Imagine a zombie apocalypse scenario where there is hardly any human being seen in the city.
Where have all the human beings gone to?
The shiny skyscrapers and grand sculptures are left empty like giant whitewashed tombstones.
Are these buildings monuments of humankind’s glorious achievements?
Or are they stark reminders of a decadent dystopia?
In the hot sweltering oven of the sun-baked tropical desert, the air feels hostile and oppressive.
Seedlings of trees all across the island have stories to share.
Those who had the privilege and “good fortune” to be planted in the Gardens by the Bay are under protection by default.
Those who were “unlucky” to grow up in forests such as Bukit Batok Hillside Park live in fear that their days are numbered.
They have heard horror stories of how their tree relatives in Punggol, Tampines, Lentor, Bidadari and Tengah forest woke up one fine morning and heard the dreadful noise of the excavators that came rumbling in to clear their habitats.
Meanwhile, as the island reaches a boiling point, one wonders how long more humans continue the onslaught without destroying themselves.
Already, the city is simmering under the unrelenting heat today (which currently feels like 35 degrees Celsius at 9.50 pm).
How long more can we endure the urban heat island effect and still pay lip service to sustainable development?
P.S. If you do not wish to see our city becoming a post-apocalyptic desert, please sign the petition to support nature conservation and sustainable development.
On 15 Oct, I attended an informative talk organised by Ace Adventure Expeditions.
The speakers, Kathy Xu of Dorsal Effect and Kalai of ACRES: Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Singapore), shared about how to respond appropriately when encountering wildlife in Singapore.
Understandably, we urbanites aren’t familiar with some of the native wildlife and their ways of life, due to a lack of interaction with them and a lack of education as well.
Hence, it is helpful of the speakers to create awareness about common mistakes the public tend to make when stumbling upon a rare or strange animal.
I attended this event because I want to educate myself more on our native wildlife so as to understand how we can better support biodiversity, which is under the threat of climate change and habitat destruction in the name of development.
Though my notes are not exhaustive, I hope they will be useful as a reference to my readers.
ACRES sometimes have to deal with non-native animals, due to illegal wildlife trade in Singapore.
Snakes – or reptiles in general – are not pests. They are wild animals protected by law under the Wildlife Acts.
Generally, snakes are gentle and don’t attack without provocation.
Most snakes are active in the morning. If spat in the eyes by a venomous snake, wash your eyes with water instead of rubbing the eyes.
Just because a snake may be venomous doesn’t mean it should be killed on the spot.
Snakes may be attracted to their prey such as rodents in housing estates, so if they are found too close for comfort, say in your house, call ACRES hotline 97837782 for help.
Sunda pangolins are native in Singapore, but they are rare and endangered, no thanks to poachers.
Pangolins are vulnerable and may get run over when crossing roads.
If you see a roadkill of a rare animal, contact ACRES or NParks in case they may want to collect the dead body for record and research purposes. (ACRES may take time to respond if they are short of manpower.)
A Malayan colugo (flying lemur) may be helpless if it falls to the ground as it is mainly arboreal – call ACRES for help if you see one in trouble.
Never handle baby mammals that you come across with bare hands because their parents may be nearby and may not respond well to unfamiliar scents.
No matter how cute it is, whether it be a baby squirrel or colugo or palm civet, if the baby mammal appears lost, alone or injured outdoors, don’t bring it home to rear as a pet because it is a wild animal, not a cat or dog.
Instead, call ACRES to rescue and rehab or reunite it with its parents. Meanwhile, find a suitable box to protect the baby mammal.
Avoid hanging nets in the open, as bats may get entangled in them and die.
Monitor lizards are not crocodiles or komodo dragons, and they are generally shy and harmless if unprovoked.
If you take photos of a rare endangered animal, avoid sharing them on social media or avoid mentioning its location to ensure its safety.
Similarly, avoid using baits to take photos of wildlife because it is unethical.
If you encounter an unfamiliar animal such as a snake and are unsure of its exact species and whether it is venomous, seek advice from ACRES because some non-venomous species disguise as venomous ones.
Feeding wild animals and fish, such as sharks or whale sharks, with human foods such as snacks is inadvisable because it can change their diet and behaviour, and the sugar content may be toxic to them.
When walking on the sea shores, avoid picking up shells or hermit crabs to keep because we are stewards of wildlife, not just tourists or visitors.
Our forefathers who immigrated to Singapore to make a living since its modern founding in the 19th century didn’t really have the benefit of hindsight on the environmental impacts of deforestation.
Neither did the colonialists, whose efforts to exploit the natural resources and replace the forests with plantations and industries for trading have caused the indigenous Orang Laut and Orang Seletar peoples to be displaced from their territories in Singapore.
Without the indigenous people’s ancient wisdom on how to live in harmony with Nature and use resources responsibly, which have sustained them over many centuries, our economic activities have invariably caused much damage to the environment and resulted in reduced biodiversity considerably.
The few efforts made by the authorities to conserve Nature, such as establishing Botanic Gardens and nature reserves, are commendable, but they are insufficient to mitigate the environmental crises we are facing today.
Although we might attribute our material success to modern technology etc for building housing and industries, it comes at the heavy price of environmental degradation and climate change and their adverse impacts on our health and safety.
In a way, we are all complicit in our own self-destructive habits, consciously or unconsciously, in our pursuit of economic growth.
On one hand, we have benefited from living in public housing that occupies formerly forested lands.
On the other hand, we also have the benefit of hindsight to see the negative consequences of our actions.
Hence, we are at the crossroads where we have to change the way we do things, as what might have worked in the past is no longer working for us.
According to the philosopher Hegel, major events in history go through the cycle of thesis, antithesis and synthesis.
Thesis: Economic development at all costs Antithesis: Environmental destruction to our peril Synthesis: Sustainable development to restore ecological balance
Today, the responsibility falls on our shoulders to reconcile both the thesis and antithesis, in order to ensure sustainable development for our future generations.
“Sustainable development” should not be just a trendy buzzword but rather a living reality.
Even NParks has shifted their focus from making Singapore “City in a Garden” to “City in Nature”.
Singapore cannot sustain itself due to dwindling biodiversity and global warming, unless it restores our forests, instead of replacing natural forests with manicured gardens on a large scale.
While their “One million tree planting” campaign is laudable, I feel it is like a bird flying around in circles with only one wing.
The other wing must also be flapping in sync, so that the bird can fly straight and make progress.
That means we must also stop removing the remaining forests and instead consider brownfield sites and under-utilised land spaces (such as golf courses) for future development.
These remaining forests, such as Bukit Batok Hillside Park, Dover forest, Bukit Brown forest etc, must be retained for posterity.
Otherwise, we will continue to suffer from adverse effects such as the increased risk of zoonotic virus, flash floods, dengue fever, heat-related illnesses and mental health issues.
The Covid-19 pandemic, the recent rise in suicide cases, mental health cases and dengue outbreak cases, and so on are signs we cannot afford to ignore.
According to Channel News Asia article dated 11 October 2020:
“Up to half of the wildlife species found in Singapore could disappear by the end of this century if nothing is done to mitigate the impact of climate change.”
The time to change our future for the better is now.
Each of us can continue to use our voice as checks and balances to hold our authorities accountable for the state of our natural environment.
May I invite you to sign the petition below to make your voice heard for the sake of yourself and your future generations?