Unique Kinabalu treasures boost happiness
Published on: Sunday, May 09, 2021
By: David Thien
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Natives at the foothills of Mount Kinabalu are expected to be co-protectors of the geopark.
CONSERVATION of Mount Kinabalu ecology with the local community promotes social happiness as the mountain ecosystem is a unique treasure trove of biodiversity consisting of 2.5 per cent of the earth’s flora.

That is why it deserves its status as a Unesco World Heritage Site and, hopefully, its aspiring Unesco Global Geopark as well which will be a happy development for the world community, as one of nature’s best in the global natural biodiversity and endemism ecosystem.

On the tagline of “Heritage, Community, Nature, Explore, and Discover”, Nasrulhakim Maidin gave a presentation on the “Biotics of Kinabalu” in association with Rimi Repin and Vanielie Terrence Justine at the International Seminar on Aspiring Kinabalu Unesco Global Geopark, recently.

Nasrulhakim explained that “biotic is defined as living components of an ecosystem – plants, animals, virus, bacteria, fungus etc. Abiotic is referred to non-living organism and chemical elements – light, water, air, temperature, humanity, soil etc.”

“Mount Kinabalu in the eyes of community provides culture and folklore heritage, alternative livelihood, forest for community, and ecotourism development. 

“Kinabalu Park contributes benefits directly and indirectly to the surrounding and local community. Mount Kinabalu (and) culture need to be recognised globally.

“Keeping Kinabalu Park as primitive as possible to provide home to thousands of floras and faunas. Kinabalu Park is an exclusive habitat for biotics species particularly the endemic species. It has one of the most diverse living-nature in the planet.”

Nasrulhakim said Mount Kinabalu has six types of vegetation:

1. Lowland Dipterocrap Forest (below 1,200m asl)

2. Lower Montane Forest (1,200 – 1,800m asl)

3. Upper Montane Forest (1,800 – 2,900m asl)

4. Lower Sub-alpine Forest (2,800 – 3,400m asl)

5. Upper Sub-alpine Forest (3,400 – 3,700m asl)

6. Alpine Rock Scrub (3,700m and above asl)

Nasrulhakim stressed that the 4,095.2m Mount Kinabalu is a sacred place for Sabah’s indigenous Kadazandusun community. It provides ecological benefit – water catchment for clean water, clean air etc. 

Its tourism draw provides employment with Sabah Parks and other industries. It promotes the development of hinterland farms with high fertility soil. 

It provides opportunities for the setting up of various small-scale businesses – shops, homestay, etc that brought about infrastructure development – roads, electricity, telecommunication, etc. to benefit the community around Malaysia’s highest mountain.

“Kinabalu Park harbours diverse flora and fauna. Six forest types namely lowland dipterocarp, lower montane, upper montane, lower sub-alpine, upper subalpine, and alpine rock provide different climate variations.

“As a result, it becomes a habitat for many endemic species. Well-known species found in Kinabalu Park includes Rafflesia keithii, Paphiopedilum rothschildianum, Nepenthes rajah, Pongo pygmaeus, Ansonia fuliginea, Manis javanica, and Presbytis rubicunda.

“The indigenous community surrounding the park gets a direct and indirect benefit from the sacred Mount Kinabalu. It affects the culture and folklore of the Dusun community, gives ecological benefit, ecotourism, and alternative livelihood as well. 

 “That makes Kinabalu Park a heritage place in sustaining happy harmony between people and nature in Sabah.”

The World Conservation Strategy published by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), United Nations Environment Programme (Unep) and the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF) in 1980 aims: (a) to maintain essential ecological processes and life support systems, (b) to preserve genetic diversity, and (c) to ensure the sustainable utilisation of species and ecosystems.

They call for governments to measure people’s well-being and environmental impact in a consistent and regular way, and to develop a framework of national accounts that considers the interaction between the two so as to guide us towards sustainable well-being.

GDP growth on its own does not mean a better life for everyone. It does not reflect inequalities in material conditions between people in a country. It does not properly value the things that really matter to people like social relations, health, or how they spend their free time. 

And crucially, ever-more economic growth is incompatible with the planetary limits we are up against.

Over-consumption in rich countries represents one of the key barriers to sustainable well-being worldwide and that governments should strive to identify economic models that do not rely on constantly growing consumption to achieve stability and prosperity.

The Happy Planet Index (HPI) is designed to challenge well-established indices of countries’ development, such as Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and the Human Development Index (HDI), which are seen as not taking sustainability into account. 

In particular, GDP is seen as inappropriate, as the usual ultimate aim of most people is not to be rich, but to be happy and healthy. 

Furthermore, it is believed that the notion of sustainable development requires a measure of the environmental costs of pursuing those goals.

The HPI is based on general utilitarian principles – that most people want to live long and fulfilling lives, and the country which is doing the best is the one that allows its citizens to do so, whilst avoiding infringing on the opportunity of future people and people in other countries to do the same.

In effect it operationalises the IUCN’s (World Conservation Union) call for a metric capable of measuring “the production of human well-being (not necessarily material goods) per unit of extraction of or imposition upon nature”.

Human well-being is operationalised as Happy Life Years. Extraction of or imposition upon nature is proxied for using the ecological footprint per capita, which attempts to estimate the amounts of natural resources required to sustain a given country’s lifestyle.

A country with a large per capita ecological footprint uses more than its fair share of resources, both by drawing resources from other countries, and also by causing permanent damage to the planet which will impact future generations.

Those who sign on to the Happy Planet Charter believe that a new narrative of progress is required for the 21st century and it is possible to have a good life without costing the Earth. 

Success of Mount Kinabalu World Heritage Site and Global Geopark might just be a test case for a happier diverse world with shared future and heritage.



'Keeping Kinabalu Park as primitive as possible to provide home to thousands of floras and faunas.' - Nasrulhakim


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