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In defence of Sabah’s wild spaces
Published on: Sunday, March 05, 2017

By Kan Yaw Chong
IN a 2014 poll, Sir David Attenborough was rated the most trusted public figure in Britain.

In other words, we can trust that what he says is essentially right.

Everybody also knows he is the most trusted wilderness conservation advocate in the world because he is a field man.

But there is a surprise dimension to wilderness which Attenborough singled out for emphasis in relation to the proposed Sukau Bridge.

In particular he trumpets Sabah Borneo’s wild spaces which typically function as “deep spiritual nourishment”, beyond the usual cliché virtues like ecosystem services.

Read again what he says about this hitherto little credited dimension which was published in The Guardian: “I strongly believe that Borneo is one of the most unique and biodiverse places on the planet, and that the world’s remaining wild spaces provide more than ecological services and opportunities for economic development; they also provide deep spiritual nourishment for ourselves and future generations of Sabahans and visitors alike.”

Smells like fresh bread We must repeat this extra dimension that smells like fresh bread to fortify a stronger case for the preservation of the wild spaces across Sabah.

We quote again: “They (remaining wild places or wilderness) also provide deep spiritual nourishment for ourselves and future generations of Sabahans and visitors alike.”

This extra parameter surely can help articulate a break from the “Business As Usual” model of development that that had wrecked much of the wild places beyond their ability to rebound.

Take wilderness out, wildlife disappears from the face of the earth.

Instructive reminder of wild spaces This instructive new dimension to remind governments that wilderness and wild spaces are an essential pillar for human health from a wise sage confirms there is a spiritual aspect to life that requires feeding and maintenance above and beyond physical and material needs that cannot be produced by man-made infrastructure.

Given 54pc of world population now live in urban areas and rapidly vanishing wild spaces, it has become imperative to look into the impact of a less obvious kind of malnourishment – starvation of the spirit and its effect on the state of mankind.

Just look at all the violence, wars and unrest everywhere. Who knows whether it has anything to do with rampant loss of the character of wild buffers manifesting itself in a raft of spiritual weaknesses like irritable, stressed, angry, short tempered urbanites.

When development is spreading like wild fire As blogger Jking says: “In a world where development is spreading like wildfire, the preservation of the character of the land is critical.”

In a world where so much is about the bad, which everybody is tired of seeing on CNN, BBC, Aljazeera, CCTV or Sky News, a lone voice from the wilderness like Attenborough is working hard to push preservation of what is good.

Actually, the globetrotting Attenborough is not known for intervening in domestic planning issues but that he spoke out on the Sukau Bridge means he sees sure trouble ahead if it goes ahead.

Read this: “If this construction is allowed to go ahead, I am left in no doubt that the bridge will have significant negative effects on the region’s wildlife, the Kinabatangan’s thriving tourism and on the image of Sabah as a whole.”

The healing quality of wild places confirmed At 90 (born on May 8, 1926), Attenborough presses on his work to protect and steward creation in its natural form, continues to articulate his case to minimise the worrying impact from population explosion on wild spaces that not only wildlife need to exist but also human need for a decent life.

American blogger Jking, after spending years in the field to look into the relationship between conservation and service, dived into this question: Is this service? And concluded: “Conservation is absolutely a service.”

His verdict is exactly the same as that of Attenborough:

“Nobody can deny the healing qualities of the natural world and how each person needs time in nature to nourish his or her soul. It is that kind of experience and that kind of nourishment that conservationists are actively protecting.”

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