Efforts aimed to reverse environmental damage and help people reconnect with nature, are all part of a growing global consciousness of caring for the world we live in. Although a relatively new phenomenon for many, Sri Lankan born singer-songwriter Alston Koch distinguished the potential impact of climate change, almost three decades ago.
Mr. Koch, the global artiste, who played the lead in the Chandran Rutnam directed biopic ‘According to Matthew’ was recently in Sri Lanka to partner with the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). The 18th meeting of the Conference of Parties is scheduled to be held in Sri Lanka in May, along with the meetings of the CITES Standing Committee.
CITES is a multilateral treaty to protect endangered plants and animals. It was drafted as a result of a resolution adopted in 1963 at a meeting of members of the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Brand Ambassador for the event, Mr. Koch, in an interview with Daily Mirror, shared his enthusiasm in partnering up with the global platform.
- CITES is a multilateral treaty to protect endangered plants and animals
- My motto has always been ‘prevention is better than cure’
- I think we all have to take a lesson here and do what we can in our own little way
“I think it’s a very valuable and necessary thing because the whole world is threatened with our collective inaction. And it’s not just limited to the trafficking and sale of protected species,” the veteran entertainer said. “I’m thrilled that some people and organizations are taking a stand against global practices which cause harm to our environment, including one of the world’s greatest actors, Leonardo DiCaprio,” he said.
Alston Koch was virtually one of the first to address Climate Change, when he stormed into the House of Commons in the United Kingdom to voice his concerns. Asked of his interest in taking up environmental activism, Mr. Koch said that his concerns over the environment peaked when he failed to find a much-loved fruit he enjoyed as a child, during a visit to his motherland.
I think it’s a very valuable and necessary thing because the whole world is threatened with our collective inaction.
“I love the Sri Lankan cuisine, from rice and curry to the fruit we enjoyed. When I came back and went looking for the trees I liked to see again and the fruits I loved to taste again, I couldn’t find any of them. For instance, Naminan (Cynometra cauliflora) is one of the few trees in the world which bears fruit from the trunk. As kids we used to enjoy these because it was so easy to reach. But these fruits were nowhere to be found,” Mr. Koch recalled.
“So I began my own research and went to the House of Commons to talk about climate change and had an argument with an aide of Margaret Thatcher. Then I found Niranjan Deva Aditya, a Sri Lankan-born Member of the European Parliament who would attest to my keen interest in something nobody cared about or seemed to know of. I would say I was one of the pioneers to talk about climate change,” he added.
“I’m excited to partner with CITES, because it is not just about the preservation of wildlife but also about the preservation of flora and fauna. I still am and will be one of those flag bearers who are combating the effects of climate change and plastic on our planet,” Mr. Koch said.
“I failed to find Naminam, the familiar varieties of mango and kadju puhulam. These are the little things that jolt you and make you ask questions,” he added. “If I could pick it up so long ago, then what about the other professionals who are qualified?” Mr. Koch asked. He believes that if concrete action was taken to address environmental issues, several decades ago, we would have perhaps witnessed a better world.
“My motto has always been ‘prevention is better than cure’. Even right now, I personally haven’t experienced this kind of dry weather and heat in Sri Lanka. And you can’t blame the government for that! The government is not a machine, they only act accordingly. We are very good at pointing the finger at somebody else. I think we all have to take a lesson here and do what we can in our own little way,” Mr. Koch observed.
The global entertainer has also penned several songs on similar themes. Asked of the inspiration behind these compositions, Mr. Koch said that he is simply inspired by his surroundings. “When you look around, there are all these things that are happening around me.”
Protect your environment and the environment will protect the wildlife, the flora and the fauna
“Protect your environment and the environment will protect the wildlife, the flora and the fauna,” Mr. Koch said. He believes that it is very important for Sri Lankan artistes to address environmental concerns through their own platforms. “Unfortunately in Sri Lanka we don’t have a platform for our musicians to progress and do well overseas. They work in a medium which is not known outside of Sri Lanka, which is Sinhala. But I think we have some amazing artistes here. I draw from the young because they are where the talent is. One can pick up a lot from the young. I’ve seen parents who toss litter on the streets, only to have their kids pick it up. So it is important for our artistes to address issues like climate change and environment preservation, in their own little way, especially with the younger audiences. It’s a lot easier now than it was in my day!” he added.
The Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora is scheduled to be held from May 23 to June 3, at the Bandaranaike Memorial International Conference Hall, in Colombo. Over 3,000 foreign delegates and media personnel from 183 different countries are expected to participate in the largest United Nations conference to be hosted in Sri Lanka.