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Only after the last tree has been cut down;
Only after the last fish has been caught;
Only after the last river has been poisoned;
Only then will you realize that money cannot be eaten.
- Cree Indian Prophecy

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The Rubbish Collectors

by Forest Ang

.....ready for a fight when a group of campers did not heel his command not to litter....

Way, way back, some twenty years ago, I was fortunate to join a hiking trip organized by the Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) of Penang Branch.

It was a normal trekking to Muka Head (now part of Penang National Park). The trail leads all the way from the End of the World Restaurant. Someone in front just threw a sweet wrapper. A guy from the group silently picking it. Tissues were also discarded. Another lady hiker was seen picking the tissues without a word of complaint.

As I was new to MNS, I thought to myself, “Cheap labor? These people must be nuts picking up people’s rubbish!” (My humble apologies!)

I was not sure why the MNS members didn’t stand up to the rubbish throwers.

Years later, I began to realize the important of not throwing rubbish. I started to lead members on hikes. I would brief hikers on the need to avoid throwing rubbish. In a way, I have done much to inculcate the good habits. I have seen many of my participants keeping their rubbish in their bags. I am glad.

I had been tough to rubbish throwers. I told them straight. I knew they dislike me for reprimanding them. But for Mother Nature, I will do that again.

I remembered an incidence 15 years ago in Pulau Redang, Trengganu. A friend, who was a stunt “eco-man”, even held up his machete, ready for a fight when a group of campers did not heel his command not to litter. I did not belong to that category though!

On a recent trekking to Pulau Jerejak, there was tons of rubbish. I told my participants, “You do not throw rubbish even though you find them everywhere” “You are not encouraged to collect but you are welcome to do so” I added.

For many, MNS (Penang) is the “rubbish-collecting agent”. She has lost her fangs. Not vocal in many issues. “Just collecting people’s rubbish in silent”. The themes now are for jumble sales and gotong royong. Not much stand on conservation issues. Take for example the marring of Pulau Jerejak’s natural beauty. Not a soul speak up!

During my time, I remembered how we would report the chopping of heritage trees at the *Batu Fringghi’s aquaduct and the logging activities at **Belum, Perak. The committee promptly took these up and the presses were informed. The rest was history.

MNS Penang Branch owes favour to the Penang State Government on the leasing of two buildings – one at botanical gardens and the other at Penang Hill. Speak up and you might be booted!

Of course, lately, there was the Koay Jetty’s issue. But then, MNS is the follower…

* Trees chopped can't be put back but the people who did that have alot of explaining in the newspapers.
** It hastened the creation of a Royal State Park


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All photographs by Forest Ang unless mentioned.
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