Aug 9, 2007

Green Thoughts

A volunteer writer from a local environmental group just interviewed me. His article is for a publication that will be released at the time of the next National Youth Environment Forum (yes, we do have such things in Singapore).

Initially I had sensed a little tentativeness on his part. That was probably because he had gone through my blogs and found that I had never really written much about the environment before. He may have been wondering whether I would have anything interesting or insightful to say about environmental issues.

Well, in the end, I don't think he was disappointed. There are many things in the world which Mr Wang hasn't blogged about yet, but that doesn't mean he doesn't have opinions about them, heheh.

Purely by coincidence, I've just come back from a trip to Australia. During that time, I met up with an ecology/environmental volunteer with a special interest in plants. He was a 63-year-old man who cycled 60 km that morning, so as to meet me. The reason why he didn't drive is that he doesn't own a car. The reason why he doesn't own a car is that he does not want to contribute to air pollution and the global consumption of petroleum resources.

He also told me that until last year, he never turned on the heating in his home. If it was cold, he would just wear thicker clothes and sleep with more blankets. Conserving electricity is his other little way of helping to protect the environment. It's only now, when he's starting to get some arthritis in his joints, that he has started turning on the heating during winter.

Until recently, Western Australia was having a prolonged drought right now, and this old man felt that it was a "blessing in disguise". He said that the drought had the benefit of teaching Australians to be more environmentally aware. He proceeded to give me a detailed theory of what the true cost of beef should be, taking into account the cost of the amount of water it takes to raise a cow.

What I saw in this old man was a deep love for Mother Earth and a very strong sense of responsibility for the environment. Do such staunch advocates of the green movement exist in Singapore? Perhaps, but there can't be many.

As I was telling my interviewer, the level of environmental awareness in Singapore will be driven more by economics than anything else. If water and electricity become more expensive; if petrol prices go up; if more shopping centres start charging for plastic bags - these are the sorts of things that will make Singaporeans sit up, take notice and start adopting greener sorts of lifestyles and habits.

8 comments:

Ray said...

Peak oil is coming (or in my opinion, has already come & gone in Dec 2005: http://sgenergycrisis.blogspot.com/2007/08/oil-rises-as-us-stock-draws-outweigh.html).
The electricity prices will be deregulated soon in Singapore.
(http://www.post1.net/lowem/search?q=EMA&cat=Energy)

Good luck for rough times ahead!

Cheers,
Ray Huang

zj83 said...

hi mr wang, happy national day.
it feels exceptionally good to be a singaporean on tis day, 9th aug. however, when i heard the national pledge on tv today. we the citizens of singapore,.......regardless of race, language and religion, based on justice n equality...." it reminds me of prejudices n discrimination on race or ethnicity of a person. sg have done very well a compared to other countries in maintaining order n creating law in protecting minorities from strong or violent discrimination- i applaused our nation's fight against racism. However, as sg remains strong on such regulations. we tend to neglect that discrimination n prejudices doesnt come in the form of race, religion, culture etc. Instead, it diversified. few mths ago i was called up for my ICT in sep next mth. i tried to defer it due to my part-time studies (meet my MP, mindef n even requesting my sch for letter), but in vain. The reason, as usual, is that i have to go for my reservist. during the meet up wif my MP, i was told that i will get nite off if i m not outfield. toking to the operator in mindef, i was told that the sch i m studying at (SIM) was not elegible for deferment. When i asked wat will happen if it affects my studies n eventually my results or possibly future, all of them can only tell me one sentence "sorry that the policy of Mindef."

i felt so discriminated...discriminated becos i am a part-time student; cos i am studying in SIM; cos i couldnt get into any of the govt uni; cos i dun have enough $$ to go overseas to study for a degree n all in all cos i choose to upgrade myself due to the harsh demands of globalization. based on wat i went through, it seems that i have been stamped a big cross on my fore-head n shld accept tis is my fate my obligation.

Few mths lata, which is 9th aug. i am currently studying only 1 module due to the fear that i might not b able to cope with my coming ICT of 24 days (1 whole mth of lessons n sch fees just flew away). in turn, i need to study an extra semester to complete my studies. Extra semester means 6 mths late. my time, future n maybe oppotiunity that was avaliable during that period would be gone by the time i graduated :-( i have friend who r in a more troubled situation than me with regards to the reservist.

It becos of my displeasure with this matter or tis particular that made me wrote this long comment with the hope that you could write it in ur post sooner or later (if its possible)-sharing what's really affecting the commoners or odinary folks in this city state (similiar to previous posts of urs abt national service). Most imptly, allowing them to understand and providing an alternative view on our 'NSMen' aft celebrating 40 years. Thanks ;-)

zj83 said...

hi mr wang, happy national day.
it feels exceptionally good to be a singaporean on tis day, 9th aug. however, when i heard the national pledge on tv today. we the citizens of singapore,.......regardless of race, language and religion, based on justice n equality...." it reminds me of prejudices n discrimination on race or ethnicity of a person. sg have done very well a compared to other countries in maintaining order n creating law in protecting minorities from strong or violent discrimination- i applaused our nation's fight against racism. However, as sg remains strong on such regulations. we tend to neglect that discrimination n prejudices doesnt come in the form of race, religion, culture etc. Instead, it diversified. few mths ago i was called up for my ICT in sep next mth. i tried to defer it due to my part-time studies (meet my MP, mindef n even requesting my sch for letter), but in vain. The reason, as usual, is that i have to go for my reservist. during the meet up wif my MP, i was told that i will get nite off if i m not outfield. toking to the operator in mindef, i was told that the sch i m studying at (SIM) was not elegible for deferment. When i asked wat will happen if it affects my studies n eventually my results or possibly future, all of them can only tell me one sentence "sorry that the policy of Mindef."

i felt so discriminated...discriminated becos i am a part-time student; cos i am studying in SIM; cos i couldnt get into any of the govt uni; cos i dun have enough $$ to go overseas to study for a degree n all in all cos i choose to upgrade myself due to the harsh demands of globalization. based on wat i went through, it seems that i have been stamped a big cross on my fore-head n shld accept tis is my fate my obligation.

Few mths lata, which is 9th aug. i am currently studying only 1 module due to the fear that i might not b able to cope with my coming ICT of 24 days (1 whole mth of lessons n sch fees just flew away). in turn, i need to study an extra semester to complete my studies. Extra semester means 6 mths late. my time, future n maybe oppotiunity that was avaliable during that period would be gone by the time i graduated :-( i have friend who r in a more troubled situation than me with regards to the reservist.

It becos of my displeasure with this matter or tis particular that made me wrote this long comment with the hope that you could write it in ur post sooner or later (if its possible)-sharing what's really affecting the commoners or odinary folks in this city state (similiar to previous posts of urs abt national service). Most imptly, allowing them to understand and providing an alternative view on our 'NSMen' aft celebrating 40 years. Thanks ;-)

Ponder said...

Mr Wang,

I agree about Singaporeans' general attitude to the environment. I too do not own a car, never intend to own a car, and bike to work three times a week (40 km round trip). However, I face opposition from every quarter to this simple environmentally-friendly gesture. My family actively discourages me from doing my small bit for the environment, drivers honk at me and refuse to let me filter to turn right, etc. Petrol prices are already lower than they should be considering the negative externalities of burning petrol. Same for plastic bags. But as long as Singaporeans continue shuffling about in their air-conditioned boxes, never seeing the horrific effects of landfills full of non-biodegradable trash, ecological upsets due to global warming, increased temperatures due to removal of greenery and retention of heat by concrete and tarmac (ever noticed how it's 5C cooler in the jungle than it is by the side of a busy road?), they will remain apathetic about environmental degradation. Basically, since Singaporeans don't care about any so-called ideals, their 'pragmatism' will continue until oil becomes so expensive that it is pragmatic to switch to cleaner transportation alternatives. Of course, by then the countries which had bucked up earlier and made the transition to cleaner alternatives would be way ahead, and Singaporeans will have to shoulder the costs of their 'pragmatism' --- an abrupt, expensive, and painful transition to a more ascetic society. When it comes to the environment, what seems like airy-headed idealism has pragmatic consequences, and it's too bad that Singaporeans can't control themselves enough to forgo a little short-term convenience for long-term well-being.

There do exist people in Singapore with a strong sense of responsibility towards the environment. Unfortunately, like anyone who dares advocate an idealistic cause in Singapore, they are at best ignored or at worst jeered at for their efforts.

lowrentliving said...

A 63-year-old man who might not be working can afford the time to cycle 60km to kill time. Will he cycle 60km everyday to work? The reason why he didn't drive is that he doesn't own a car - cos he could not afford it?

Sivasothi said...

For a peek into some environmental action in Singapore, see WildSingapore.

Anonymous said...

Well said ponder, well said.

These days, being pragmatic seems to mean to consider only short-term and often personal conveniences, forgoing the long-term practical benefits derived from holding on to some ideal.

You see it everywhere, not really just Singapore and not only limited to environmental friendliness.

The point is to make the ideal practical by keeping to it as much as possible. Make only necessary trade-offs to advance that ideal.

So to lowrentliving: if cycling 60km a day to work is impractical, he could take the public transport or get more fuel efficient cars. When he doesn't need to travel 60km or when he has the time, he could cycle or walk.

A bit of creativity makes all the difference.

Tall^Frog © said...

Unfortunately, there is always a group (small or large) of Singaporean road users who are insistent that cyclists sharing the road are "hazards/assholes/idiots" etc etc who shouldn't be on the road and belong on the pavement.

Cycling is quite naturally the greener option, but with some drivers going out of their way to harass cyclists, Singaporean courtesy well along its way of going back to the caveman era.

There was a recent Stomp "article" by a Stomper who snapped a cyclist on the road who was waiting to make a right turn. Nothing wrong with waiting to make a turn, but probably the only things wrong were the Stomper's ignorance, cyclists-are-hazards attitude, and on the cyclist's end; the fact that he wasn't wearing a helmet and also listening to headphones.

I wonder if Singapore/Singaporeans are really ready to go green.