Over the decades Mano Maniam has not only been an actor, writer, director, scholar and drama teacher, but he has also been a keen environmentalist. He has been a long-time member of the Environmental Protection Society and was CETDEM chairman from 1985 to 1994. Here, he explains the circumstances behind the organisation’s birth, and how it differed from other green NGOs.
Malaysia’s environmental vanguard
We were a whole new generation, with a whole new way of thinking. Most of us were born during and after the Second World War, and we grew up when the country was being formed. These were the first seeds of coalescence and identity. And so we were part of that vanguard, idealistic and hopeful dreamers.
At that time, there was the first consciousness of being global, with the United Nations being very instrumental in that. One of the first things they did besides dealing with war, depravation and economic reconstruction was issues dealing with the world, our planet.
There was one thing people could talk about without saying “This is yours or mine, and let’s fight for it”, and that was the environment. The UN organised the first Earth Summit (also known as the Stockholm Earth Summit or UN conference on the Human Environment) in 1972. It fired the imagination of new governments and emerging nations in the 1940s, 50s and 60s.