In January this year, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists announced the Doomsday Clock “is now two minutes to midnight”, which means that the world is closer to a catastrophic ending than we might think. What started as a measurement to gauge the severity of nuclear threat to humanity has in recent times being expanded to include other important issues like climate change. In the same statement, the committee reminded the readers that that there was an insufficient response to climate change, which is one of the determining factors that move the minute hand closer to midnight. The climate change issue is complicated especially for a developing nation like Malaysia because there is a need to balance between the necessity to grow economically while at the same time preserve the environment for future generation, or in the parlance of current environmental study, sustainable development.
The responsibility to drive sustainable development should not just reside with the authority or a governing body but it should be a shared responsibility that is ingrained within each member of society. It is within this perspective that the presence of EcoKnights in Malaysia should be celebrated and revered as it aims to create awareness for a greener and more sustainable development among the society, be it the government, academic, corporation and individuals.
EcoKnights was founded by Yasmin Rasyid in 2005 with the aim of assisting communities in the areas of sustainable development. Her background in Marine Biology and Biotechnology helps her to land a job as Scientific Officer and Communication Officer for WWF. On top of that she was also doing some freelance work on the side by being a consultant on the field of sustainable development in order to increase awareness on the subject among the community. After a few years of doing community work, there was a need to get organized hence EcoKnights was born.
The organization was founded not only to promote green tech and sustainable development, but it also has the larger goal of developing young people to become the army of change in the area. This goal of developing young people is important as it provides sustainability in the fight for sustainable development.
“There is an internal culture that we are creating here internally in which past interns come back as employee or champion area of sustainability on their own. Young people can come and work here to gain experience and go out there to do more in the country. We want to churn out employees that are desirable in various industries.”
In giving exposure and user experience to the youth, EcoKnights runs various projects that can be categorized into four pillars which are education awareness, volunteerism and corporate engagement, river ecosystem and youth development entrepreneurship. The program touches myriad aspects and involves many stakeholders in sustainable development in which EcoKnights involvement includes bridging the gap between the government and academics constitution to the general public while at the same time helping businesses to incorporate sustainable development within their activities as well as in their corporate branding. The organization currently has 8 staff, eight to nine interns and a couple hundreds of volunteers to help them run a successful campaign.
EcoKnights has been in the scene for thirteen years yet Yasmin is also excited on what the future has in store for the organization.
“We have been in the green market for the last 5-6 years. There is a niche opportunity to bring everyone to global platform and setup guideline in doing so as there are many green standards out there yet no one consolidating them.”
Having a consolidated guideline will assist local green entrepreneurs to connect with the right people and get the necessary training so that in the end they will be able to place their product better in the global marketplace. This help is important in the face of various challenges that are faced by green technology entrepreneurs which among others include the inability to market the products and the maturity of Malaysians in accepting green technology products in their daily lives.
When asked about the vision of EcoKnights, Yasmin hopes that sustainable development will be achieved in this country and thus the organization will be rendered obsolete as it has achieved its raison d’etre. However, looking at the rate we are going in this country and globally, the fight against environmental pollution and sustainable development still has a long way ahead. But with the spirit and energy of the youth driving the change through EcoKnights, they might just fasten the pace to attain their goal.