Friday, 15 June 2012

Kampus Sejahtera is now the USM Sustainability Office

Long story short, "I'm out of a job".

But don't fret, I wrote myself out of the job.

I prepared or rather drafted two papers (I didn't see the final version). The first one was to redesignate Kampus Sejahtera as the Sustainability Office. If you are a little muddled, yes, there was actually a Sustainable Office created about 2 years ago.

"What? You mean Kampus Sejahtera was not THE Sustainability Office? But it was doing all those stuff on sustainable campus, The White Coffin, Say No to Plastic Bags, etc etc etc."

 Well, Kampus Sejahtera was never set as a sustainability office. And I have always maintained that it never had a mandate from the University to be the office responsible for sustainability. In a sense, the Penang people would say I was "keh poh chee" (loosely translated to mean "busybody"). No one was doing it, so I adopted the baby.

At the height of it's "popularity", KS was the place to get some funding for projects. Students especially liked to work with KS. But it was never a proper office, per se. Sometimes it was referred to as a Secretariat, sometimes just a Programme. There was just one coordinator (with lots of funding) and a clerk who also did other things.

I would say, with I hope, some modesty, that my work with KS made a (huge) impact on the University, in particular in helping its successful bid to be anoited the APEX University. OK, if you want to quibble, "selected for the APEX University programme".

I do remember writing to the then VC (Dzul) not to reappoint me as the coordinator more than 2 years ago, giving various reasons, amongst which was my very modest achievements. And I hated the administrative hassles (I was not given good support).

Then the new VC (Omar) came along in September 2011 and at one meeting he looked at me, so I said "Kampus Sejahtera is dying. It's a shame because it is a uniquely USM brand". He asked me to go see him. But I avoided him. And he didn't bug me or give me a hard time.

I cracked my head on what to do with KS without abandoning it to die, slowly. It's just too precious to let it dissolve into oblivion.

So, I thought. And I strategised. And I talked to key people. And I waited (this was towards the end of last year). For the concept to slowly work its way up. Basically, my idea was to merge the Sustainability Office and Kampus Sejahtera, with the former taking on the brandname of the latter. The crux of it was to institutionalise Kampus Sejahtera. To make it part of the administration. Of course, anything created in the University can be dissolved or disbanded when a new VC takes over (except those institutions or bodies created by Statute or approved by Senate).

Central to the idea was it would also be a tribute to our former VC Dzul who initiated Kampus Sejahtera 10 years ago when he was the Deputy VC. The ideals of Kampus Sejahtera will live on long after we have all served the university (I hope).

I have become more patient these days. So, I waited and then about 2 months back, the verbal greenlight was given to pursue the concept. So, I wrote a concept paper to be put to the highest management committee in the University chaired by the VC. And waited some more. The paper still hadn't gone up.

Along the way, we talked about what should be the focus and flagship project for KS to help the University in its APEX agenda. Very soon, a bunch of people are going to descend on the campus to demand that we show proof that we are indeed a sustainability-led university. So, I gently pushed for the revival of the Green Office programme. This was eventually embraced and I volunteered to write another concept paper and I called it "Pejabat Alamiah, the greening of USM offices" (ah, something like that). Funnily, when the paper went up, no one recalled anything about Pejabat Alamiah. The term was actually coined by Mohamed Salleh (Poet Laurete) after Dzul consulted him. So, that will now be out flagship project to operationalise sustainability in USM.

Eventually the two papers went up together sometime last week. And both were accepted (I was told). Technically, I won't be sacked (but who can say for sure). I wrote it such that when my current term expires at the end of the year, the post of coordinator will automatically become redundant.

So, who's in charge of Kampus Sejahtera. Well, there's a Sustainability Officer already appointed (Mahfuzah). We wanted the VC to be the CSO (Chief SO) but he thought it doesn't have to be him. So, the Director of CGSS (where KS is located) has taken on the role of CSO.

Me? I wrote myself a new job. I will (continue) to be Senior Fellow of CGSS attached to Kampus Sejahtera. (Hey, I already have an office there). I will not be doing all the running around anymore. I will stay in the background, visualising, thinking, dreaming, strategising, pushing, writing, documenting ... and generally continuing my role as "keh poh chee", without the stress. 

Huh, I went to the clinic after the meeting to check my blood pressure. The nurse got a shock from the first reading, something like 158/???. The second reading was 147/???. The third reading was 127/77, pulse rate 68. The nurse was shocked at how fast my BP recovered (I said the high BP must be from the walk to the clinic but generally, my first readings are always high).

This blog will still be maintained as the KS blog. I will be inviting others to contribute.

In the meantime, if you really miss me, visit my more personal blog if you have nothing better to do.

Lik Meng

The new team at Kampus Sejahtera this morning

Friday, 18 May 2012

Relic from the 1970s

Music, light and easy, playing softly from speakers in front. But there's only one listener. Me!

This used to be THE place to hang out in the USM Library. Those were times when students didn't have smartphone which plays music.

I'm guessing hardly anyone comes here now. Yet the music goes on. I wonder what the cost is? Especially the carbon emission from electric consumption.

What should we do with this?

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Low hanging fruits

The concept is that there are frutis which are within easy reach, you can harvest without effort, just reach out or up a little, and pluck them. There will be those that are higher up on the tree, and therefore needs more effort to harvest. You might need to climb the tree (watch out for the huge red ants). Or use a ladder. Or use a long pole with a hook or net at the end to harvest the fruits higher up.

Appropriately, the concept says that the lower fruits are usually not so juicy or sweet. What did you expect?

Conversely, the fruits higher up are the sweetest or juiciest and best tasting ones.

This concept has been turned into a strategy. For instance, new salesmen are trained to identify and target the easy customers - but may not get the big commissions. We hear it all the time too in programmes implemented throughout the world. It's used to build confidence. To show results quickly. To appease the people above you breathing down your neck - "Show me the outcomes. Show me the results. Show me the impact. NOW!". They don't you the chance to work at it.They adopt a policy and then say "show me the results". And of course, you probably didn't work on it, until the last minute.

I had a conversation with a few young colleagues and there's one thing we agreed on. We hate low hanging fruits. We prefer a long-term perspective, working for a goal with results that will last.

No more talk of quick-wins.

These are passion fruits I harvested this morning, with a long bamboo pole with a hook. Actually, one of them dropped right down beside me while I was doing some yard work (to remind me to look up and claim my prize). I didn't wrap them. Some get stung by insects but are still good to eat when ripe. These five were perfect. Ever tried passion fruit blended with a little honey and topped up with some gin? OK, you can skip the gin. Passion fruits are rich in minerals, vitamins and is even an antioxidant. Stay healthy.

Friday, 30 March 2012

Are you smelling the "roses"?

About this time every year, spring is in the air. Usually it's April, so it's a little early.

Took this with my smart phone a while ago. The light wasn't too good. This is the angsana in full bloom. Stand below it ... Breathe in! Let your sense be free.

Men-at-work, encountered them near the USM guest house. They are chopping off the decaying branches of the host tree while leaving the parasite tree, the strangling fig, to grow. Taking care of trees is big business.

Bees have built a nest in the host tree, and killing it in the process.

The boss of the crew harvesting the honey. He let me have a taste. Nice.
So, stop, smell the "roses". Have a life.

Saturday, 11 February 2012

The flame has died

Not so many years ago, perhaps 4 or 5 years at most, I received a report (through the VC) from a scientist in USM who conducted a survey of the trees on the main campus in Penang. One major finding was that more than half (if my recollection is accurate) of the trees surveyed were diseased or under attack from pest (ants, termites, bugs, insects, fungus). The prognosis was not good. There is nothing that humans can do to save the trees but to wait for them to die (maybe I am exaggerating abit). The recommendation? Don't plant these trees again. (I was kinda disappointed with the recommendation, to say the least).

Yes, when we introduce alien species into the local environment, often they can't survive. On the other hand, some alien species may be very aggressive and overwhelm the local species. So, it's generally a good idea to plant local species of plants. I remember visiting Monash U a long time ago and read about their effort to dig up the foreign species of grass and plant them with the more resilient and drought-resistant local grass or weeds (they looked like lalang).

One particular species on campus which is probably going to die out is the flame of the forest. The pests slowly eats away its core and ultimately it crumbles, unless the maintenance people chops it down first - usually because someone will complain about the dying tree.

First, let me show you how beautiful they are when in full bloom. Some pictures were taken as far back as 2003 (from The University in a Garden coffeetable book), one in 2006.
 School Education, 2006

 School of Social Sciences, 2003

 The Post Office, 2003

The then Centre for Translation and Languages, 2003

School of Art, 2004

This is what has died recently. Actually, not dead but chopped down, presumed dead.

 This picture is in The University in a Garden, 1st Edition. Picture taken in 2003 from the top of Canselori Building. The building in the picture on the right is where students used to pay fees and not in the picture on the left the then Corporate Office, now BPI. See how big a spread of the crown?

 Picture taken in 2009. See the big scar on the trunk? That's where the pests will attack (the weak link). If the plants are healthy, this won't happen but often human intervention for human safety reasons results in branches being trimmed improperly leading to rai water collecting at the cuts and then nature takes over.

 Taken on 3rd Feb 2012. Only a stump left behind.
 It's not dead, just presumed dead.

This is from The University in a Garden, 2004, School of Art.
I once had a "stand-off" with the people who kept asking the VC for permission to chop down the tree because they say its dead. I "advised" no because I argued that even a dead tree has a place in our garden. One day they got smart and asked someone else (a landscape architect) who confirmed that it's dead and gave the go ahead. So it got chopped.

The way things a going, we will see the last flames dying in perhaps 5 to 10 years.

Oh, BTW, there's a very healthy flame of the forest towering over other trees at the Durian Valley. What does that say?

Monday, 30 January 2012

Not a green CNY celebration

Can't we have a celebration without eating?

Just look at these pictures from last night's celebration at the George Town HERITAGE area.

Well, at least they didn't throw them on the floor.

Yes, eating street food is a heritage. But if we want to live up to the tag line ' cleaner, greener' Penang, we really need to put in more effort.

It's quite simple. Use only bio-degradable containers and collect all used containers for composting.

Otherwise bring your own containers.