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?