A Climate Call for Thailand

TYTD

My name is Sanathorn Ratananapoompinyo or Joy, a resident surgeon at Ramathibodhi Hospital, also a climate activist if you like. My life has been changed forever after I read the IPCC report. The report states that we must decrease carbon emission and keep our world below 1.5 °C within 2030 otherwise our world will be damaged and irreversible. A reality check for us, polar ice caps are melting and by 2050, Bangkok and many other cities could be under water.

Actually, it is already happening, these past three to four years, the weather has changed a lot compared to my years back in college. The weather has reached the hottest five years since 2015. You could say that Thais associate winter to the season of joy and happiness. We live in a tropical country where it is 30 °C every day. But in November, we celebrate Loy Kratong festival, which is the ceremony to the goddess of the river with breezing air. In December, people start putting on their jackets and visit downtown where the malls and streets are fully decorated with lights or Christmas trees. Now the weather is not the same anymore and people always complain “This year is not cool at all “. I feel that our season of joy is quietly taken away from us. Ironically, the 2018 winter was the worst I ever experienced. It was unusually hot that I started feeling panic. I checked the weather forecast every day and even tracked down weather records in the past, hoped that tomorrow will be better but it wasn’t.

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Greta Thunberg

Along came this amazing girl on the news everywhere, Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old Swedish girl who started Fridays for Future. She sits in front of parliament every Friday demanding the government to decrease carbon emissions. She was doing this for the sake of children’s future. This is a revolution that causes ripples everywhere around the world.

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"Too Young to Die" Logo showing a sweating polar bear standing on a melting ice caps.

I founded a Facebook page called “Too Young to Die” in December 2018. As a Thai physician, not knowing anyone in environmental field, to go out protesting or marching is impossible. What I can only do is spreading words to as many people as I could.  I hope that this will create ripple effects for other people just like Greta did to me. I choose the name “Too Young to Die” because it is my favorite song by Jamiroquai which mention doing the right thing for children in the future. It has been nine months since I have started the Facebook Page and I admitted that we are growing quite slowly but still more and more followers. I asked my physician colleagues, "Pang" Weeraya Manamweerasit and "Soung" Ladatip Thongthanet who share the same concern about climate change to join me as admins. So here we are, all three of us are doctors who run the Facebook page hoping to spread messages to our fellow Thais.

Too Young to Die Admins
Behind the Page: 'Pang' Weeraya Manamweerasit, Plastic Surgeon, 'Joy' Sanathorn Ratanapoompinyo, Plastic Surgeon and 'Soung' Ladatip Thongthanet, Otolaryngologist

It is not easy because of our tight work schedule but we are trying our best to deliver the most accurate important facts about climate change. The number of losses that many countries suffer is tremendous and this news must be heard. We take turns transcribing and translating climate and environmental news from sources that we could find into Thai and make Thais realize how serious and important the climate change is.

As an admin of the Facebook page, it makes me realize that all Thais need to wake up. Our awareness of Climate Change is very little compared to people in other countries. The first two marching climate strikes of Bangkok in March and May 2019 were led by a group of young people.  Lynn Ocharoenchai from “Climate Strike Thailand” Facebook page and Lily from “Grin Green International”. I’ve been following the “Fridays for Future” website where I have got the information about the global movement. I am grateful that finally, some young people in Thailand have started to step in, to take the responsibility. It took me two months later to join them due to my busy schedule in the hospital. I would say that Thais don’t understand why the strike is important while other countries’ streets are flooded by students and young people.

Thais often associate climate change action to plastic waste which is not the whole point of it. It’s easier to feel empathy for marine lives who suffer from plastic waste but not be responsible for the carbon footprint. Many of us still don’t get the big picture. Fighting climate change would involve reducing carbon emission, driving less, saving energy, being vegetarian, using local products, avoiding aviation, waste separation, recycle and more.

And I wonder, what else can we do besides using cloth bags and refillable bottles?  Can we use public transportation to go to work? Hop-on and hop-off subway just like Tokyo? In Bangkok, public transportation really doesn’t cover all areas.  To be honest, using cars is way much faster to get to places in Bangkok. People also need to use a taxi or motorbike too. Are people educated enough about waste separation? How could we be sure that our wastes go to the right recycling place, while Thailand ranks no. 6 on the list of countries that pollute the ocean?

We must save energy because energy is the sector that produces carbon to the atmosphere most. But in Thailand source of energy 80% comes from fossil fuels. So what is the way out for us? We are trying to beat the clock but I’m afraid that carrying cloth bags and refill bottles aren’t enough. Have our Thai leaders tried hard enough? I know they are doing something but I’m begging and pleading together with you that we should all try harder.

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Typical Traffic at Ratchadamri Road, Bangkok

On upcoming Friday, 20th September 2019 there will be a global strike march again. I think it is a good opportunity to do something. Why don’t we sit down and have a talk? Where are we now and will we make it by 2030? It would be great if we can express our opinion and express how much we are worried about. The government organizations probably want to tell us too about their progress. Both sides will have a better understanding. I reached out to another fellow Facebook page “Environman” to join on hosting an event on 20th September. “Fridays for Future“ will be held on the 20th of September at Siam Discovery, Bangkok 4th-5th floor. There will be a debate talk between government organizations and citizens about climate change. It would be a good chance for us and other people who attend this event to communicate and express our opinion with the government.

The government representatives are the Thailand Greenhouse Gas Management Organization, The Office Of Natural Resources and Environmental Policy and Planning, Bangkok Office, Pollution Control Department and Dr Suchana Chavanitch, professor of marine science of Chulalongkorn University who witnessed the effects of climate change at the Arctic and Antarctic.

The Citizens representatives are Greenpeace, Rereef, Trash Hero, Climate Strike Thailand, Lily and many more. The talk session will be held from 15:00-17:00. There will be an open floor for question and answer session as well. Besides the talk, there will be an interactive exhibition of climate change on the 5th floor which demonstrates the causes of climate change, effects that already happened, effects that expected to occur in 2050 and how to help prevent climate change. Visitors will also experience a visual trash room which will be displayed on the 4th floor as well. The exhibition will be available from 20th September to 15th October.

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FRIDAYS FOR FUTURE - Climate Change Talk 20 September 2019 12:30 - 17:00 by Environman and Too Young to Die

This is just the beginning of what I hope will be helpful for Thais to realize and take serious action on climate change. We got no time to wait and to fight climate change, action must be taken from every level, citizens, private sectors, government sectors, and every country. I hope you come to join the movement on 20th September. Step forward and spread the words. We, ourselves and Thailand, our country and our nation must change now.