From green to grey: Why Singapore may be dying a slow death through unsustainable development

While Singapore faces a growing greying population, it is also facing the prospects of greying landscapes.

Huge stretches of evergreen tropical rainforests are being replaced with dull grey blocks of concrete buildings and pavements.

Where there were once cool habitats supporting diverse varieties of flora and fauna, there are more and more hot clusters of monotonous “saunas”.

According to the article “Living in the Tropics under Climate Change would be Challenging“:

Records from Singapore indicate temperatures have increased by 1.1 degrees Celsius over 42 years to 2014. This is nearly twice the average global rate of warming over recent decades and is opposite to expectations.

The difference appears to be due to a heat island effect caused by the city itself. This is important because changes in land use amplify background global climate change and put tropical cities at greater risk of extreme heat.”

Dull grey blocks of concrete buildings and pavements have replaced most of the rainforests in Singapore.

This isn’t to say we can’t ever touch or modify the rainforests for our development.

Let’s look at the Amazon rainforest, which has been modified by the indigenous communities for thousands of years.

Yet it continues to flourish and sustain both humans as well as animals and plants.

The difference is that the indigenous peoples have a sustainable model of development, in which they respect the environment and take only what they need from the Earth, allowing the forest to replenish itself.

Native people have co-existed in harmony with Nature for thousands of years in the Amazon rainforest. (Source:

In contrast, our model of development is not sustainable because not only we degrade the environment, we also take more than we need in our insatiable desire for more possessions, which results in depletion of resources and loss of biodiversity.

In fact, we are borrowing from our future generations to enrich ourselves in the short term, and we are leaving behind an impoverished home for them in the long term.

Our education system teaches us about science and geography, but we don’t seem to apply our lessons outside the classrooms, so how are we setting good examples for our younger generations?

Although we have the benefit of hindsight from the history of how climate change and deforestation are affecting our health and well-being, we continue to give in to our self-destructive habits in pursuit of short-sighted gratification.

If indigenous knowledge of the environment and ecological science don’t compel us to make amends, what else will we heed?

Even if we speak the language of the economists and try to measure the value of forests in monetary terms, can we really justify the ravages done to our environment and ultimately ourselves?

The few remaining rainforests continue to be decimated, such as in the western region of Singapore, resulting in loss of natural habitats and biodiversity.

P.S. May I invite you to sign the following petitions to support nature conservation and sustainable development?

  1. Preserve 30-50% of Tengah forest to protect biodiversity and tackle climate emergency
  2. A Campaign to Protect Dover Forest!
  3. Protect Clementi Forest from Urbanisation
  4. Support conservation of Bukit Batok Hillside Park area to ensure a sustainable future