Biodiversity Conservation

The Wilderness Among Us: New Horizons in Urban Nature Conservation by Benjamin Ong

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ABOUT THE TALK

We live in the Anthropocene, an age where humans might as well be gods. Across the world, rapid development, deforestation and other forms of environmental degradation are driving habitats and species to extinction faster than we can save them. More than 75 per cent of Malaysians now live in urban areas, generally disconnected from the bulk of nature conservation efforts that take place in large swathes of remaining natural ecosystem far from towns and cities.

Meanwhile, in spite of human action, nature exerts her own agency. While we encroach on wild areas, a sizeable number of plants and animals demonstrate remarkable resilience in adapting to urban settings. While urban areas are seldom associated with biodiversity conservation, patches and pathways of habitats and ecological corridors exist within the city. These support wildlife and challenge our assumptions of sterility, our understanding of urban green space, and our expectations of green cities.

This talk presents the preliminary findings of an ecological survey conducted by The Rimba Project at the Badan Warisan Malaysia (BWM) centre in downtown KL. It revisits a decade-old tree-planting project on the site, reviewing its progress and considering its significance amidst the backdrop of rapid development in KL’s Golden Triangle. Presenting a glimpse into the diverse animal life found in BWM’s one-hectare site, this talk argues that space can, in fact, be considered a hybrid expression of ex-situ and in-situ conservation. It is a co-produced space where human and natural agency operates in tandem, where the unexpected encounter with a bird, bat or insect may yet surprise us even as we go about our busy, busy lives.

ABOUT THE SPEAKER

Benjamin Ong is an ecologist based at the University of Malaya’s Rimba Ilmu Botanic Garden, where he founded and manages The Rimba Project, a campus sustainability and urban conservation initiative. In 2016, he was awarded a Chevening-CIMB ASEAN scholarship to study Sustainable Development at the University of St Andrews. He won the Chevening Green Volunteer of the Year award in 2017 for his work with the Transition University of St Andrews, a community-based sustainability organisation. Benjamin’s research interests centre on the relationship between human communities and nature, especially in the urban space. He is an avid writer and photographer. His latest book, The Backyard Before You, is a meditation on biodiversity conservation in the urban residential neighbourhood.