Yesterday was a sunny day, as testified by those of us who commuted or worked outdoors.
Thanks to the cyclical La Nina effect and northeast monsoon season, the tropical heat has been slightly less intense lately.
Still, I had to laugh when my friend forwarded to me yesterday’s news article.
It was a mirthless inaudible laugh – my incredulous response to the headline.
It boldly says:
“From little red dot to green habitat teeming with wildlife”.
In the wake of two petitions on saving our threatened forests this year and a series of annual wild boar incidents resulting from a loss of habitats….
this article couldn’t have been more untimely,
Or it could have been written out of ignorance or under delusion.
It also says:
“Loving our flora and fauna can form the throbbing heart of a Singapore identity.”
Hopefully so, for this is far from our present reality.
Destroying the homes of pangolins and other endangered wildlife could hardly be considered “loving”.
Nor is suggesting that the wild boars be culled after making them homeless through deforestation.
The sad reality is that the current “throbbing heart of a Singapore identity” is more likely formed by replacing our remaining secondary forests with more BTO flats, malls and roads instead of redeveloping existing lands.
I suppose when driving around Central Catchment after being sheltered in an air-conditioned building, one might be forgiven for having an impression of a green city teeming with wildlife.
But perhaps by no stretch of imagination can we claim that the actual city itself has “stretches of parks that breathe like a green lung through the concrete landscape”
when the dominant green spaces are grassy plots or football fields or fragmented gardens and parks that simmer under the rising urban heat effect.
While I am grateful for the La Nina effect, we can’t depend on such transient favourable weather conditions and dismiss our need for more dense forests.
Our last two droughts were in 2014 and 2019.
When the next prolonged hot and dry season hit, we would wish we had never cut down those forests that have cooled our surroundings considerably.
Geographical location and climate
At this point, one may say that Singapore City looks a bit more green than the cities in many other countries.
How would one respond to that comment?
First, let’s agree on the fact that the comment “looks a bit more green” is referring to “looks” or “appearance”, not environmental friendliness.
Secondly, if we go by “looks” alone, we would still have to acknowledge that over 90% of the city is estimated to comprise concrete buildings and asphalt roads.
Thirdly, even if some other cities, such as Tokyo, New York City (NYC) and Shanghai, look less green than Singapore city, let’s keep in mind our geographical location.
Being located in or around the temperate regions, Tokyo, NYC and Shanghai are not subjected to high daily temperatures throughout the year.
These cities in temperate regions also have four seasons throughout the year.
Thus, the people in these cities do not experience the suffocating effects of urban heat effect or global warming as much.
In comparison, being located at the equator, Singapore is subjected to the hot and wet tropical weather all year round, interspersed with hot and dry inter-monsoon periods.
Thus, losing over 90% of its original tropical rainforest is a recipe for environmental disasters, such as flash floods and adverse climate change, and is akin to a slow suicide through a health crisis.
It is reported that Singapore experiences increased greenhouse effect twice as much as most other places in the world because of its highly urbanised surface.
Moreover, most of the aforementioned cities are located in much bigger countries, such as the United States of America, Japan and China, where the residents can choose to escape the summer heat waves to other parts of their countries that have much forests left.
In contrast, Singapore hardly has any sizeable forests left outside of its four nature reserves (which constitute less than 5% of the total land area)…
except only Clementi forest and a few smaller secondary forests, all of which are marked for future development.
Our gardens and parks may be visually appealing, but their sizes and density of trees are not enough to cool the surroundings as much as the dense forests (of at least 10 hectares) do.
We and our ancestors are not indigenous to this tropical island because we have migrated from nearby countries, hence we don’t have the wisdom and knowledge of managing rainforests sustainably like indigenous people do.
It is a mistake from the very beginning when the British colonialists and Chinese-majority authorities tried to replicate the idea of creating gardens in the city all over the tropical island.
While it might be common to have gardens in temperate countries such as the United Kingdom and China, having too many gardens and too few rainforests amidst roads and buildings in an equatorial country like Singapore only serves to leave us exposed and vulnerable to intense heat from the tropical sun.
The indigenous peoples in the Amazon, central African or Southeast Asian tropical rainforests would never allow their rainforests to be exploited and depleted recklessly like the way we have done in Singapore (which has lost over 90% of our original rainforests in the last 200 years).
These indigenous peoples have the wisdom and foresight to work with Nature and manage their forest habitats sustainably for thousands of years, both for themselves and their flora and fauna.
“Everyone needs to have the forest protected because it cleans the air; it is a pure air for us to breathe. …. We think that the problem is the people just want more and more and more; there is no end. The world is like there is no more control. What people need is more love and to understand each other. …. we want to have our forest protected because forest means life, forest means our body; forest means our everything and we live because we have the forest.” (We are all connected with Nature – TED Talk by Nixiwaka from Yawanawa tribe in Amazon rainforest)