Disediakan oleh Najwa Ayuni
8 September 2023
In a recent move that blends cultural heritage with environmental consciousness, Malaysia's Minister of Natural Resources, Environment, and Climate Change, Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad, unveiled a unique initiative to promote the use of batik clothing among government employees. This initiative aims to not only bolster the batik industry but also address climate change concerns and save energy.
Nik Nazmi emphasized that this decision takes into account climate factors, aligning with the government's commitment to achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. The plan involves reducing carbon footprints by curbing electricity consumption.
Climate change is a pressing global issue, and Malaysia is not immune. Rising temperatures and extreme weather events have a significant impact on the country. Recognizing the need for action, Nik Nazmi's proposal aligns with efforts to reduce carbon emissions and adapt to a changing climate.
Public Response and Criticisms
The public reaction to this initiative has been mixed. Some government employees praised the move as it offers them relief from the often chilly office environments, where air conditioning can be set to uncomfortably low temperatures. They see the adoption of batik as a practical solution that aligns with Malaysia's climate.
In hot and humid climates like Malaysia, where air conditioning is often necessary for comfort, temperatures are often lowered to combat discomfort caused by wearing warm or inappropriate clothing. When employees wear batik or other traditional clothing that is more suited for the local climate, they are more likely to feel comfortable at higher room temperatures. This means they may not need to set the air conditioning as low as they would with Western-style formal office attire.
Renard Siew Yung Jhien, a climate activist and Climate Change Advisor in Malaysia's Center for Governance and Political Studies, commends the initiative, highlighting that the built environment contributes significantly to global carbon emissions. Even small changes like adjusting indoor temperatures to 24-25 degrees Celsius can contribute to a sustainable future.
Challenges in the Batik Industry
Supporting the batik industry is not only a cultural endeavor but also a strategic move for the Malaysian government. Rasta Rashid from the Malaysia Batik Designers Association notes that the industry faced a sudden 70-80% drop in sales in 2020. To address this, they are embracing digitalization and seeking collaborations to ensure industry stability.
The challenges facing the Malaysian batik industry are multifaceted and extend beyond environmental concerns. Perhaps the most significant challenge is the price competitiveness of Indonesian batik, which often makes it the preferred choice for consumers due to its affordability. This consumer preference is exacerbated by a lack of awareness regarding the intricate production processes and cultural significance of Malaysian batik. Many consumers simply do not fully understand the value of Malaysian batik, which further hampers its market appeal.
Additionally, Indonesian batik has received robust marketing and promotional support, both domestically and internationally, giving it a more established presence in global markets. The challenge of maintaining the quality and authenticity of Malaysian batik in the face of mass production and changing consumer preferences further complicates the industry's growth.
Addressing these challenges requires concerted efforts from various stakeholders, including education campaigns, government support, collaborative initiatives, and innovative approaches to design and promotion. By taking a comprehensive approach, Malaysia can revitalize its batik industry and celebrate its unique cultural heritage on the global stage.
Support from lawmakers
In October 2019, Nurul Izzah Anwar, a Member of Parliament, suggested that Malaysian batik be worn in Parliament, especially on Thursdays. This idea received support from both the government and opposition members, as it aimed to celebrate Malaysia's batik heritage.
Efforts were also underway to protect and promote Malaysian batik's authenticity through patenting and ISO standards. The Malaysian Handicraft Development Corporation (Kraftangan Malaysia) collaborated with agencies like MyIPO and ISO for this purpose.
Empowering the batik industry opens possibilities for Malaysians. By connecting batik to the Malaysian identity and pride and increasing demand for products, more economic opportunities can be created. Efforts to preserve and promote Malaysian batik emphasize its cultural and economic importance. With support from all sides and with a focus on engaging youth, Malaysia can revitalize its batik industry, preserving heritage and boosting the economy.