Kuala Lumpur, 6 March 2007
In a powerful and impassioned speech at the launch of the Climate Change Week, YTL Corporation managing director Tan Sri (Dr) Francis Yeoh called for urgent response and action in a battle against climate change.
Text of speech by Tan Sri (Dr.) Francis Yeoh:
Welcome to Climate Change Week and the Premier of the movie "An Inconvenient Truth".
Henry Suso said in the 14th Century "By ignorance the truth is known".
Tonight, let me take you back to the history of the slave trade some 200 years ago and how ignorance of this heinous trade has untold repercussions that reverberates to this day.
In 18th century, Britain was the biggest slaving nation. So integral to the British economy was the slave business that there were few men and institutions of wealth who did not want to invest in it, from the royal family and the Church of England downwards. Slavers could count on the Archbishop of Canterbury to defend them before God, and on politicians, like the young William Gladstone, himself the son of a plantation owner, to plead their case in Parliament.
Given how entrenched the slave trade was at the time, it is remarkable that a campaign to abolish it which began in 1787 succeeded only two decades later. It was about 200 years ago that a bill to abolish slavery got through its second, decisive reading in Parliament.
Ultimately it was the shame and degradation that the slave traffic brought to those involved, perpetrators as well as victims, that proved its undoing.
For most Europeans the existence of the slave trade, and slavery itself, was barely known. In England there was no slavery, so there was no particular reason for most people to face the ugly truth.
The means by which sugar lumps arrived on tables in polite society were carefully hidden. Those fine feelings were spared from reality by careful euphemisms. But there was still a pervasive feeling that, despite all the evasions, those involved in the trade were doing something deeply wrong.
This sense of guilt was to prove the Achilles heel of the slave trade in Europe. The task the abolitionists set themselves was to expose the reality of the trade to an ignorant public. They thought the moral sense of ordinary people would do the rest, and in part they were right. But lighting the spark of conscience needs brave individuals - like Thomas Clarkson, the moving spirit behind the founding of the Society for Effecting the Abolition of Slavery in 1787.
Britain was the big sea power of the day, it alone could enforce abolition throughout the world, as its navy resolutely tried to do for the rest of the 19th century. The European and American role in the slave trade is now well-known and their governments have apologised.
This historical event has parallels to what is happening to our world today in the area of global warming.
It is refreshing to know that Britain, the nation that brought an end to the slave trade is again playing a leading role in putting an end to the world’s ignorance on global warming. I applaud the leadership of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown amongst others.
It is also reassuring to note that an American in the carnation of the former Vice President of the United States, Al Gore is taking this important message to the world on the horrible effects of global warming. More importantly, Al Gore is engaging the Americans in this very important debate. These brave individuals may be our modern day Thomas Clarkson and William Wilberforce that could put an end to our ignorance of global warming. We are indeed here tonight to face up to this "Inconvenient Truth".
Albert Einstein said, "I never think of the future. It comes soon enough".
In 2005, there was speculation by scientists that the Apophis asteroid had a 1 in 37 chance of hitting the Earth. In Egyptian myth, Apophis was the ancient spirit of evil and destruction, a demon that was determined to plunge the world into eternal darkness. The threat of a collision in 2029 was eventually ruled out. Nasa has argued that a final decision on what to do about Apophis will have to be made in 2013. Apparently we have some time on our hand on this issue.
What is however not a scientific speculation, is that the recent United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change landmark study revealed that the world is at a tipping point. With a projection of 6-Centigrade rise in temperature by the end of the century, humanity is in fact sitting on a ticking time bomb – with just 10 years to avert major catastrophes that could send our entire planet into a tailspin of unmitigated disasters. On this issue, ladies and gentlemen, we definitely do not have time on our hands!
The report also claimed that humans are 90% responsible for global warming in the last 50 years. Effectively, this means we can no longer blame natural disasters on "natural causes" or God’s will. Augustine said," Without God we cannot, without us God will not."
Every individual ignorant of the consequences of Global Warming on this Earth, is actually unwittingly a mini Aphophis asteroid that is plunging this world into eternal darkness and destruction.
God made us individually into a masterpiece from dust of the Earth and to dust we shall all return. It is good to remind ourselves of our humble beginnings. The word "Humble" itself comes from the Latin humus, which means "fertile ground" and that is why tonight all of us should be more down to earth.
We should not be taking our good Earth that has always been with us for granted.
Let us in full repentance and full humility, be fertile ground and stop this wanton destruction and corruption of this Earth and transform it into a power of life and a new possibility of creativeness. The world prospered on without the slave trade in the past and our world will prosper on without global warming in the future.
Let us in humility open our good Earth to the sunshine and to the rain and be ready to receive any seed we sow tonight capable of bringing it a hundredfold of productive endeavour for the sake of our present and future generations.
But, most of all, let us in total humility do it for the Glory of God.
I thank my Lord Jesus for blessing this event. Thank you very much and God bless all of you.
Tan Sri (Dr.) Francis Yeoh
Managing Director, YTL Corporation Berhad
at the Malaysian premier of “An Inconvenient Truth”
The Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre, Kuala Lumpur
on 6 March 2007, 8.30pm
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