A NEWS portal recently posed a relevant and vital question in its timely report: “Who should be protecting our green spaces?” (July 31).

In presenting learned views of experts on rapid urbanisation and related issues affecting the dearth of greenery in our cities, it posed: “So, should the question be ‘who should be protecting our green spaces?’ or should it really be ‘how can I protect our green spaces?’”

Malaysians, including the authorities and our leaders, must take an involved and learned interest, and address the two questions raised.

As the world reels in panic mode in the face of a climate change onslaught, Malaysia, that has been blessed and shielded from devastating earthquakes, cyclones and tornadoes or volcanic eruptions, cannot continue to take climate change for granted any longer.

The increasing and ravaging floods of late are clear warning signals that our mistakes in climate and environment management cannot be hushed or brushed aside anymore.

Both the government and citizens must shift their mindsets and renew their commitment in ensuring that we are able to successfully manage and protect the country from the rapidly encroaching climate change.

Our mistakes these past decades are of a grossly misplaced value system. We went on a mega drive to “transform” our environment into “modern” lifestyle structures. The housing industry, deemed as the lifeline of the country’s economy, has given us endless barracks of concrete dwellings, with all the spoils of modern living but minus a garden compound.

Developers cut hills, level mountains and green lungs, and fill land with household and industrial waste in order to build more houses, that after six decades have become unaffordable owing to the high prices.

Meanwhile, the population has seen a major shift in their own values. Falling leaves and twigs are deemed a nuisance while littering of plastics, styrofoam and consumer rubbish has become a habit.

All of us need to overhaul our values, reappraise our roles and embrace climate change management in a holistic manner. Climate change management precedes profit making. It precedes economic considerations.

To redraw our green environment, we need more than volunteerism and expert views. We need laws and compulsion.

We need leaders and lawmakers who fully understand and take responsibility for the long haul future of this country’s climate and environmental condition. We need time to repair, redress and heal our environment. Therefore, we cannot procrastinate anymore.

Lawmakers must see the urgency to craft and pass new bills with speed to make immediate changes to how authorities, business communities and citizens will play their respective roles in getting the country into a better balance environmentally, and to provide a reliable, proven cushion against climatic changes.

Our nation’s development masterplan must be made to be subservient to a healing environment. Economic pursuits must comply to climate change management parameters. Every citizen must be re-educated to appreciate that a cleaner drain or stream is a blessing to a healthier lifestyle and better future.

Water, air and green management must become the number one priority of the day. Ban all forms of industrial waste mismanagement. The current practice of fines and temporary shutdowns are mere cosmetics. Ban building concrete high-rise dwellings hugging highways and federal roads. Space must be allocated to plant a tree and other greens.

Bring back agricultural and environmental sciences and make these subjects compulsory in schools. We need a revolution in the next generation’s mindsets if we are to succeed in nurturing our environment. If we can emphasise religious classes in schools nationwide, can we not also plough in environmental sciences, including agriculture and civics classes?

Throughout Thailand, every business premise, from huge malls and office blocks to rows of shops, owners take it upon themselves to have some greens and water features in front of their premises. Even their housing industry makes sure every home has some “green space”.

If a nation with almost two times the land size and double our population can achieve a more friendlier, richer, cleaner environment nationwide, what is holding us back?

It is time we save our nation’s future in the path of climatic change and from the mismanagement of nature. We can have all the trappings of life, but when nature opens its angry floodgates, we can be wiped out.

Addressing climate change must involve the entire nation. This agenda precedes all else that makes a nation. And the media has a huge catalytic role in this agenda.

J. D. Lovrenciear