[71] Georgetown – The façade of the façade

Georgetown (Malaysia) is beautiful, known for its ancient colonial buildings, recognised as UNESCO heritage, and for its street art. Georgetown has literally a beautiful façade, but is it the same behind it?

As a tourist-journalist or journalist-tourist I’m always a bit in between of two worlds. There are the beautiful stories told by tourists and tourist agencies and there are the other stories told by locals or NGO’s or civil organisations, making me sometimes catching a glance behind the façade which is created, and we all create.

The Kaleidoscopic Truth

By no means I want to blame someone, because eventually every image we have is a selected image, created by the ones who allow us to catch a glimpse of a certain reality. For instance, if you check the news coverage on a certain topic, you will be surprised how the same topic will be approached different in different countries, and even within the same country it will be covered different depending on the point of view of the medium; and within the same medium it might be approached different depending on the journalist. Even though media is supposed to be neutral.

The same applies for politicians: the same topic might be brought out of their point of view in order to defend their politics or strategies. The same applies for companies and even for individual human beings in their day-to-day interactions.

In short, there does not exists such a thing as the one and only truth.

The more human being involved, the more different perspectives are created, and the more versions of a truth might arise. As a journalist, it is our task to appoint to the variety of view-points that exist and undermine any kind of dogmatic interpretation of a variety of the so-called truth.

Of course, this has nothing to do with the sustainability of Georgetown in particular, but it does have to do a lot with the entire sustainability debate.

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Plastic Facade

Moreover, while writing this, a group of big industrial players pledged to make its plastic packaging material more sustainable by 2025. To me, it sounds like a façade policy. And here is why, but make of course your own judgement, and let’s see what will happen in the next years. I want to share my point of view on this, just to lift a tip of the veil which might be created by the enormous numbers they mention. A few million dollar sounds spectacular, but it is not if you see the total picture.

First of all, I have a problem with the deadline of 2025. That means 7 more years that plastic can be produced without any further measure is taken, except for the various country-wide single-used plastic bans or plastic bag bans, which I encourage a lot! But 7 more years producing plastic has a huge impact on the planet and on the oceans as you could read in my previous posts. You should know that about 8 million tons of plastic waste ends up in the oceans every year (!), so 7 times 8 …

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Moreover, there is no solution offered for the plastic which is already produced, which is already out there, in landfills, on land, in the oceans, even the ones in the shops, in the restaurants, in any kind of consumer chain. There is a bunch of plastic out there, and the before-mentioned companies who are now tapping their chest that they will free up some budget to improve the sustainability of their plastic, are not proposing any measure to solve – literally – the plastic problem. They suggest some recycling initiatives, but recycling is not enough. Moreover, plastic is non-digestible. The plastic trace does not stop when plastic is no longer traceable. It ends up in the entire food chain, and eventually again in our own bodies.

To me, proposing this initiative is like a façade. It creates the image that they do care about the planet and the environment. But to me, behind that façade, there are no substantial concerns nor responsibility. Because if they really cared about, they would have proposed their action way before the public awareness reached the nowadays tipping point. They would not have produced that amount of plastic in the first place, knowing the bad consequences of it – but that counts for other industries of harmful, but sold as harmless industrial activities. And still, if they would have come to this point of insight now and are really concerned about what is going on with the earth, their measures would have been more profound, more ambitious and faster to be executed.

But that is just my view on the topic, these are but the thoughts I am developing when looking at this beautiful proposal, at first sight.

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I continue walking through Georgetown, while watching the by UNESCO protected facades of the houses. I feel like travelling to the past, which is in sharp contrast to the modern city of Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia, where I will feel like walking in the future. However, that is for later on.

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