MALAYSIA is a country blessed with beautiful nature. Situated in global terrestrial and marine biodiversity “hotspots”, it hosts the world’s oldest rainforests that teemwith unique flora and fauna, and seas rich in marine species large and small.

MALAYSIA is a country blessed with beautiful nature. Situated in global terrestrial and marine biodiversity “hotspots”, it hosts the world’s oldest rainforests that teemwith unique flora and fauna, and seas rich in marine species large and small.

That said, Malaysia is also a rapidly developing country bent on reaching developed country status within the next few years. That ambition has, to a large extent, come at the cost of her natural environment, at the ecosystem and biodiversity levels.

A progressive and developed nation is one that understands and appreciates the value of nature and the services it provides to support our living, thus, invests in safeguarding it for generations to come. Why should we care, when usually topics such as economics, infrastructure, healthcare and education are the ones closest to our hearts?

Well, our seafood stocks are depleting, water catchment areas losing out to logging, we have already lost wildlife species and are on the brink of losing more — strange weather anomalies are becoming the norm, natural water sources are drying up resulting in massive shortages, and the impacts of pollution are becoming more prominent. This certainly does not sound convincing for a developed nation.

This is not a matter of tree hugging, and this is where I am glad that the environment is one of the topics being given “air time” in the Transformasi Nasional 2050 (TN50) initiative. To that end, I am honoured by the opportunity to lend my voice to chart our course for safeguarding Malaysia’s environment — for food, for ecosystem services, for recreation, for climate regulation, and, ultimately, our survival.

As someone living a childhood dream and one who has carved a successful national and international career in marine science and conservation (a rather atypical career in Malaysia), I hope that my story empowers many passionate young girls and women out there to believe that this “rugged” career isn’t just for the boys.

They, too, could be out there in the field, spending hours exposed to the elements while collecting important data on the environment or reaching out to communities, and then be a voice for the cause they are championing, and that their voice shall be heard.

This is my aspiration for young female Malaysians — in the coming 30 years, you have a rightful place in science, in policy advocacy, in being the crafts(wo)men of your future and that of your country.

I come from a lineage of strong and resilient women, and I believe many Malaysians of my generation do, too. Perhaps, most of our mothers and grandmothers while strong in essence, having emerged from many hardships, did not have the opportunity to be the shapers of our country’s trajectory. It was just not the fashion of their day.

However, we, the female youth of Malaysia, inherited their strength and resilience, and together with the opportunities of education that we’ve been given, the future is ours to shape along with our male brethren.

So ladies, TN50 is your platform to launch.

The writer, a Research Fellow at the Institute of Ocean & Sciences, Universiti Malaya, is a marine scientist, specialising in the ecology and conservation of marine mammals, with a focus in dolphin ecology. She is the first Malaysian to be presented with the prestigious Pew Fellowship in Marine Conservation.

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