How often do you get to meet someone who you’ve only admired and known about through books and the media? 28th August 2009 was one such day for me. I met Professor Emil Salim of Indonesia.
Though an unassuming man in his late 70s, Pak Emil’s vast experience as an Indonesian policy maker and international advisor is larger than life. My colleagues and I were delighted that he was able to accept our invitation for our Conference on Climate Insecurities, Human Security and Social Resillience. I was all the more ecstatic as I had the chance to conduct a brief interview with him after the Conference.
All eyes and ears were peeled as Pak Emil delivered his presentation on Sustainable development full of passion, sincere frankness and a good dose of wit. I was inspired by Pak Emil’s visionary thinking as he reiterated phrases such as “this is the future” when discussing the prospects of renewable energy and other sustainable development measures.
Several points raised by Pak Emil resonated with themes that I had picked up during my study trip on the United States Institute on the Environment (USIE).* Firstly, he noted the need for greater inter-disciplinary studies, discussion and action so as to address complex issues on the environment in a holistic manner.
Secondly, he emphasized the role of those with technical backgrounds – in particular economists and engineers – as drivers and translators for effective sustainable development. “Getting the price right” and having a strong scientific foundation are essential to see the process through.
Thirdly, Pak Emil noted the power of ideas and critical importance of engaging the right people who can catalyse the process and thereby materialise these ideas.
Finally, a point that was clearly driven during the short interview I had with him, was his belief in the youth as being drivers of change for the future. His words of encouragement were indeed inspiring, and clearly highlighted the momentum available to sustain change in the Asian region, despite existing skepticism. Change can happen with the support of a sense of optimism and perseverance.
To play on the words of Alexander Wendt, “Change is what states and communities make of it”.
*To view my report on USIE in pdf format, please click here