pan Malaysia Cement.

The National Energy Transition Roadmap aims for a 2050 cutoff for  coal and a 23% renewable energy mix, up from 4% in 2020. But challenges range from funds to technology.

Monthly Wrap-Up: August 2023

31 August 2023:  As of August, Sabah’s 2-million hectare carbon credit deal appears to still be on.  While the state’s attorney-general questions the details of the so-called Nature Conservation Agreement, the government insists everything is above board. We discuss the need for transparency, additionality and community consent.

In neighbouring Sarawak, a global meeting of primate conservationists raised the profile of Malaysian primates and locals working with them. The International Primatological Society and Malaysian Primatological Society Joint Meeting 2023 highlighted that the gaps are sometimes so big in conservation, any support has disproportionately meaningful.

Meanwhile in Pahang, 134,183ha of land is being gazetted as a tiger reserve, an effort hoped to be completed by the end of 2028. Legally it will be a Forest Sanctuary for Wildlife, which means the Forestry rather than Wildlife Department will manage it. Yet to be revealed are its goals, funding and governance.

Creating social media content for youth

30 August 2023:   Thrilled to announce Youths United For Earth (YUFE) and Macaranga Media’s collaboration! YUFE will produce content based on Macaranga stories, so look out for #YUFExMacaranga content on our joint socials!

YUFE is a youth-led nonprofit seeking to mobilise Malaysian youths for environmental action through environmental storytelling, campaigns and advocacy.

The collaboration was kickstarted by an environmental journalism workshop by Macaranga. At the workshop, the participants learned about journalism basics, storytelling tips, and content frameworks, and they produced 3 pieces of content that would be polished for uploading later.

The workshop was supported by Soroptomist International Bentong. Thank you to WORQ KL for sponsoring the venue on Day 2!

Check out #YUFExMacaranga content on InstagramTwitter and LinkedIn.

Monthly Wrap-Up: July 2023

1 August 2023:   A forum on ecological fiscal transfer (EFT) discussed financial incentives provided by the federal government to state governments to encourage conservation and restoration of forests, rivers, and coasts. The Federal government issues guidelines for state govts; states will get higher EFT if they perform better. Performance matrices includes expanding Protection Areas, effective management, restoration and enrichment and improving facilities.

Shipping is not something we think about but Malaysia is working on making it greener by reducing its GHG emissions. Transport Minister Anthony Loke said “global shipping is ever increasing and shipping emission is estimated to surge to 130 % by 2050.”

Malaysia supports the UN target to cut carbon intensity in international shipping by 40% in 2030 and 70% by 2050.

Menawhile, a big wildlife trade network was busted: 4 Malaysians and 3 foreigners were nabbed by MACC’s Anti-Money Laundering Division based on intelligence from enforcement agencies in the US, UK and Hong Kong. Pangolins are world’s most trafficked animal.

Gold for environmental reporting two years in a row

6 July 2023:  We are thrilled to be acknowledged nationally for our environmental reporting for the second year running. At the Malaysian Press Institute (MPI)-PETRONAS Malaysian Journalism Awards 2022, we were awarded the gold award for our #TanahAir series that examined drying paddy fields in Kedah, coastal reclamation in Melaka, and waste pollution in Perhentian Island.

We also won Silver in investigative journalism for our #ladanghutan series that revealed the many ways that forest plantations in Peninsular Malaysia have utterly failed their sustainability goals. The problems remain.

Finally, we won Bronze for our collection of 3 separate features, on pig farm pollution in Penang, oil palm story in Pahang and another oil palm story in Johor.

We are honoured to be in the company of the other winners in our categories from the New Straits Times, the Star, Bernama, Malaysiakini and Sin Chew Daily. Full list of winners here.

Thank you to our readers, Macaranga Supporters and our story grantors: The Pulitzer Center’s Rainforest Investigative Network fellowship, Earth Journalism Network, the Habitat Foundation and Said Zahari Award.

Monthly Wrap-Up: June 2023

6 July 2023:  Rare earths are a hot-hot-hot resource thanks to smart phones and electric cars. Rare earth deposits in Malaysia are estimated at hundreds of billions of ringgit. But what are the environmental costs?

Another hot-hot-hot resource is sand, in this case, to reclaim land on Tioman island for a controversial airport. According to the EIA, corals are to be moved, a hill is to be quarried and marine park status to be impacted. The school and other priorities on the island need attention, opines a local in Macaranga.

Looking ahead, July 29 celebrates the King of the Jungle, the tiger. Every effort is still needed to reverse the Malayan Tiger’s decline, including forest links.

Monthly Wrap-Up: May 2023

1 June 2023: The climate crisis and an impending El Nino are making the hot weather hotter, our first topic for the May environmental news wrapup. We discuss which states are the hottest and what is being done to ensure we have enough water.

Deforestation was also on the cards, specifically the European Union’s Deforestation Free Regulation, which Malaysia and Indonesia are in Brussels to protest how it unfairly targets the oil palm industry.

Finally, we cover plastic pollution, namely the complete ban on plastic bags by 2025, the national plastic roadmap, and why plastic is the theme for World Environment Day on June 5.

Monthly Wrap-Up: April 2023

26 April 2023: Unfortunately, it’s a wrap-up of court cases and petitions this month. We look at how the Semai from Pos Lanai and the Temiar of Kampung Cunex are bringing governments to court, and how Sarawak NGO Save Rivers are fighting a lawsuit by timber company Samling over indigenous rights claims.

Then we talk about food waste, the amount of which is collected by the Solid Waste and Public Cleansing Management Corporation (SWCorp) during Ramadan is increasing every year. 

Ending on a bright note: Sabah artist Yee I-Larn and collaborators will bring their exhibition of tikar (weaving) art to Kuala Lumpur in May and June. Find them at Borneo Heart.

Our Thoughts on Earth Day 2023

25 April 2023: We were happy to be featured by media engagement platform Telum Media in an Earth Day interview. Check it out.

Law Yao Hua wins Sigma Award for Data Journalism

2 April 2023: We have won a Sigma Award for data journalism!

Our entry of three stories was revealed as one of 11 winners. The stories were written by Yao-Hua Law and edited by Siew Lyn Wong, and supported by a Rainforest Investigations Network fellowship from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting for Yao Hua.

The Sigma Awards “is a competition to celebrate the best data journalism from around the world”. This year, the jury and prize committee of > 40 data journalism practitioners evaluated 638 entries from 80 countries  the most entries received in the award’s 4 year history.

Six entries from Asia were shortlisted, and Macaranga‘s was the only Asian entry among the 11 winners (the 10th and 11 winners are joint-winners). Ours is also the first Malaysian entry to win.

The prize committee highlighted Macaranga‘s achievements in elevating data journalism in Malaysia, particularly in addressing environmental issues “in a country which has many needs in this area.” The committee also appreciated that we published forestry data, called out environmental crimes and stopped them.

Of course, we are stunned by this win. We are honoured by this recognition from our global colleagues, and very much humbled by their craft and tenacity.

Monthly Wrap-Up: March 2023

27 March 2023: Sarawak announces the establishment of a Climate Change Centre in its bid to become a regional leader in carbon trading initiatives. Already, at least five countries had expressed interest in working with Sarawak for carbon trading and storage.

And in Parliament, the Ministry of Natural Resources, Energy and Climate Change revealed that it may authorise the Department of Environment to appoint consultants to conduct environmental impact assessments. Currently, consultants are selected and hired by project developers. What might go wrong?

Monthly Wrap-Up: February 2023

28 February 2023: Last month, the government proposed amending the Water Services Industry Act (655) , to increase the water pollution fine to RM10 million from RM100,000, and the jail sentence to 15 years from one year. Are these much higher fines the answer?

Meanwhile, Penang’s nature-based climate adaptation programme aims to be a model for the country, addressing urban greening, stormwater management, social resilience and institutional capacity.

Partnerships are the theme of World Wildlife Day on March 3, and health, that of the International Day of Forests on March 21.

Climate reporting needs improving

28 February 2023: There are challenges aplenty but also solutions when it comes to reporting on the climate and energy transition in Malaysia, according to a recent research report.

‘Climate and energy transition reporting in Peninsular Malaysia’s mainstream news media’ by Klima Action Malaysia (KAMY) was launched on Saturday, and Siew Lyn moderated the related media panel discussion.

Insights by Macaranga also appear in the report.

The dicussion looked at how to address the report findings that stories were scarce, and most were single-source, hard news reportage.

Challenges identified include lack of time, reporters and editors with specialist knowledge, inadequate institutional support for climate issues, and the difficulty in accessing government data.

Solutions already in practice include collaborations among different media, op-eds by experts, and doing follow-up stories with more depth. The ideal situation would be to have climate/environmental reporters or desks.

KAMY also launched their resource hub for climate reporting, while another resource for journalists is the Science Media Centre.

Stories need to engage with technical issues and connect them with intersectional and wider human angles say discussants Sumei Toh, Nadiah Rosli, Aidila Razak and SL Wong (photo by KAMY)
Stories need to engage with technical issues and connect them with intersectional and wider human angles say discussants Sumei Toh, Nadiah Rosli, Aidila Razak and SL Wong (photo by KAMY)

Monthly Wrap-Up: January 2023

31 January 2023: The inclusion of the role of the federal government in town and country planning would promote coordination and ensure “development takes place in a well-balanced manner and accords with the sharing of responsibilities and the principle that public interest precedes private interest in the use and development of land.”

Last month, a landmark Federal Court judgement in favour of the environment was delivered in the decade-long Sungai Ara, Penang hillslope development case. We discuss what the judgement says and keep our fingers crossed for its implications.

We also talk about the hot topic of carbon trading. We looked at the investigation by The Guardian, Die Zeit, and SourceMaterial which says that more than 90% of the rainforest carbon credits issued through carbon credit scheme Verra have overclaimed their benefits for slowing down climate change.

With Malaysia having just launched our Voluntary Carbon Market using the Verra standard, there needs to be more cooperation and scrutiny to improve carbon credit schemes.

And we look ahead to Budget 2023 and the green goodies that were promised then as well as are being promised in the coalition government’s maifestos.

Macaranga Webinar: Carbon market 101

5 January 2023: A month ago, Bursa Malaysia launched the country’s first voluntary carbon market exchange. The exchange aims to attract companies to “to trade voluntary carbon credits from climate-friendly projects and solutions, with the aim to offset their emission footprint and meet climate goals.”

Right, but what does trading of carbon credits really mean for conservation, human rights, and climate action in the country? Those and more were discussed in a webinar we organised for Macaranga Supporters.

Carbon analyst Tan Win Sim explained the aims and basic mechanisms of a carbon market exchange (another speaker had to cancel due to a last minute emergency). During a rigorous 30-minute Q&A session, participants and Win Sim shared views on the dynamics between carbon credits and greenwashing, indigenous peoples, and reducing carbon emissions.

A group photo of the Macaranga Webinar on carbon markets, held 5 January 2023.

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