When I was a young boy of 10, the storm that hit the small town where I lived was so strong that I remember it vividly to this day. A very close friend of mine was swept away by the strong current and drowned. It was probably my first encounter with death and the fragilities of life. I remember being completely devastated; I cried for weeks. I felt that it was so unfair that the future of such a bright young boy was cut short.
I’d loved growing up in Kuantan along the East Coast of Peninsular Malaysia, listening to the sound of waves crashing on the shore and running around the beautiful pristine white sandy beaches with the green hills as my backdrop. But as much as I enjoyed my childhood, at a very young age, I also lived face to face with nature’s wrath. Prolonged rains during the monsoon season would regularly leave our village would be flooded. I remember the screams and cries of villagers to “Evacuate! Evacuate!” when water levels started reaching above knee level. I bore witness to the terrible devastation, the aftermath of these floods where people would lose a lot of their assets: television, furniture, and for the unfortunate ones, their homes. At times, survivals of such catastrophes would have to go on days without food supply simply because road access had been blocked off. These floods happened so frequently it almost felt normal.
Fast-forward to 20 years today, and still the impacts of the climate crisis, if anything, has become more prevalent. Just last week, Malaysia was hit by one of the worst floods in history with more than 70,000 evacuated to date and a significant number of deaths reported. More than a billion wildlife was lost in the tragic Australian bushfires last year. The so-called “once in a thousand years flood” had literally happened back-to-back in China, Germany and New York just this year alone. Typhoon Rai has just killed about 400 people in the Philippines while hundreds of thousands more have been displaced. Where will they go? These are just some headlines that are dominating our news today. Make no mistake: the climate crisis is here.