Some thoughts on “The 8% Solution: biodiversity, imperialism and nature in Singapore” video

1. Despite the title showing “biodiversity”, the biodiversity of Singapore wasn’t discussed at length. No mention was made regarding the extent of extinction and endangerment of our native flora and fauna in the last 200 years.

2. Although around 96% of the original rainforests were replaced by agriculture by 1880s, Singapore was still considered greener than it is today, as there wasn’t much urbanisation. Even the tigers could continue to exist until the last tiger was hunted in 1930.

3. The indigenous peoples such as Orang Laut were left out of the conversation, as if they didn’t exist in Singapore’s history. We are doing them a disservice as they were the original owners of the land, who lived in harmony with Nature and whom we should learn from regarding sustainability.

4. If the natural environment of Singapore could no longer support an expanding human population of 137,722 in 1880, what makes us think that it can support a growing human population of nearly 6,000,000 today in the context of climate emergency?

5. Even if 56% of Singapore’s land is said to be occupied by vegetation today, about one-third of it is managed parks, gardens, roadside trees, etc, while the remaining comprises mainly secondary forests or spontaneous regrowing vegetation.

Moreover, if we say Singapore is a “green city” or one of the “greenest” cities today, it doesn’t mean that we aren’t suffering from the effects of rising urban heat island effect, urban claustrophobia, human-wildlife conflicts due to further fragmentation of forests, etc.

Further thoughts

Though both are small post-colonial island-states, Hong Kong has allocated a larger proportion of green spaces (56% tree cover in 2010) than Singapore (30% tree cover in 2010), despite having one of the highest population densities in the world.

Mauritius is also a former colonial tropical island like Singapore, but it has more wild green spaces (47% tree cover in 2010), thanks to a smaller population and greater environmental consciousness.

Singapore should learn from Hong Kong and Seychelles on how to prioritise nature conservation, instead of trying to develop at the expense of our biodiversity and our health, well-being and quality of life.

It doesn’t mean we should all settle for cramped apartments or live in villages, but rather we should focus more on redeveloping brownfield sites, repurposing underutilised lands and managing our population dynamics, so as to have more breathable, liveable spaces for everyone.

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