When I saw this video (below), I was like “Dayummmmm..” I mean what’s a party without a bowl of Doritos? That convenient [read: LAZY] option to just grab from the store to entertain guests or bring to a pot luck gathering.

The solution: Just gotta be a bit more creative and try healthier options then… like good ol’ carrot and celery sticks and dips. Or altenative corn chips that don’t have a bad rep (but probably cost a little more).

It’s funny how many of us would say we’re environmentally-conscious, but as we dig deeper and deeper, we realise that there’s a lot more to be done. Our consumption patterns more than we think.

It sure isn’t going happen over night. Doritos will still be a permanent feature in many parties. But with greater awareness, people can make better choices, inshaAllah. In any case, for me personally, its just another reason for me to stop eating junk.

To sign the petition against Doritos’ parent company PepsiCo from destroying the planet, click here.

If you want change, you have to be the change. Do it.

On 8 February 2014, Young AMP launched ‘Faith and Nature: An Eco-Guide to Greening Faith Communities’ in a bid to enhance environmental awareness and action amongst faith-based communities and organisations in Singapore. This publication was jointly authored by Sofiah Jamil, member of the Board of Management of Young AMP who champions Project ME: Muslims and Environment, and Farheen Mukri, from FirstFern Training and Consultancy.

In addition to highlighting environmental principles embedded in various faiths, the eco-guide also includes a checklist for faith-based organisations (including places of worship and religious schools) to audit their current efforts in adopting environmentally friendly practices, as well as recommending ways to reduce resource consumption in their daily faith community activities and engage other stakeholders.

The event also included an inter-faith panel discussion on the role of faith communities in environmental action. Panellists for the session were Brother Esmond Chua (Order of the Friars Minor), Venerable Seck Kwang Phing (Singapore Buddhist Federation), Master Chung Kwang Tong (Taoist Federation Youth Group) and Mr Vivek Kumra (Hindu Endowments Board). Sofiah moderated the discussion and shared some insights from her ongoing PhD research on Islamic environmental initiatives.

The discussions showed that there were many common themes across faiths on environmental protection such as humans’ responsibility in protecting God’s creations, the role of the youth in spearheading environmental action, and the importance of education for all sections of society.

Discussions were all the livelier given the active audience participation. Amongst the 60-odd participants were members of various faiths and environmental activists. The latter group provided various examples and practical solutions that could be adopted by the various faith communities. Ibu Mahaya Menon, for instance, spoke of the significance of natural medicinal plants, while Bhavani Prakash spoke of the prospects of growing your own food in limited spaces and visiting areas that have successfully walked the environmental talk.

Some among the audience also noted in the subsequent discussion that the society of today is preoccupied with consumerism, which increases the degree to which urban dwellers value materialistic lifestyles. Such attitudes also permeate how many believers approach their own religions; some believe that they can spend more money to win more blessings from their deities, while others believe that they do more good than others by virtue of donating more money.

Those interested in reading the guide can visit www.youngamp.sg or http://thegreenbush.wordpress.com/faith-nature-guide/ to download the electronic version of the publication. Limited hard copies of the book are also available for faith-based groups and organisations at AMP in Singapore.

It was barely a couple of weeks ago when I first heard about FiTree and their plans to organise a couple of Green Iftars during the month of RamaFiTree Posterdan  — on the 15th and 27th July 2013. “OH YES!!! Finally, more Singapore Muslims are actively thinking and doing their bit for the environment.”

Green Iftars may be seen as a novelty in Singapore, but is nevertheless part of a steady trend amongst environmentally-conscious Muslims worldwide attempting to operationalise and mainstream environmental practices in their communities, based on Islamic principles related to the environment.  Last year, a few of us did our own small-scale green iftar.

FiTree’s efforts are commendable given the fact that they’ve recieved great support from Masjid Darul Aman to organise the iftar. In addition to being given the liberty to put up posters and set up their booths virtually anywhere around the mosque, Masjid Darul Aman has also supported FiTree introducing the use of biodegradable cutlery for the event.

Fellow Project ME-er, Ibrahim, and myself rocked up at Masjid Darul Iman at about 6pm. FiTree folks were busy putting the final touches to their posters and two booths – one on the men’s side and another on the women’s side of the mosque. In addition to giving out free bookmarks with various Quranic verses on the environment printed on them, FiTree folks also selling cute little badges for 2 bucks. A tazkirah (sermon) on the importance of the environment in Islam was also delivered prior to the breaking of fast.

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Take a tip!

After breaking fast and Maghrib prayers, Project ME-ers and some members of FiTree had a chat on how the evening went and other broader issues related to Islamic environmentalism. Given that it was the first Green Iftar in a mosque, it was interesting to observe the responses of the congregation. Speaking in Malay was clearly an important factor in relaying the message, particularly to the older men and women in the mosque, and it was great that the FiTree bookmarks had both English and Malay translations of the Quranic verses. Another interesting response from several makciks when given the bookmarks was Do I have to pay for this?”, to which we responded “No Aunty, it’s free”. A few of them placed their new bookmarks in between the pages of their qurans and Islamic books.

This has certainly been a good start for FiTree and part of their learning curve in further advancing FiTree’s efforts to increase envioronmental awareness amongst Muslims. If you would like to participate in their next Green Iftar, do check out their Facebook page.

Makcik buying a FiTree Badge
Makcik buying a FiTree Badge

Hello fellow countrymen and women,

As of about an hour ago, the PSI has hit 152 – the highest level since 2006. While I understand this is a concern to many on the island, here are my two cents worth on the issue:-

1) Please quit living in a bubble and come to terms with reality that beyond the efficient, clean and green [sterile] concrete island shores, the increasing frequency and intensity of environmental degradation/pollution/disasters/floods is real. Sh*t happens.

2) When you’re done complaining, please spare some time to think about how such adverse environmental events occur in the first place. Aside from poor governance, ineffective implementation at the local level, corruption in our neighbouring countries [the usual bla bla..], sometimes our consumerist demands for paper and other products that support our “first world” economic development is a contributing factor.

3) Perhaps we can think of alternative solutions rather than depend on the “gahmen” to fix it. There are those among us that are already doing great work in other Southeast Asian countries — whether it be in disaster relief efforts, helping to provide clean water supply and proper sanitation in remote areas, or teaching a kid to read and write. What’s stopping us from (for example) thinking of ways to possibly provide alternative sources of livelihood or new technology to poor communities that are engaged in the activities that we are forever complaining about?

A long, tedious and complex process, yes. Impossible, maybe not.

At the very least, it would be an effort to know our neighbours better and be grateful for what we have.

That is all.

Hugs and kisses from smokey Jay-Kay-Tee*.

Indonesia. Isn't it beautiful?
Indonesia. Isn’t it beautiful?

*Jakarta, Indonesia

Nuclear energy protests in the immediate wake of the Fukushima Nuclear crisis in Japan (Credit: SandoCap / flickr.)
Nuclear energy protests in the immediate wake of the Fukushima Nuclear crisis in Japan (Credit: SandoCap / flickr.)

Civil nuclear energy policy in Southeast Asia has seen sharp swings recently. Prior to the Fukushima tsunami and nuclear crisis in March 2011, several ASEAN member states had been actively pursuing nuclear energy. Fukushima compelled some to re-evaluate their plans. Thailand delayed the construction of its first nuclear power plant. In the Philippines, it became more difficult to gain public support to reactivate the Bataan nuclear reactor. Meanwhile, Japan pledged to phase out nuclear energy. Two years on, however, the momentum has reversed. Japan is now taking a more pro-nuclear stance, and some countries in Southeast Asia have revived their nuclear plans.

What is behind the rapid policy about-turn? This NTS Insight argues that while the discourse post-Fukushima has emphasised safety and energy governance, economic and strategic interests remain primary drivers of civil nuclear energy use in Southeast Asia.

To read the full article, please click here.

The logic that some people have just baffles me sometimes.

Take for example, the point made by Genting Group chairman, Mr Lim Kok Thay, regarding a question on the use of wild-caught dolphins for entertainment needs at the Marine Life Park in the newly opened Resorts World Singapore (RWS). In defending RWS’ position on the use of these dolphins, Mr Lim noted that these bottlenose dolphins are “definitely not on the endangered list“.

Well, that’s a relief, but we certainly wouldn’t want to be contributing to their extinction either. Just because an animal isn’t an endangered species, doesn’t give us the right to exploit and cause harm to them. What kind of hypocritical message would be we sending out to the public and especially children, where the supposed concern for dolphin conservation is done by kidnapping dolphins from their natural habitat?

Further analysis of the issue has demonstrated that it is not just dolphins that are being exploited, but also communities. The video below sheds some light on how communities in the Solomon Islands have been affected by the lucrative business of catching wild dolphins.

The controversy over the wild-caught dolphins in RWS has been ongoing for several years now, with the latest incident being the death of one of the dolphins, Wen Wen.  ACRES has been working tirelessly in its “Save the World’s Saddest Dolphins“, which has included a candle vigil for Wen Wen and also contributed to efforts to accuse RWS of violating Philippines law. Even so, much more pressure needs to be put on RWS to genuinely respect the rights of animals and communties, over the love for profit.

If you would like to support the cause, do write in to RWS here.

Me: “I’m having a Green Iftar on National Day, and you’re welcome to come. We’ll be breaking our fast with all things vegetarian.”

Cousin:”Huh?! Where’s the meat? No meat, sure pengsan (faint), lah!”

Well,  no we didn’t pengsan.

I’m glad that I finally got a chance to do a little green iftar with a few environmentalists on Singapore’s 47th Birthday. While it was just a small group of girls (the boys couldn’t make it!), it was perfect way of testing out a new initiative with some heart-to-heart conversations on various topics related to the environment, as well as our faiths and cultures.

But… Why a Green Iftar?

1) Less consumption, more health

Simply put: To walk the sustainability talk.

Similar to other efforts by Green Muslims worldwide, we incoporated sustainable practices in our iftar. In a bid to reduce waste and carbon footprint, no disposable utensils were used during the event, and guests were encouraged to bring spare tupperwares to take home any leftovers. We even opted for using the fans instead of the air-con!

To make our iftar more personal and meaningful, each person was to bring a vegetarian dish to share. It was wonderful to have home-made nutritious dishes (some of which took quite a bit of effort) and just gain a greater appreciation for vegetarian food.

From vegetarian bee hoon and pasta to baked tomatoes stuff with quinoa and capsicum, wonderful salads and dips (including home grown ingredients like mint and bluepea) topped off with pound cake, homebaked cookies, fruits, juices and lemongrass tea. It was all deeeeelish!!! 😀

Healthy vegetarian iftar FTW!

2) Green Chit-Chat

One of the main aims of the green iftar was also for environmentalists to have a chance to get together and share their thoughts and experiences on various issues related to the environment. Topics of discussion included challenges in engaging sections of society to be more environmentally conscious, encouraging environmental conscious behaviour via highlighting the significant benefits to one’s health, ways of improving the connections between various stakeholders, the humane treatment of animals as part of food choices, the importance of environmental issues in intercultural exchange, and various tools/methods to enhance the sharing of experiences.

3) Enhancing inter-faith dialogue

What I found to be the best aspect of the green iftar, was the ability to use an environmental initiative for the benefit of other social and cultural exchanges. While my initial thoughts of invitees were to be Muslims, I chose to extend the invitation to non-Muslims as well. No man is an island, and the environmental movement is clearly a reflection of that. In addition to non-Muslim guests gaining greater insight to Islam and the diversity amongst Muslims, the green chit-chat was certainly enhanced with a discussion on the cultural aspects and values associated with the environment based on our own ethnic backgrounds. Common threads such as food and water have played significant roles in bringing communities together as well as a means of understanding and appreciating how nature works.

It was agreed that such spaces for sharing such environmental as well as cultural values and practices would be a way of transcending differences and a means of facilitating greater collaboration. With events such as  Diwali, Eid al Adha and Navratri coming up in the next few month, it would be a chance to have yet another similar gathering. Yay! 😀

Resources on the environment, faith and communities.

OK… Then what?

While the Green Iftar was a lovely experience, there are perhaps two factors that make it difficult to translate environmental (or any other) activities into something bigger. One comment was that the energy and enthusiasm created in environmental events tends to die off after a while, for the fact that people are sucked back into their “normal” life. Another comment was because society prefers to remain passive and would only latch on to an initiative if there’s a “leader” spearheading it. While this may be to extent true, I’d like to have some hope that there are some people in society that care enough and are willing to experiment on their own.

Leading people is good, but empowering people to be leaders in their own right would be so much better. Moreover, for initiatives that encourage personal behavioural change, you are ultimately your own leader. Taking the effort to have a green iftar with one’s own family and friends outside environmental circles, for instance, will be a challenge but is ultimately the best chance of avoiding being ‘sucked’ back into the normality of careless consumption.

10-day Ramadan Challenge for fellow Muslim brothers and sisters:-

As we commit to more intensive spiritual reflection and rituals in commemoration of Lailatul Qadr in the last 10 days of Ramadan, let’s also make a conscious effort to reinforce one of the main reasons of why we are fasting. To put ourselves in the position of those who have so much less than us. To put ourselves in the position of those that can’t afford meat, let alone enjoy a decent meal.

Several Muslims have demonstrated that it is possible to adopt healthier and greener iftars, if we put our minds to it. Do try to take the effort to reduce your meat intake during this tail end of Ramadan, which just means making a conscious decision of what you want to eat. Encourage family members, such as mothers, to cook vegetarian recipes that are nutritious but also filling. For Muslims in Southeast Asia, think sayur asam rebus, sambal tempeh/telur, kacang pool, or even a banana shake! It would also be much easier to have vegetarian meals at this point, given the fact that many of us would already naturally have a smaller appetite after fasting for the past 20 days. If you must, then limit white meat intake to a couple of days a week.  More importantly, do share the experience and beauty of Ramadan to your non-Muslim friends.

Still can’t get over just having veggies for iftar and sahur? Well think about it, at least you know it’s been worth it while you’re busy stuffing yourself on Eid! 😉

It’s halfway through Ramadan already and many of us are wishing time didn’t pass so fast. This blessed month is indeed an opportune time for spiritual cleansing, charity and quality family time. That said, how many of us have actually used Ramadan as a time to reflect on our consumption patterns.  While we have controlled our appetites during daylight hours, how many of us have actively made healthier eating options come sunset? Ramadan is clearly the best time to make these changes slowly. Here are some thoughts:-

1) Get them tupperwares ready!

What is perhaps even harder than the actual fast itself, is avoiding a binge fest after breaking the fast. We’ve all had the “oh-I-want-this-and-oh-yummy-I-want-that” feeling in the last few hours before maghrib (Warning: Ramadan bazaaars!). The tendency of having more food than can actually be consumed still happens, especially during family and communal iftars. And that is, in some ways, understandable. Everyone brings something to share with everyone else, but sometimes, it just ends up being too much.  That said, we can avoid it and minimise wastage simply by (1) planning how much food is needed given the amount of people expected to turn up, and knowing who’s bringing what; and (2) taking home leftovers for sahur or the next day’s iftar.

Several folks have sought to encourage these practices. From the US ,where Green Muslims in DC have had their first “Leftar”, to greenies in Malaysia encouraging people to BYO bag and food containers to the various pasar Ramadans to reduce the use of diposables.   In Singapore, a bunch of Project ME-ers are also planning to have a little Green Iftar (test run!) very soon. Stay tuned for more news on that.

2) Making those vitamins and minerals count.

Various health experts have noted the benefits of eating your fruits before rather than after your meal, particularly for so that the vitamins and minerals from the fresh fruits are absorbed by our bodies at an optimal rate. Current sunnah (Prophetic practices) on breaking your fast can already facilitate this. In one of the many articles available on how to control our appetites in Ramadan, one of main tips has been to open the fast with something small (dates or water), take a little time-out to do maghrib prayers, and then back to the dinner table and go slow with the rest of the food.  Hence, adding some fruits to go with the dates and water when breaking your fast just makes sense.

So while its really tempting to grab a pakora at the sound of the azan, try a slice of papaya, pear, plum or pineapple instead.

3) Just do it!

People tend to disregard the significance of making baby steps in affecting change. Change starts with oneself, and the little steps will have a personal impact, granted we put in the effort to do so, InshaAllah. Here’s a little snippet of my recent sahur and iftar meals. Aside from the greens and fruits, I had a easy-peasy DIY date smoothie (you can opt for a naughtier option  with ice-cream or whole cream) and got some bubur masjid (a.k.a. porridge from one of the local mosques) from a colleague (Thanks Pak Karim!).

Glad to say, I’ve survived the day, and the breaking of fast with fruits was refreshing and detoxifying 🙂

Anti-Clockwise: Cherries, Dates and Kiwi for iftar, DIY Date shake for sahur, greens and porridge for both iftar and sahur. Yum!

“Nothing is worse than a person who fills his stomach. It should be enough for the son of Adam to have a few bites to satisfy his hunger. If he wishes more, it should be: one-third for his food, one-third for his liquids, and one-third for his breath.”

— Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) via Tirmidhi.

Enough said. Salam Ramadan!

Screenshot from MuzlimBuzz.sg

How awesome is that? I got interviewed by NTUMS’s Eleven and MuzlimBuzz.sg!

Thanks very much folks, for listening to my two cents worth on the need to increase environmental awareness and action amongst Muslims.

It is my hope that such messages will in time be shared further and ultimately reach a critical mass for a truly environmentally conscious Ummah, inshaAllah 🙂

If you haven’t checked out the interviews yet, click here for the Muzlimbuzz article  and here for the Eleven article.