COMMENT BY YH LAW: I WAS very happy to see that most Malaysian speakers aced their presentations at ICCB 2019. The younger speakers deserve special praise—they were confident, lively and eager to share their work.
They presented effectively and answered questions well. They dished out plenty of positive vibes. And often their friends or colleagues were sitting in the audience—peer support must have helped!
Many of the Malaysian talks I went to showcased on-going work or results of their Master theses, which are often a prelude to bigger research projects.
So, I was often left wanting more. But I’m relieved to see that our younger scientists or conservationists are well trained.
I am disappointed however, that there was no symposium or plenary dedicated to oil palm.
Whither oil palm?
Given the impact that oil palm has on the environment, whether perceived or true, not dedicating a plenary or several symposiums on the issue is ignoring the elephant in the room.
(Though there was a handful of talks about elephants that discussed the animal’s use of oil palm landscapes.)
With more than 1,300 regional and international participants, mostly conservation practitioners and some industry players, ICCB 2019 in Kuala Lumpur was arguably the best platform to discuss and debate the environmental aspects of oil palm.
We could have had so much science and so many opinions from experts and practitioners. The exchange might be awkward, perhaps even uncomfortable, but I think that is part of the process needed to get us out of our echo chambers and cross the divide.
We need solutions to the complex, thorny issue of oil palm, solutions which I doubt would emerge from a feel-good conversation.
Whatever the solutions might be, we missed the chance to discuss them at ICCB 2019. It’s everyone’s loss, including the government and people of Malaysia and Indonesia, and all concerned conservationists.