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Advocacy50 Eco Warriors You Should Know

50 Eco Warriors You Should Know

50 Eco Warriors You Should Know
By Asia Tatler
December 27, 2018
We’ve all read about the perils of climate change, but who’s actually doing anything about it? The editors of Asia Tatler, having assessed eco-activism across the continent, present leading figures who have made saving the environment their priority—from protecting Malaysia’s endangered tigers, establishing eco-focused political parties, to investing billions of dollars in clean-energy initiatives

1/49Chit Juan

WHY HER? Chit is a pillar of the slow-food movement in Asia, building connections between producers and consumers, and championing organic farming and the preservation of heritage foods. She’s also president and cochair of the Philippine Coffee Board and the brains behind EchoStore, a sustainable lifestyle retailer.

THE NEXT FRONTIERChit showcased Philippine foods at Italy’s Terra Madre Salone del Gusto last September, the biggest international slow-food event in the country.

2/49Gina Lopez

WHY HER? During a stint as secretary of the Philippine Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Gina fought against open-pit mining and its devastating environmental impact. Despite being voted out of office for her efforts, in October 2017 she became the firrst Filipino to win the Seacology Prize, which honours individuals working to preserve the environment. Her achievements include the rehabilitation of Manila’s polluted Pasig River and the transformation of the once-threatened La Mesa Watershed into an eco-park.

THE NEXT FRONTIER Gina’s Investments in Loving Organisations for Village Economies (iLOVE) Foundation recently launched the Quest for Love initiative to support and mentor other NGOs in achieving their goals.

3/49Illac Diaz

WHY HIM? With just a disposable plastic bottle and a few basic household items, Illac discovered he could bring lightinto the homes of the Philippines’ poorest. Illac’s Liter of Light initiative now provides low-cost sustainable lighting solutions to more than 353,000 homes in 15 countries. In January, he made it into Guinness World Records for teaching the world’s largest class on sustainability (there were 280 students in the room).

THAT’S NOT ALL Illac’s overarching social enterprise, the My Shelter Foundation, which won the Zayed Future Energy Prize in 2015, is always looking for ways to lift Filipinos out of poverty through sustainable grassroots businesses.

4/49Anna Oposa

WHY HER? Don’t let her quirky job title fool you, the chief mermaid (and co-founder) of Save Philippine Seas is set on protecting her country’s precious marine resources. Anna’s conservation initiatives include the Shark Shelter Project on Malapascua Island, the annual Sea and Earth Advocates Camp for young people, and Earthducation, a programme that trains teachers in educating their students about environmental issues.

THAT’S NOT ALL The eco-warrior has acted as a consultant on environmental matters for the Asian Development Bank and the Climate Change Commission.

5/49Vincent Perez

WHY HIM?In 2001, Vincent became the youngest person to serve as secretary of the Philippine Department of Energy (he was 42), where he pushed for reforms that boosted energy self-sufficiency and promoted clean energy. He went on to found renewable energy company Alternergy Partners, and co-founded Solar Pacific, which provides clean energy through solar power to off-grid communities in the region, and is behind energy advisory fi rm Merritt Partners.

THAT’S NOT ALL He has been involved with WWF-Philippines for more than 20 years and is currently a member of the board of WWF International.

6/49Markus Shaw

WHY HIM? Markus has dedicated his life to making Hong Kong an eco-friendly city, first as the chairman of WWF’s Hong Kong board, then as a co-founder of the NGOs Designing Hong Kong and the Clean Air Network, and more recently as chairman of the Walk DVRC project, which aims to turn traffic choked Des Voeux Road Central into a pedestrian oasis.

7/49Craig Leeson

WHY HIM? Craig’s documentary A Plastic Ocean, hailed by David Attenborough as “the most important film of our time,” has raised awareness of the global plastic pollution crisis.

8/49Laurel Chor

WHY HER? With the support of the National Geographic Society, Laurel founded the Hong Kong Explorers, which aims to encourage people to explore and appreciate the city’s wilderness by compiling a database of its flora and fauna. A National Geographic Young Explorer, she is also an ambassador for the Jane Goodall Institute.

THAT’S NOT ALL She’s working with Vice News, where she produces articles and documentaries about a range of global issues.

9/49Douglas Woodring

WHY HIM? A leading expert on plastic pollution, Douglas is the founder and managing director of the Ocean Recovery Alliance, which was awarded the 2018 Prince’s Prize for Innovative Philanthropy by Prince Albert II of Monaco.

10/49Sean Lee-Davies

WHY HIM? Sean is the founder and CEO of a non-profit organisation called ProjectC:Change—with “C” standing for climate, conservation, and consciousness—an environmental initiative that raises funds and awareness in Asia.

THAT’S NOT ALL A passionate conservationist and photographer, Sean launched Awethentic Gallery, the first art and virtual-reality concept space and studio in Hong Kong. Recent exhibitions include the multimedia show Love Is Wild, which raised funds to combat the illegal trade in wildlife.

11/49Paul Zimmerman

WHY HIM? An activist since his teens in the Netherlands, the Southern District councilor and co-founder of the Civic Party has long championed sustainable planning and urban renewal.

THAT’S NOT ALL More recently, as chairman of the Citizens Task Force on Land Resources, he has argued that Hong Kong doesn’t need large-scale reclamation or to infringe on country parks to meet its future housing needs.

12/49Christine Loh

WHY HER? With roles ranging from chairperson of the Society for the Protection of the Harbour and under-secretary for the environment in former chief executive CY Leung’s administration to her current position as chief development strategist at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology’s Division of Environment and Sustainability, Christine’s commitment to a sustainable Hong Kong has remained constant for decades.

THE NEXT FRONTIER Using Hong Kong’s expertise in areas such as slope management, water management, and air-quality control to benefit Mainland China.

13/49Shawn Kaihekulani Yamauchi Lum

WHY HIM? As president of the Lion City’s oldest, largest, and most vocal environmental non-profit organisation, the Nature Society (Singapore), Shawn has furthered conservation and outreach initiatives, and forged collaborations both locally and internationally to preserve Earth’s biodiversity. He received the President’s Award for the Environment in 2017.

THAT’S NOT ALL A tropical rainforest ecologist, Shawn oversees a long-term study of the dynamics of the Bukit Timah forest.

14/49Vijay Mudaliar

WHY HIM? A pioneering mixologist, Vijay is the founder of Native, a Singapore cocktail bar that practises sustainable bartending. Nothing in the bar goes to waste: banana peels, old coconuts, and pineapple skins are all repurposed into inventive cocktails.

THAT’S NOT ALL Founded just last year, Native clinched the 47th spot on the World’s 50 Best Bars 2018 and the eighth spot on Asia’s 50 Best Bars—bringing the concept of zero waste bartending to a wider audience.

15/49Kathy Xu

WHY HER?With the demand for shark fin still very high in Asia, Kathy has tackled the difficult task of shark conservation by going straight to the source. The founder and director of the Dorsal Effect provides shark fishermen in Lombok, Indonesia, with an alternative livelihood—as ecotourism guides for tourists on snorkelling or diving trips.

THE NEXT FRONTIER Kathy is currently expanding work opportunities for fishermen to include shark tagging and tracing.

16/49Susan Chong

WHY HER? CEO Susan has grown her onewoman startup, Greenpac, into a multimilliondollar company since she founded it in 2002. It provides eco-friendly packaging solutions to multinational corporations and Fortune 500 firms, and it won the WorldStar Packaging Award 2018 for the design of its collapsible and reusable pallet crate.

THAT’S NOT ALL Greenpac was the first factory in Singapore to receive the Building and Construction,Authority’s Green Mark Gold certifi cation, and it runs a zero-energy office powered by renewable solar energy and a rainwater harvesting system.

17/49Allan Lim

WHY HIM? As cofounder and CEO of Alpha Biofuels, a Singaporean company that pioneered the manufacture and supply of sustainable biodiesel in the country, Allan constantly challenges the conventional wisdom of sustainable development. In 2017, Alpha Biofuels launched a pilot project at a local shopping mall that gives used cooking oil a second lease of life by turning it into biofuel.

18/49Wang Yongchen

WHY HER? Self-proclaimed environmental poet Yongchen rose to fame in 2004 after leading a campaign against the construction of a large dam on the Nu River, one of the country’s last remaining wild water sources. To the surprise of many, she won. Now, the land surrounding a large portion of the river has been preserved as a national park. Yongchen works as a radio broadcaster, freelance journalist, and leader of the Green Earth Volunteers, an NGO she founded in 1996. Yongchen is embarking this year on her eighth annual trip up the Yellow River to document the effects of pollution on “China’s Mother River.

19/49Bai Yunfeng

WHY HIM?The Tokyo stock exchange says Yunfeng, president and CEO of China Boqi Environmental Solutions Technology, is the youngest person to ever lead one of its listed companies. China Boqi helps power plants become more eco-friendly by treating flue gas before it’s released into the atmosphere. The corporation is currently also working on treating water pollution and is investing in clean energy.

20/49Zhang Xinsheng

WHY HIM? Xinsheng has held senior positions in government and business, but he’s now devoting most of his time to saving the environment. Xinsheng is currently president of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, which is working on a wide range of projects, including protecting at-risk beetles in Europe, fighting deep-sea mining, and establishing programmes to help lions and people coexist in Africa.

THAT’S NOT ALL He’s also chairman of the Lao Niu Foundation, which works to improve education and protect the environment of Mainland China.

21/49Zhang Na

WHY HER? Na is probably best known for her fashion line Fake Natoo, but her second label, Reclothing Bank, is paving the way for eco-friendly designers across the globe. Reclothing Bank accepts donated clothing and repurposes it into new creations for the runway, with a stress on bold, unique patterns and sustainability, with a percentage of profits going to local charities.

THAT’S NOT ALL Many of the designers and seamstresses hired by Na had been made redundant by previous employers, and she castmigrant workers rather than models in one of her runway shows.

22/49Liu Haiying

WHY HIM? Haiying is the eco-warrior leading the Saihanba Afforestation Community, which is working to reforest 92,000 hectares of a region of Inner Mongolia left almost entirely barren by logging. Since activists began replanting in 1962, tree cover has increased from 11.4 per cent of the area to 80 per cent. Last year, the UN recognised this achievement by presenting the group with a Champions of the Earth Award.

23/49May Mei

WHY HER? After leading WildAid in Mainland China for 11 years, May left the organisation in 2016 to found her own organisation, GoalBlue. The NGO has three goals: to encourage people to adopt an eco-friendly diet, to inspire people to commute in ways that minimise CO2 emissions, and to protect the oceans. GoalBlue launched a series of events in Beijing in January promoting vegetarianism under the banner Meatless Happiness.

24/49Yao Tandong

WHY HIM? More than one billion people might unknowingly depend on the work of Tandong, the director of the Institute of Tibetan Plateau Research and chair of the Third Pole Environment programme, which is researching the effects of global warming on the Tibetan plateau. One of the most isolated and hostile environments in the world, the Tibetan plateau is the source of 10 rivers that collectively provide drinking water, hydropower, and irrigation to more than a fifth of the world’s population.

THAT’S NOT ALL In 2017 he became the first Asian winner of the prestigious Vega Medal for outstanding research, which was presented to him by the king of Sweden, Carl XVI Gustaf.

25/49Hu Weiwei

WHY HER? Three years ago, Weiwei launched a deceptively simple startup: a bicycle-pooling app that would allow users to borrowbikes and return them to any stand in the city, all for a one-off fee of 299 yuan. Now Mobike is in more than 200 cities and was recently acquired by Meituan-Dianping for US$2.7 billion, with Weiwei remaining as CEO.

THE NEXT FRONTIER Indian cities such as Bangalore and Delhi are Mobike’s next target, which may present a challenge as the cities aren’t known for their bike use. However, Mobike is confident it can win residents over.

26/49Song Jun

WHY HIM? Jun was a successful businessman when he visited Inner Mongolia and saw the devastating effects of desertification. Where grassland should stretch as far as the eye can see, there was nothing but sand. In 2001, he spent 50 million yuan building the Moon Lake eco-tourism resort in Alxa League, where his team educates people about the impact of desertification and how to reverse it.

THAT’S NOT ALL He also founded See Conservation to help protect vulnerable environments in Inner Mongolia and elsewhere in Mainland China. In 2017, See Conservation opened its 13th centre in Shanxi.

27/49Wang Wenbao

WHY HIM? Wenbiao leads the Elion Resources Group, a clean-energy corporation that focuses on restoring environments and generating sustainable solar power. He spent 30 years working on reclaiming the Kubuqi Desert for agricultural purposes. Initially considered impossible, the project has now reclaimed over a third of the land.

THAT’S NOT ALL In 2017, Wenbiao received the UN’s Champion of the Earth Lifetime Achievement Award.

28/49Nurmala Kartini Sjahrir

WHY HER? Nurmala previously worked as an ambassador for Indonesia but now dedicates herself to environmental causes. She is patron of the Indonesian branch of the Climate Reality Project, whose mission is to increase public awareness of climate change, and is an adviser to the Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs, helping to preserve Indonesia’s oceans and coastal environments.

29/49Rudi Putra

WHY HIM? Indonesia’s rainforests are some of the most biodiverse on the planet, and Rudi is doing everything he can to save them. Rudi has inspired communities to dismantle illegal palm oil plantations in Sumatra, which have caused extensive deforestation and destruction of the habitat of the endangered Sumatran rhino.

30/49Kevin Kumala

WHY HIM? Kevin is a co-founder and chief green officer of Avani, which produces sustainable, recyclable packaging, including compostable, biodegradable plasticlike bags made from cassava, cornstarch straws, sugarcane-fibre takeaway boxes, and rain ponchos made from corn, soy, and sunflower seeds.

THE NEXT FRONTIER In 2017, Avani replaced nearly 1,000 tonnes of petroleum-based plastic with its compostable products and aims to double that number this year.

31/49Melati and Isabel Wijsen

WHY THEM? In 2013, at the ages of 10 and 12, sisters Isabel and Melati founded Bye Bye Plastic Bags (BBPB), a youth-driven social initiative to convince the people of Bali to say no to plastic bags. Since then, BBPB has gone global, with teams in 20 countries. The sisters also delivered a talk at the UN in New York for World Oceans Day last year.

THAT’S NOT ALLThis year, they organised Bali’s biggest beach cleanup, with 20,000 volunteers collecting 65 tonnes of plastic waste in a day.

32/49Aleta Baun

WHY HER? Peaceful protests are Aleta’s modus operandi. Aleta halted the destruction of sacred forest on the island of Timor by gathering hundreds of local villagers to peacefully occupy mining sites in protest. Against the odds, it worked.

THE NEXT FRONTIER Aleta has now established the Mama Aleta Fund to provide financial and legal aid to women in rural areas fighting for environmental causes.

33/49Prigi Arisandi

WHY HIM? In the early 2000s, 96 per cent of the drinking water in Surabaya, Indonesia’s second city, came from the Surabaya River. But factories upstream were pumping toxic waste into the waterway, pushing mercury levels to 100 times the maximum safe level recommended by the WHO. Prigi started a grassroots movement that led to successful legal action against the government for failing to control water pollution.

THE NEXT FRONTIER Prigi now leads the Ecological Observation and Wetlands Conservation organisation, campaigning for protection of the country’s wetlands and waterways.

34/49Renard Siew

WHY HIM? In conjunction with United Nations International Forests Day, Renard helped launched the Together Restoring Earth’s Environment programme, which aims to plant 100,000 trees by 2030 in Malaysia’s Klang Valley. The eco-warrior’s extensive involvement in sustainability issues ranges from his corporate job as environmental adviser to Sime Darby Holdings to collaborating with the Climate Reality Project spearheaded by former US vice-president Al Gore.

THE NEXT FRONTIER Renard is a member of a task force of the Academy of Sciences Malaysia driving the country’s water security agenda.

35/49Shariffa Sabrina Syed Akil

WHY HER? As president of the Association for the Protection of the Natural Heritage of Malaysia, Sabrina practises what she preaches, buying plots of rainforest in the state of Pahang to keep them safe from illegal loggers. One of the country’s most vocal environmental activists, she owns the chain of Tanah Aina eco-friendly resorts in Pahang, Johor, and Selangor.

THAT'S NOT ALL Sabrina recently organised an art exhibition to raise funds for the Orang Asli, an indigenous people based in Gua Musang fighting against extensive logging and mining activities.

36/49Mark Rayan Darmaraj

WHY HIM? As the “tiger landscape lead” for WWF Malaysia’s Peninsular Malaysia Terrestrial Conservation programme, Mark, who holds a PhD in tiger ecology, heads efforts to save the endangered tiger population (only 250 to 340 tigers are estimated to survive in the wild) by combating poaching, habitat loss, and forest degradation and fragmentation.

THE NEXT FRONTIER To support the state of Perak in its commitment to achieving zero poaching by 2020.

37/49CW Nicol

WHY HIM? CW Nicol was born in Wales but has called Japan home for more than 40 years. In the mid 1980s, he bought 47,000 square kilometres of Nagano prefecture and established the Afan Woodland Trust, turning the area into a thriving reserve that’s home to many threatened species, including black bears.

THAT'S NOT ALL He’s working to persuade the Japanese government to protect more of the country’s natural wonders and has established a sister Afan reserve in his native Wales.

38/49Hayao Miyazaki

WHY HIM? The director, artist, and co-founder of the famous Studio Ghibli is the creative mind behind dozens of acclaimed films, including My Neighbour Totoro and Spirited Away. These films have inspired fans around the world with their themes of friendship, pacifism, and—in almost every film he has ever made—environmentalism. At the end of 2017, Miyazaki came out of retirement (for the third time) to work on yet another feature-length film.

39/49Choi Yul

WHY HIM? Choi Yul has fought hard for the environment—and sometimes he’s been punished for it. In 1988, he became the first chairman of the Korean Anti-pollution Movement and began campaigning against irresponsible disposal of nuclear waste, for which he was put under house arrest. Since then, he has established the Korean Federation for Environmental Movement, which gathered eight environmental groups under its umbrella, and the Korea Green Foundation, which runs diverse programmes tackling a variety of environmental issues.

40/49Chen Hsiu-Huei

WHY HER? Hsiu-huei works to integrate eco-policy in all her roles, whether it be as chairwoman of the Taiwan Women’s Association, where she campaigned to reduce kitchen waste, or most recently as the founding director of the Green Advocates Energy Cooperative, which is currently leading the charge in Taiwan’s fight for green energy, working to replace polluting power sources with sustainable solar power.

THE NEXT FRONTIER The cooperative is collaborating with the government on a strategy that would enable the country to phase out all nuclear power by 2025.

41/49Chen Jiao-Hua

WHY HER? Jiao-hua has been involved in environmental campaigns in Taiwan for more than 20 years. She is currently a spokesperson for the Taiwan Water Resources Conservation Union and is one of the leaders of the Southern Taiwan Anti-Air Pollution Alliance. At the end of last year, she organised a protest that drew thousands to march through the city of Kaohsiung against worsening air pollution in Taiwan.

42/49Kao Cheng-Yan

WHY HIM?Cheng-yan, who had a decade-long career as an engineer with the US space agency Nasa in the 1980s, has played a seminal r ole in the history of Taiwan’s environmental activism. In 1996, he co-founded the Green Party Taiwan, the first political party in the country with a specifically eco-friendly agenda. Since then, Chengyan has spent much of his time focusing on the antinuclear movement, both within Taiwan and worldwide.

43/49Wen Hai-Chen

WHY HER? In the early 2000s, Hai-chen was one of a gr oup of housewives who joined forces to establish the Tsaoshan Ecology, Culture, and History Alliance, which had as its main goal the pr otection of the Tsaoshan water supply, an ancient spring that was being overused by the government. Having persuaded the government to take less water from the spring, the organisation now works to protect Yangmingshan National Park. This year, Hai-chen was honoured with a Lifetime Achievement Award during an annual meeting of Taiwan’s NGOs.

44/49Hsu Jen Shiu

WHY HIM?Jen-shiu began his career at Taiwan’s Agriculture and Forestry Department but quickly discovered a passion for photography. Over several decades, he has captured much of Taiwan’s wildlife and natural beauty on film and has written countless articles about the destruction of its remaining countryside. In 1995, he established the Society of Wilderness, which aims to preserve the natural world through education programmes and raising funds to buy and manage plots of untouched land.

THAT’S NOT ALL In 2014, he also established the Wilderness Foundation Formosa with the aim of encouraging awareness of the environment in Mainland China and Malaysia.

45/49Lalana Srikram

WHY HER? Growing up on her family’s farm in the country’s northeast, Lalana was aware from a young age of the challenges farmers face in making ends meet. In 2007, she established Raitong Organics Farm, a social initiative that supports organic farmers by connecting them to consumers locally and internationally. One of her most successful projects has been the CSA Munching Box, a subscriptionbased programme that delivers fresh, seasonal organic fruit and vegetables to homes around Thailand.

THE NEXT FRONTIER Lalana is working to transform Raitong Organics Farm into a learning centre where other farmers and the public can learn more about growing organic food.

46/49Sasin Calermlarp

WHY HIM? On 24 September 2013, members of the public lined the streets of Bangkok and cheered as Sasin limped into the capital, completing a 388km-long walk to protest against the construction of the Mae Wong Dam. The academic, activist, and chairman of the Seub Nakhasathien Foundation was just one of many individuals and organisations—including the WWF—opposed to the project, whose fate still hangs in the balance.

THAT’S NOT ALL This year, Sasin and the foundation are pressing for the speedy prosecution of tycoon Premchai Karnasuta, who was arrested for allegedly killing a protected leopard in a national park.

47/49Thon Thamrongnawawasawat

WHY HIM? On 24 September 2013, members of the public lined the streets of Bangkok and cheered as Sasin limped into the capital, completing a 388km-long walk to protest against the construction of the Mae Wong Dam. The academic, activist, and chairman of the Seub Nakhasathien Foundation was just one of many individuals and organisations—including the WWF—opposed to the project, whose fate still hangs in the balance.

THAT’S NOT ALL This year, Sasin and the foundation are pressing for the speedy prosecution of tycoon Premchai Karnasuta, who was arrested for allegedly killing a protected leopard in a national park.

48/49Oraya Sutabutr

WHY HER? “The bigger, the better” is Oraya’s motto—at least when it comes to trees. She is the co-founder of the Big Trees Project, an initiative that helps to preserve green spaces in Bangkok and beyond. What started out as a small grassroots network has grown into a vibrant environmental volunteer and advocacy group that works with both local communities and government.

THE NEXT FRONTIER Oraya is working to win over the next generation and runs a variety of youth programmes.

49/49Sing Intrachooto

WHY HIM? Author and architect Singh is on a mission to make rubbish beautiful. He is the founder of eco-friendly design firm Osisu, which makes furniture and other products from reused construction debris and other recycled materials.

THAT’S NOT ALL He’s also chief adviser to the Research & Innovation for Sustainability Centre of property developer MQDC. Among other projects, he’s advising on the Forestias development in Bangkok’s Bangna district, which aims to integrate a forest into a residential development.

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