The year 2000 would go down in the history of the planet as the beginning of the decade when climate change and global warming became part of mainstream public discourse. It helps to remember that the decade was also marked by some of the warmest global temperatures ever recorded matched by ferocious and extreme weather related events in many parts of the world, some of which we have seen and experienced here in Southeast Asia.
The year 2000 will also be remembered as the year when Greenpeace formally decided to establish a regional office in Southeast Asia. Together with China and India, we saw Southeast Asia as one of the key battlegrounds where the fight to save the planet will ultimately be won or lost. The furious pursuit of mindless economic growth by Southeast Asian countries has resulted in some of the worst cases of environmental abuse and destruction we have ever seen in the last ten years: polluted cities, filthy factories, decimated forests, dead rivers, villages buried under water and mud, suffocating oil spills, and colossal mountains of waste.
It is clear that the environment has already become an urgent survival issue for our societies. Motivated by this insight, our decade’s work in Southeast Asia offer strong and bigger reasons why we continue to be hopeful and optimistic about the future. In the last ten years, Greenpeace has been exposing and standing up against environmental abuse, confronting those who are responsible and delivering the change required to make things better. Together with local communities and allies, we have won numerous battles against existing and proposed polluting facilities such as waste incinerators, coal and nuclear power plants. We have championed and secured landmark policy changes and creative solutions in the areas of renewable energy, energy efficiency, ecological waste management, sustainable agriculture and forest protection, while increasing transparency in the way public decisions are made about the environment.
More importantly, we are helping to catalyze change in the way people think about the environment. The reality of global warming has exposed the dismal failure of short-sighted development imperatives. Today, we are also witnessing the unprecedented and ever-accelerating empowerment of people via the internet and emerging social movements. This is the real revolution in thinking that is taking place and I have no doubt that this will prove decisive in overcoming public inertia over environmental issues, when the power of reason finally overcomes the forces of denial and ignorance.
As we celebrate 10 years of committed and inspired environmental campaigning in Southeast Asia, it is important to take stock of our failings and achievements and see how we can use the lessons from them to create even bigger victories in the coming years.
Greenpeace has been standing up and delivering for the environment in Southeast Asia in the last ten years, and we shall persist in doing so in the coming decades. You can be sure that Greenpeace will be there with you when the world finally secures the much needed breakthroughs needed for the climate, for the planet, and for our future.