As we have discussed in the section Environmental Attitudes, this website will try to explore the environmental attitudes of Malaysia. In any one country, it is impossible to say that everyone endorses either Preservation attitudes or Utilization attitudes towards the natural environment.
We can, however, try to understand which attitude the country is tending more towards. We can also try to explain factors that may have played a role in influencing the establishment of such environmental attitudes.
There is unfortunately limited information related to Malaysians’ environmental attitudes.
In 2011, a survey of 1200 students was done in Sabah, Malaysia to determine the environmental attitudes that these students have. More than 80% indicated that the environment was a major part of their lives and in their family’s life. In addition, more than 80% feel that more national parks should be set up to conserve wildlife (Harun, Lim & Othman, 2011).
In another study done in Kedah and Penang by Muda et al. (2010) on school principals’ environmental attitudes, it was found that the majority of them had positive environmental attitudes.
Thang and Kumarasamy (2006) did a survey on 100 Form five students from a Malaysian secondary school. They found that the students, regardless of gender, had generally positive attitudes towards the environment. The students also indicated that they were concerned about the environment and that they wanted to take action to conserve it.
Apart from these surveys, there was not much information about the environmental attitudes of Malaysians. Besides, as Malaysia is a very large country, it seems unlikely that there will be much information collected concerning the environmental attitudes of Malaysia as a whole.
As such, I will attempt to understand the environmental attitudes of Malaysians by examining all the factors that will influence Environmental Attitudes.
According to Gardner and Stern, after controlling for variables like age, gender, education, income and political liberalism, the relationship between religious beliefs and environmental concerns or attitudes is a weak one (Gardner & Stern, 2002). While the relationship is a weak one, it does not indicate that religious beliefs have no effect on environmental attitudes at all.
The dominant religion in Malaysia is Islam. And Islam is a religion deeply rooted in ecological conservation and biodiversity. According to followers of Islamic beliefs, the Prophet Muhammad was concerned with the environment long before there was need for concern and that Islam’s ‘green messages’ should not be thought of as a recent production. Islam followers endorse the belief that everything given to them by God is given as a custodianship and stewardship. Therefore, Muslims are expected to take care of Earth and themselves, both creations by God (Kamil, 2010).
And since the dominant religion in Malaysia is Islam, we may expect that Malaysians would have pro environmental or preservation attitudes to some degree.
However, we should still note that the relationship between religious beliefs and environmental attitudes is a weak one.
Level of Education
According to United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the literacy rates from year 2005 to 2010 in Malaysia is about 98 percent and 66 percent of the population is enrolled into Secondary School from year 2007 to 2010.
This gives us enough information to believe that Malaysians had the capacity to understand the various environmental messages taught to them and they probably also had access to environmental information while they were in school.
This will definitely play a role in shaping Malaysian’s environmental attitudes. And assuming that the schools and government bodies in Malaysia are providing adequate information about environmental issues, Malaysians can be expected to have pro environmental attitudes.
Knowledge of Environmental Issues
So far, there has been considerable effort in Malaysia where environmental education is concerned.
About 1500 schools in Sabah and Sarawak have taken part in this programme called SERASI (Sekolah Rakan Alam Sekitar).
SERASI is a well-received programme which promotes green messages to schools.
In Sabah, SERASI is jointly organized by the following organizations: Shell and the State Environment Protection Department, the Federal Department of Environment-Sabah, Sabah Forestry Department, Education Department, Science and Technology Unit, Chief Minister’s Department, the State Environmental Action Committee, and the Kota Kinabalu Wetland Centre.
In Sarawak, SERASI is jointly organized by the following organizations: Shell and the State Ministry of Environment and Public Health, the State Education Department, Department of Environment, Natural Resources and Environment Board, Medical Department, Sarawak Rivers Board, Sarawak Forestry Corporation, Information Department and RTM.
SERASI also rewards schools which demonstrate excellent environmental initiatives.
In the Malaysia education system, students are introduced to environmental issues through a range of core subjects, depending on the level that they are in (Thang & Kumarasamy, 2006). At the primary level, which is the first six years of national education system in Malaysia, environmental-related knowledge are introduced as part of science, ecology and local studies curricula. When students reach the secondary level, environmental education takes place through subjects like geography, biology, chemistry and language. Schools are also equipped with teaching materials relating to environmental issues.
There are also several environmental campaigns being held in Malaysia to raise people’s awareness of environmental issues. Here are some examples of the campaigns held:
See Green, See Life Environmental Campaign
Environmental Campaign Day
Colour Me Green Campaign
Go Green Campaign
Based on the various factors we have explored, there is a strong likelihood that Malaysians do have a pro environmental attitude. However, whether this attitude translates into behavior remains to be seen.