A case for conservation of Tengah forest in Singapore

Why we need the forest 🌳🌳🌳🌳

A couple of days ago, I took time off after my morning shift for hiking.

It is part of my voluntary project for nature conservation and environmental awareness.

The photos and videos of the hike serve to preserve the memory of Tengah forest for posterity.

I am also inspired to make a special video that combines video clips from my previous hike to make a case for conservation.

Why?

Because climate change affects all of us, including plants, animals and humans.

According to an article:

“New research has found strong evidence that climate change is spurring conflict, which is driving people to abandon their homelands and seek safety elsewhere.”

In Singapore, it is already happening in some ways.

Birds and animals have been displaced from their homes ever since urban development started some 200 years ago.

With the ongoing clearance of Tengah forest, the baya weavers, otters and other animals are in danger of losing their homes.

It probably wouldn’t be long before more and more of us humans will also become environmental refugees due to climate change affecting the liveability of our environment.

To where will we seek asylum?

To where can we really migrate since the effects of climate change are ubiquitous?

What happens in one country will affect other countries, as seen in the case of the Sumatran haze and many other examples.

The future is in our hands.

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Farewell walk at Tengah forest

As we entered the forest, we were welcomed by convoys of mosquitoes.

Thankfully, the mosquitoes left us alone for the most part as we ventured deeper into the woods, away from the river canal.

We were also greeted by a wide array of flowers, such as daisies, mimosas and morning glories.

Along the way, we saw some other wildlife, such as bees, dragonflies, baya weavers and an eagle.

Since eagles are at the top of food chains, their presence implies that there is a fairly complex ecosystem of plants, herbivores, carnivores and omnivores in the forest.

The impending destruction of Tengah forest would result in a significant loss of biodiversity in this region.

No amount of artificially created “forest” in the upcoming “forest town” would be able to replace or restore the current biodiversity.

In addition, what will happen to the baya weavers’ nests when the forest is cleared for urban development?

Wouldn’t the birds, as well as other animals, experience trauma from being displaced from their natural habitats?

History books have traditionally been written by the victors, and it is perhaps high time that the marginalised wildlife be given a voice and be heard.

At the rate things are going, it is probably not too far-fetched to imagine a dystopian future whereby Singapore will end up in some kind of self-destruction.

It is a stark future where Tengah forest will be gone, only preserved in memories, pictures and videos.

When our grandchildren and great-grandchildren look at the high-res screen showing pictures of the forest, they can only see the surface of things.

No amount of high resolution pixels can enable them to feel the earth or smell the flowers or inhale the fresh air or soak in the healing energy.

Not even virtual reality technology can recreate the actual experience of being in a real forest.

Then they will ask us why they cannot experience the forest first-hand like we once did, and we can only sigh and apologise.

“We tried to conserve the forest, but they will not listen to us. I am sorry….”

Meanwhile, the much hyped “forest town” will have become something like a “forbidden city”, where the land prices will skyrocket out of nowhere.

And only the elites and the “haves” could dwell on a piece of land that was once inhabited by wildlife and visited by nature lovers freely.

Recommended reading

Tengah forest is a significant chunk of real estate for nature, not just people: Nature Society

A psychoanalytical perspective on road rage involving truck driver and cyclist

Last month, a conflict happened involving a truck driver and a road cyclist in Singapore.

To me, it seems almost inevitable that such an incident would take place sooner or later because of the ongoing tensions (and misunderstandings) between motorists and cyclists.

Many motorists don’t welcome cyclists to share the roads, considering them as hindrances to speed.

Many cyclists do their best to stay alive whenever they cycle on the roads, by attempting to not get in the way of vehicles while taking care to not stay too close to the kerb to avoid hitting it.

Most of the time, it works fine when both parties practise tolerance and patience.

But when either or both parties happen to want the right of way, then it takes an extraordinary amount of self-control and understanding to maintain peace and safety.

Otherwise, anything can happen in the heat of the moment.

We are all complex psychological beings capable of repressing emotions to function with a certain level of temperance in society.

But if we don’t process our hurts and pains in a safe space, our repressed anger and resentment can erupt when we least expect it.

I believe this is what happened during that fateful road incident.

How it might have happened

1. Illusion of time and relativity of speed

In the days leading up to that incident, I have been observing as a cyclist myself that some motorists seem to have become more impatient.

These drivers have been honking at other vehicles at the slightest inconvenience or provocation.

Sometimes, I think to myself that the motorists have forgotten how blessed they are to be able to drive because they can travel much faster than pedestrians, cyclists and even commuters taking public transport.

Hence, if the motorists aren’t able to appreciate the fact that they are already moving faster than most people, why then the hurry to get somewhere?

But this is also a reminder to myself because I sometimes find myself cycling as quickly as possible to reach my destination, even though I am already moving faster than if I were to walk.

Technically speaking, by cycling quickly, I can run my errands faster or deliver more orders to customers in less time, but is it really worth the haste?

So then, speed is relative because even if we are moving fast, the illusion of time in this matrix world is so real that we desire to move even faster, in order to feel as if we are accomplishing something greater.

Likewise, that truck driver might have felt a similar pressure to drive quickly at that time, and ended up honking at the cyclist in front of him.

This leads us to the next point.

2. The crude language of the horn

It is rather unfortunate that honking has very limited vocabulary.

Regardless of the type of vehicles a horn belongs to, all honking sounds have only one flat note.

Whether it is a blaring honk of a truck or a high-pitched beep of a car, it sounds monotonous and often irritating.

Perhaps it depends on the intention of the driver using the horn.

It seems that a number of motorists use the horn to tell other road users to get out of their way, rather than warning them to stay in their lanes to avoid hitting them when overtaking them, or for some other reasons.

Cyclists, for the most part, have been bearing the brunt of being honked at by motorists because they are seen as hindrances.

More significantly, cyclists often get honked at because they are the weaker parties, therefore more easily bullied by motorists who drive bigger vehicles that are capable of harming them.

Hence, it is unsurprising if the cyclist was irked by the loud honks of the truck, which he would have heard umpteen times in all his experiences of cycling on the road.

The unfolding events may have built up to the boiling point when he decided to vent his anger by hitting the truck’s side mirror in retaliation, instead of quietly submitting to a (perceived) road bully.

This leads us to the final point.

3. Entitlement or equal rights?

Perhaps the biggest question behind the incident is:

Was the cyclist justified in taking the left lane (and thus blocking the truck behind him) or was he merely feeling entitled to ride as if he owned the road?

Existing road rules do allow cyclists to ride in pairs abreast along the leftmost lane of a road.

But the rules also state that cyclists should not hog the road (especially when there is considerable amount of traffic).

Then again, it is a fairly common experience for cyclists to be overtaken by large vehicles at uncomfortably close range if they had kept close to the roadside, and their bicycles might risk hitting the kerb.

If that cyclist had moved to the left to allow the truck to overtake him, he could not be assured that the driver would give much space to manuerve his bike safely (though in this case, the left lane doesn’t really look that narrow).

The cyclist might also be counting on the fact that his road bike could match the speed of a truck at 40-50 km/h, and wanted to get up to speed after crossing the traffic junction.

But in all fairness, there are errant cyclists who blatantly flout traffic rules and pose a risk to themselves and others by cycling erratically or dangerously on the road.

Then again in this case, it seems to me that the cyclist wasn’t wilfully breaking traffic rules.

Even though he did commit an offence by damaging the truck’s side mirror, he did so only after having been honked at and probably thinking that he was bullied by a bigger vehicle.

Regardless of his intentions, the way the cyclist responded in anger is inappropriate, and so is the truck driver’s subsequent act of swerving into the cyclist.

It seems that the cyclist has become the scapegoat of the town because after the incident, he has been mocked by the society at large.

Nevertheless, I believe that all things work together for good because the news and the discussions that follow help create a better awareness of road safety and etiquette for motorists and cyclists.

In fact, a day after the incident, I could hardly hear any honking while I was cycling on the road doing food delivery.

Conclusion

In retrospect, cyclists have all along been marginalised in society because they are neither welcomed by many pedestrians on the footpaths nor by many motorists on the roads.

They are often treated like outcasts, and when they stand up for their right to be on the road, they are seen as entitled and selfish by many other road users.

But cyclists must continually find ways to speak up and make known their concerns and challenges because no one else truly understands their struggles.

They also need a safe space to talk about and process their experiences in dealing with road bullies, so that they can manage how they deal with challenges better when cycling.

Having said that, it is important for cyclists to exercise care and responsibility, not only for their own safety and well-being, but also for others’ at all times.

Nature is free and abundant

(Picture sources: Google)

Nature is free and abundant.

When it rains, Nature provides an umbrella in the form of a banana leaf free of charge.

All of us have equal access to the benefits of Nature.

Nature does not discriminate anyone.

You don’t need to pay anything.

You only need to take care of the environment, and Nature will take care of you.

Conserve the forest, and the forest will preserve you and your posterity.

We and Nature are one and interconnected.

Why I choose to support Black and indigenous communities

“To be black is to always be in the wrong place at the wrong time because, in America, there is never a right place for black people.”

(“It’s not just Starbucks: White fear is an American problem” by Renee Graham)

I’ve had enough of White fear (and Asian anti-blackness, for that matter).

I need to stop supporting White businesses where possible.

I need to stop seeking validation and approval from Asians.

I respect them as humans but I wouldn’t place my deepest trust in them.

They ultimately care only about themselves.

Most Whites care only about enriching themselves even if they want to sell and market stuff (including culturally appropriated ones) to the world.

Most Asians care only about saving their own faces even if they profess to be altruistic.

The only people who truly care about humanity and the environment are mainly Black people and indigenous peoples living in traditional, sustainable societies.

One cannot profess to love the environment if one is living with a racially discriminating mindset.

One cannot profess to love humanity if one is living an environmentally unsustainable lifestyle.

Both the love for humanity and love for the environment go hand in hand.

Case in point:

White people who claim to love animals and conserve Nature can be downright racist and anti-Black and anti-indigenous peoples.

Ever wonder why wealthy privileged White people are usually the ones who own pet dogs and live in private property close to Nature (after the indigenous peoples have been chased out of their natural habitats and have to live in public housing where they continue to experience structural and systemic racism)?

Furthermore, White people claim to love Nature when they colonise tropical islands such as Bahamas and Seychelles, but they reserve it exclusively for other rich White people by making it expensive for others to stay or visit.

Another case in point:

Asian people who claim to care about people by developing their lands can also be downright racist and destructive to the environment.

For example, Chinese people claim to help Africans develop their economies, but some of them came to poach wildlife and smuggle them out of Africa for profits.

Indigenous peoples in Asia, Americas and Australia are also facing discrimination and marginalisation when they are uprooted and displaced from their homelands and are forced to live in capitalistic cities and adapt to unnatural and unsustainable lifestyles like the rest of the urban crowd.

To my Black sisters and brothers, I am sorry for the way you have been discriminated and marginalised around the world.

We have failed you, and acknowledge you deserve to be treated equally, and you deserve to be credited for paving the way for racial disparity discourses.

P.S. The above are strictly my opinions and do not represent any organisation or country.

P.P.S. I am making some generalisations to prove my points, and my general observations are based on reality as I experience it.

P.P.P.S. This author is a Chinese born in Asia speaking a colonial White people’s language, who is coming to realise his indebtedness and connectedness to Motherland Africa and Africans as well as indigenous peoples.

The big picture by Jason Silva

“There’s a great anecdote about the very first photograph taken of earth from the vantage point of space.

The idea was that this photograph occasioned a profound shift in the understanding of ourselves.

You see, for the first time in human history we could look back at our planet in its entirety and see the big picture.

This provided an ontological awakening, it changed our story, our narrative, it upgraded our self-image and expand our consciousness, new maps for new realities as they say.

Astronauts in orbit call this experience the overview effect.

A boundary-shattering sense of revelation and global interconnectedness where we shake off our petty differences and emerge with a sense of global responsibility, global consciousness, and global citizenship.

Carl sagan’s famous “Pale Blue Dot” film echoed this same idea.

From the vantage point of space, there are no lines dividing nations, no geographic subdivisions, no flags or racial divides or disputed territory.

There is only earth, a single celestial body teaming with life, the womb in which we dwell.

Yet the fact is our historically myopic view, most certainly our limited perspective has resulted in much animosity.

We have all too often organized ourselves into competing hostile tribes subjugating each other for land and resources and misrepresenting the big picture into a story of borders, subdivisions, and dividing lines.

Too much hostility and not enough empathy and compassion.

Cultural differences, religion, tribes, nation, race, these are created expressions and variations that should and could be celebrated.

Instead, they have become symbols that are all too often used to create suffocating boundaries.

They are increasingly ill-conceived to address the challenges of a hyper-connected global world.

As advancements in technology and information enable greater mobility of ideas goods and people, the role of the physical boundary has shifted and due for an upgrade.

Conflicts remain and too many people are restricted access to the increasingly fluid means of migration, transportation, and movement.

Migration has always been a defining factor of the human experience.

Migration has and continues to touch all nations, cultures, and regions, all peoples on the planet.

Migration has been the seed at the heart of thriving societies accelerating the dissemination of knowledge and ideas.

Restricting migration is ultimately like restricting the flow of ideas and much the same way that we don’t tolerate censorship or book-burning we might consider the ways in which restricting the free movement of people can be equally punishing to the idea of human flourishing.

The desire to become a global citizen is human, we all have it and we all share the same goals for safety comfort and prosperity for our families.

Some are fortunate enough to be able to invest in a second residence and citizenship while others are forced to seek asylum for their survival.

Being a global citizen is also about the strong and the wealthy helping the weak and the poor.

As we saw with the global citizen tax initiative, border disputes, conflict zones, armed borders, these are things that persist and need to be addressed.

We need a new story, a new lens with which to address these inconsistencies we need to scale up to unleash a truly global citizenry.

Exchanging ideas, beliefs, goods, and services.

It has been said that empathy rarely extends beyond our line of sight and so perhaps it is by extending our gaze using marvelous new storytelling tools like virtual reality that we can bridge divisions and bring worlds together ushering a form of radical empathy, to see the other as ourselves, where boundaries are dissolved and compassion reigns supreme.

A massive transformation of consciousness a software upgrade for mankind birthing a new kind. ”

– Jason Silva

Introduction to my new website and Facebook group

To all my readers and followers,

Happy New Year. May 2018 be your best year so far.

Recently, I have created a new WordPress blogsite called Jimmy’s evergreen glen and glade. Thank you for reading and following my posts here so far. In future, I will be posting more often in my new blogsite, though I may still post here on environmental issues from time to time.

My new website introduces who I am and what I do for a living; namely writing, editing, photography and video-storytelling.

You are welcome to drop by and read and subscribe to my new blogsite, where I share my life stories, reviews on workshops, and so on.

And if you would like to get free tips on basic writing and editing English, do check out my new Facebook group “Write Better with Jimmy Tan“.

Hope to see you on the other side/site.

Questioning the western colonial perspective in Geography education

Do you know that we study Geography mainly through a Western colonial lens?

Despite many years of Geography education in schools, we are still tackling recurring social and environmental issues around the world.

Poverty, inequality, environmental degradation, climate change – to name a few.

Something must be amiss in the way we approach our understanding of Geography.

How can we address the shortcomings or limitations of our Geography education system and mindset?

Transitional Monsoon rain in Singapore

Yesterday I posted on Facebook about the shift from southwest monsoon to southeast monsoon in Singapore originating from Sumatra, Indonesia. The transition from southwest monsoon in June-July to northeast monsoon in December-January appears to happen around September.

This morning, torrential rain brought by prevailing winds from Sumatra (otherwise known as Sumatra squall) came visiting Singapore again. Though the wind directions in Singapore shown in the weather app by National Environment Agency appear haphazard, the rain seems to be moving from southeast to northwest, as shown below.

How will this knowledge help us?

For me, it can help me plan my route if I want to cycle from the western towards the central or eastern part of Singapore during this time. I can ask myself: Which route shall I take to avoid the brunt of the storm as much as possible? When would be the best time to start my journey?

Two issues on Geography education (in Singapore and UK)

  1. Eurocentrism

As Singapore Geography adopts the Cambridge syllabus, it is inadvertently Eurocentric in many ways.

That means students will be studying Geography through Eurocentric lens. Their understanding would be shaped by Eurocentric upbringing, experiences and perspectives.

While it is somewhat inevitable that we are ethnocentric in our outlook of life, it helps us to be aware of how we perceive cultures that are beyond our personal experiences, so that we don’t impose on our own values and belief systems onto them, and we don’t project our own bias and prejudices onto them.

Students also need to keep in mind not to subscribe stereotypical views about certain countries. For example, a photo of Dhaka, Bangladesh, shows a crowded city on page 72 of the UK geography textbook Interactions, but it doesn’t represent the whole country.

These may be highlights to the world, understandably so, and due to the sheer diversity of people and cultures, some amount of representations and generalisations have to be made, in order to not be overwhelmed by too much information packed into one book.

What do I mean by “Eurocentric”?

“Eurocentric” as in the system and mindset we grew up in, which includes:

  • We are defined and separated by our national and racial identity.
  • We live in a Western-based monetary capitalistic system (as opposed to barter trade etc).
  • We communicate through the medium of English language.
  • We judge what is considered normal through our own culture and lifestyle, eg a life in which we grow up, study, work, get married and retire etc is considered “normal” and mainstream.
  1. Inquiry approach vs Examinations

Therefore, as we seek to tackle Eurocentrism, the enquiry approach comes in as a methodology to ask ourselves why we perceive things as they are, so that we can understand that how we perceive things is a reflection of how we perceive ourselves as we are.

The enquiry approach opens the door to understanding the world wide, so much so that it leaves questions open-ended, to the extent there is no right or wrong answer to every question.

But the challenge is how to do well in exams if we apply the enquiry approach to learning and understanding Geography.

After all, exams is about getting “right” answers and scoring high marks for being able to conform to the norms and standards of the exam papers. Anything that is deemed outside the norms may not get any mark, even if the answers are interesting and insightful.