Learning about conservation at the ‘PechaKucha’

Rizal Faisal

One of the highlights of the recent Future Energy Lions’ Satu Impian 2019 eco-festival at Panaga’s Brunei Shell Recreation Club was a seminar of eco-talks dubbed the ‘PechaKucha’.

The PechaKucha saw six eco-empowered personalities delivered talks on the environment, sustainability and conservation.

One invited speaker was Isabel Lopes, who touched on ‘Macrobiotic Eating for Health’.

Hailing from Portugal and living with her family in Brunei for four years now, she is the founder of The Healthy Pantry Project, which is an initiative established in the sultanate since 2018 with the aim to promote, teach and share macrobiotics and healthy plant-based food.

“I have been studying macrobiotics in Tokyo and in Lisbon under the guidance of international teachers. I became vegan a few years ago after I was diagnosed with a thyroid cancer in 2015 and I had to go through a surgery. I was shocked because I considered myself as a health conscious person. That’s why I wanted to know what was wrong with my diet,” said Isabel.

Jeff Ong gives his presentation. PHOTO: FUTURE ENERGY LIONS

She found the solution by trying out a no-dairy diet for a month and found her turning point in life.

“One simple alteration in my diet was enough to reduce almost half of my daily medicine,” she said. “That wasn’t all. I stopped having sinusitis problems frequently and flu is easier to treat.”

“I had no hesitation to make a transition to a plant based diet. My children and my husband were ready to join me on this new adventure. We noticed significant improvement on our health. It is in our own hands to experience better health by making mindful food choices,” shared Isabel.

She highlighted for different reasons, many people around the world, including her family and herself chose a healthy plant-based diet.

She said that Macrobiotics is an approach towards our inner physical, emotional and environmental balance having endless benefits like natural weight loss, improvement on digestion and lowering the risk of heart disease.

“That’s the mission of The Healthy Pantry Project – a programme designed to remind us of our responsibility to ourselves, and to the planet we borrow from our children. We need to do something now to ensure a better future. If we change our food, we could change the world.”

Another speaker was Amanina Shofry, whose talk, ‘Environment Action, Starting from Metal Straws’, discussed how individuals can take small steps by making changes in personal choices with eco-friendly products.

“In the past few months, we’ve seen a massive rise in environmentalism in mainstream media. We’ve seen bans on single-use plastics, global climate strikes, and conversation on how humans can be better advocates for our environment,” she said.

“How are we challenging ourselves to move past surface level environmentalism and look for the deeper roots of environmental problems? How can we ensure that metal straws and saving turtles are the start of a bigger conversation, and not the end of that conversation? The United Nations (UN) Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predict that we only have 12 years for global warming to be kept at 1.5C, beyond which the environmental impacts significantly worsen.

“We have to think how we as a nation can be a better advocate for our environment. We have to think on a national level – what kind of industries are we investing in? What will this country look like in 20 or 50 years’ time? The decisions we make today will impact us for generations,” she said.

“For a policy to change and industries to shift, we as a collective society have to push for that change. We have to show up, ask the right questions, and act. It means attending policy forums and townhalls, learning and unlearning, getting involved and organising community events, and advocating for institutional change at work, at school, and in government. It means action on levels beyond our own individual consumption,” Amanina added.

Another to deliver a talk was Jeff Ong, who spoke on ‘Farming & Plants’. He has been running an organic, sustainable farm in Brunei for eight years now, having started off with eggs.

He thought that eggs would be good if they were produced by a happy animal. Thus, he looked into the raising of hens in a great habitat by organically preparing the food and water.

Sharing his experience, he said, “We needed to look into the environment, the manure, what they needed to eat and the water – all of these are really important because we want to create really good produce.”

“The first thing we needed was wood, so we get this waste wood from Bandar,” he said, adding that this wood was sent through the use of trucks. “It is a wonderful resource, which is underutilised. These come to our farm constantly. When they come over, the first thing we had to do was organise it. So, we organise from large pieces of trunks, to medium, to small, to the branches, to the twigs and to the leaves. We did these because we are going to use everything on the farm itself.”

They have also set up an Iwasaki kiln. Inspired by the Japanese, the kiln is used to make charcoal and Wood Vinegar, which is used as a pesticide and fertiliser.

“On our farm we try to do as much as we can with all these produce,” he said, sharing that they make woodchips, which he said are carbon with a larger surface area, and helps make the environment for chickens nicer.

Jeff said that they also harvest rainwater, with seven containers that handle 1,000 litres each. He said that the amount of rain that Brunei has is a minimum of 2,300 millimetres a year.

He said that they look for diversification with regards to food for the chickens. “Instead of corn, we look into food waste – mainly vegetables and fruit.”

He highlighted the value of compost. “It is full of life, rich, natural and it is free.

“Compost is a waste product from our chickens. So it actually gives us a huge opportunity. With this we create even more gardens.”

Talks were also delivered by Bong Poh Yuk, who spoke on ‘The Wildlife of the Giant Seria Oilfield’; Adam Hanif who discussed ‘Nature & Photography’; and Shazrinah Shazali, who spoke on ‘Healthy Eating & the Impact on the Environment’.