By Dzulkifli Abdul Razak
The year 1950 has now been given a new and greater significance.
Top geologists have proposed it as the formal start of the so-called Anthropocene era, or Age of Man, according to a German news agency.
Earth’s history has always been categorised into different eras. Currently is the Holocene, which began just under 12,000 years ago after the last major ice age.
The Anthropocene is next, marked by the impact of humankind in changing the Earth massively, like the emission of greenhouse gases and the destruction of ecosystems.
This is deemed to be the beginning of a “new age” where allegedly a sedimentary sequence of rock from a small lake in Canada serves as a reference for the start of the age, according to the Anthropocene Working Group, last week.
Specifically, researchers favour a sedimentary layer from the year 1950, meaning to say in less than a century, the new age has experience such a tremendous change that contrasted the Holocene era.
This phenomenon followed closely the Sixth Mass Extinction or the Anthropocene extinction as a continuous event of species loss driven by ‘Great Acceleration’ that also coincided with 1950.
It is characterised by the Earth’s exponential growth attributed to humans, distorting environmental integrity, the loss of diversity and climate crisis, thus endangering planetary survival including fragmentation of habitats, overpopulation, chemical pollution, invasive species, over-exploitation of natural resources as in hunting and fishing.
In summary, Homo Sapiens has become a dominant negative evolutionary force that degrades the present civilisation on a planetary scale, undermining the very foundation of all life forms in scientific terms.
Given this narrative, the International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM) launched the Institute of Planetary Survival and Sustainable Well-being or PLANETIIUM on July 4 by the Minister of Higher Education, Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin.
It comprises of research clusters relating to culture technology, reproductive biology, microbiology, biochemical analyses, animal study, and bioinformatics – all interconnected with one another.
It engages the various expertise at IIUM collectively in transdisciplinary ways, offering consultations and laboratory services to provide holistic sustainable solutions across health, environment, biodiversity, and climate change. The strength is not in just any one of these, but the whole framework of development that is sustainable.
Mohamed Khaled regarded this as key since the institute in houses the “frozen zoo” – one of its kind nationally, which is capable of preserving biological samples especially related to genetic materials of endangered animal species.
“The laboratory will collect, store and long-term preservation of cells, tissues and productive materials from various animal species,” he said.
Notably indigenous species and thus has direct impact on the community aligned with the Ministry’s larger aspiration of focusing on excellence without necessarily being preoccupied with league tables and ranking exercises that many are obsessed with today.
Instead, it laid a foundation of partnerships (SDG 17) with like-minded institutions and expertise in sharing not just knowledge (SDG 4) but outcomes in tandem with the 17 Sustainable Development Goals or Agenda 2030.
This is of utmost importance in ensuring that survival and well-being, beyond just health per se, are duly prioritised.
For example, of immediate concern is the revival of the extinct Sumatran rhinoceros, the last of which was found in the forest Sabah – one of the world’s oldest – some five years ago.
Next are the Malaysian tigers that fall into the critically endangered category. Hence, the need to be urgently rescued.
Otherwise, to restore and reintegrate, making up the 4Rs of the Real-time Action approach adopted by IIUM. Here is where the Frozen Zoo (aka Biobank), makes tremendous difference and falls squarely on the PLANETIIUM as its major responsibility in the quest for sustainable solutions.
Such options are crucial without which planetary survival will be further endangered towards mass extinction! All life-forms (including humans) are then rendered more vulnerable.
Well-being plummeted due to unbridled widespread of mental (ill-)health across the humanity. More recently, even cases involving non-humans have been detected to share the same fate.
As for IIUM, in particular, the narrative is much more compelling since it resonates closely with its vision: for betterment of human life and civilisation, or ‘rahmatan lil alamin’ (mercy to all the worlds). This encompasses the entire cosmic influence, the macrocosm and the microcosm.
It places the spirituality (SDG 18) of non-Anthropocene-like beings, at the very heart of planetary survival and sustainable well-being to create a peaceful and harmonious balance (SDG 16) for co-existence as the ultimate purpose. – BACALAHMALAYSIA.MY
- The writer is Rector, the International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM)