Why Bukit Batok Hillside Park should be spared from housing development

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The dense secondary rainforest in Bukit Batok Hillside Park serves as a natural habitat and safe haven for our dwindling numbers of wildlife residents and plants (of which 10 species have been identified in the EIA report to be of conservation concern).

The Housing and Development Board (HDB) has engaged an environmental consultancy firm to conduct an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) on Bukit Batok Hillside Park in the western region of Singapore.

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Aerial view of new BTO flats in Bukit Batok West from Bukit Batok Hillside Park
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Ground view of Bukit Batok Hillside Park, which is sandwiched between the new BTO flats in Bukit Batok West and the existing HDB flats in Bukit Gombak.

According to HDB’s website, they “carefully consider the findings from the studies so that (they) can sensitively plan the land use and make adjustments to the Master Plan if needed to mitigate the potential impact, and establish urban design strategies to provide a quality living environment.”
While I commend HDB for initiating the environmental study in their proposal to build more housing units, I have several concerns about the potential impacts of deforestation in Bukit Batok Hillside Park:

  1. Loss of biodiversity and natural heritage
  2. Risk of soil erosion and landslides
  3. Loss of natural cooling effect and increase in urban heat effect
  4. Loss of cultural and historical heritage
  5. Loss of connection to Nature and increase in stress and anxiety associated with urban claustrophobia
  6. Increase in dengue fever cases due to conditions favouring increased reproduction of disease-carrying mosquitoes
1) Loss of our biodiversity and natural heritage in the western region of Singapore

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Oriental Whip Snake in Bukit Batok Hillside Park, which is endemic in Southeast Asia

During a short hike in and around the forest of Bukit Batok Hillside Park on 5 July 2020, I spotted several animal species, such as oriental whip snake, greater racket-tailed drongo, white-crested laughing thrushes, black-naped orioles, yellow-vented bulbuls, and insect species such as dragonflies and butterflies.

These are merely a fraction of the 81 fauna species recorded in the EIA (and there may be more species that have yet to be discovered during the 9-day wildlife survey). The presence of predators such as snakes suggests a fairly complex food web in this fragile secondary forest ecosystem, which is still recovering from past human disturbance.

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Bukit Batok Hillside Park faces the disappearing Tengah forest opposite Bukit Batok Road.

Since Tengah forest nearby is currently being cleared to make way for new homes, most of the wildlife there will have nowhere else to escape to, since it is bounded by expressways in the north and west, and by roads along Choa Chu Kang housing estate in the east and along Bukit Batok and Bukit Gombak housing estates in the south.

Some birds may be able to fly across Bukit Batok Road from the disappearing Tengah forest to take refuge in Bukit Batok Hillside Park. However, if the forest in Bukit Batok Hillside Park were to be destroyed too, then there would be a huge loss of the existing biodiversity in this region. This is because Bukit Batok Hillside Park serves as the last remaining node of connectivity between Tengah forest and the forested areas in Bukit Batok town park (Little Guilin), Bukit Batok nature park and Bukit Timah nature reserve.

wildlife-corridor-map

With Tengah Forest looking set to disappear in about 10-20 years’ time due to housing development, Bukit Batok Hillside Park is the last remaining refuge for the wildlife in this region. (Source: Google Maps)

Although the upcoming Tengah town is designed to have “forest corridors“, they will be closely intersected by roads, pavements and cycling tracks. These do not allow the animal residents to move freely, unlike in a real forest setting such as in Bukit Batok Hillside Park, where they can go about their daily lives – eating, mating, reproducing, sleeping, etc – undisturbed by human presence.

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Bukit Batok Road and the new BTO flat construction site pose a challenge for the native ground-moving animals, such as the critically endangered Sunda pangolins, to cross safely from the diminishing Tengah forest to Bukit Batok Hillside Park.

Like Dr Ho Hua Chew, vice-president of Nature Society (Singapore), said, “some species of birds, such as parakeets, eagles and others that can fly longer distances, will be able to use the fragmented patches of forests as stepping stones from the Tengah forest to Bukit Batok Nature Park or the nature reserve and vice versa”. On the other hand, he is also concerned that “wiping out the vegetation (in the Bukit Batok area) further disrupts the route that wildlife can use to move from forest to forest”.

2) Steep slopes prone to soil erosion and landslides in Bukit Batok

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The steep slopes of Bukit Batok Hillside Park are prone to soil erosion and landslides, especially if the protective tree cover is removed.
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Fragile topsoil exposed in a gully in the forest of Bukit Batok Hillside Park

Bukit Batok is blessed with several small forested hills and ridges, which thankfully have helped the town retain its overall green appearance for the most part, compared to most other towns in Singapore. Thanks to their steep slopes, some of these forested hills, such as Bukit Batok neighborhood park along Bukit Batok Street 21 and the hills surrounding Bukit Batok MRT station, have escaped urban development so far.

Hence, I find it inconceivable that Bukit Batok Hillside Park is being considered for housing development, since the steep slopes, especially those adjacent to Bukit Batok West Avenue 2, are prone to soil erosion and landslides if the vegetation cover is removed. The seasonal monsoon rains and late afternoon thunderstorms, which are common in Singapore, add to the risk of natural hazards such as landslides. It is also dangerous and expensive to construct buildings on steep slopes, hence Bukit Batok Hillside Park is not ideal for housing development.

3) Loss of natural cooling effect of forest and increased urban heat effect in the western region of Singapore

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The tropical rainforests in the western region of Singapore help to lower the temperatures in towns such as Bukit Batok, whereas the highly built-up areas in the central and eastern regions of Singapore, such as Toa Payoh, experience significantly higher temperatures. (Source: weather.gov.sg)

According to HDB’s website, “greenery is present in every HDB estate. It helps to reduce temperatures and mitigate heat while improving air quality and biodiversity, besides being pleasing and attractive.”

I agree with that. I would like to add that sizeable forested areas, such as Bukit Batok Hillside Park, help to reduce temperatures in housing estates much more effectively than roadside trees and fragments of ornamental vegetation in town parks in highly built-up areas, such as Toa Payoh.

For example, when I was staying in Toa Payoh in central Singapore, where I grew up in from 1973 to 2014, I could feel the warm humid air on most nights. This is because Toa Payoh is located in a highly built-up environment with fragmented vegetation and lack of a dense forest. After moving to Bukit Batok in the western region of Singapore in 2014, I could feel the difference in temperatures, as the air is cooler on most nights. This is because of the presence of dense forests in and around Bukit Batok.

In fact, the above map shows that on average, the night-time temperature in Bukit Batok is about 1.5 degrees Celsius cooler than that in Toa Payoh. Now that Tengah forest is disappearing and becoming more and more fragmented due to deforestation for housing development, it is likely that the surface temperatures around the neighbourhood of Bukit Batok will rise gradually.

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A loss of the dense forest in Bukit Batok Hillside Park will lead to a loss of natural cooling effect and a rise in urban heat effect in the neighbourhoods of Bukit Batok West and Bukit Gombak.

If the forest in Bukit Batok Hillside Park is removed too, then the temperature in the neighbourhood will rise further due to the loss of cooling effect of the dense tree growth. With an increase in urban heat effect, there will likely be an increase in electricity consumption, due to higher usage of air conditioning in homes, especially on warm, stuffy nights. The increased heat will be exacerbated by the ongoing global warming climate, which will inevitably result in more physical discomfort and stress for the residents in the coming years.

In addition, the quality of air is likely to deteriorate if Bukit Batok Hillside Park is sacrificed for housing development, due to increased motor traffic around the vicinity and less natural vegetation to filter air impurities or toxic chemicals and reduce air pollution.

4) Loss of cultural and historical heritage in Bukit Batok

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An abandoned well in Bukit Batok Hillside Park, which has historical and cultural significance

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Relics of a former settlement and plantation, such as ceramic ware, in Bukit Batok Hillside Park have historical and cultural values.

As Singapore becomes more and more modernised, our younger generations face the danger of losing touch with our history, cultures and traditions. According to the EIA report, Bukit Batok Hillside Park comprises a former rubber plantation, with natural freshwater streams, which are rarely seen in Singapore today.

Hence, not only is the forested area worthy to be conserved for natural heritage, it is also worthy to be preserved for having historical and cultural significance. For example, the abandoned well and other relics in Bukit Batok Hillside Park can serve as useful tools for educating the public about Singapore’s history in an authentic setting (like how the abandoned kampong houses in the former Hainan Village are now preserved for public education in Thomson Nature Park).

5) Loss of connection with Nature and increased stress and anxiety associated with urban claustrophobia felt by people

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The intriguing remains of a rocky trail in Bukit Batok Hillside Park are worth preserving, not only for their aesthetic value, but also for enabling visitors to explore and experience the forest as part of nature therapy.

An article by NParks noted that forest therapy helped people to relax, destress and often, enabled them to feel happier and more positive.

“A mental and emotional boost, you may say. And scientific research backs this up.”

– “Urban Forest Therapy in Singapore” by NParks

Moreover, a scientific study “reported that individuals’ positive moods increased significantly inside a forest than outside it or at its periphery, whereas their negative moods increased outside the forest.”

Hence, if the forest in Bukit Batok Hillside Park is destroyed for housing development, it will increase the likelihood of the residents losing connection with Nature, which in turn can be detrimental to their physical, mental and emotional health and well-being in the long run.

6) Deforestation can lead to an increase in dengue fever cases

Dengue cluster map

In July 2020, the dengue clusters are mainly concentrated in highly built-up areas in central and east Singapore, where people live around fragmented vegetation spots in deforested areas. (Source: NEA)

The above map shows that dengue fever cases are fewer in the western region of Singapore, including Bukit Batok, where there are dense forested areas nearby, such as Bukit Batok Hillside Park, Bukit Batok nature park and Bukit Timah nature reserve, which are relatively undisturbed by humans.

Notably, an academic research paper reported in 2016 that “a growing body of scientific evidence shows that the felling of tropical forests creates optimal conditions for the spread of mosquito-borne scourges, including malaria and dengue.”

Similarly, a Straits Times article reported in 2019 that the ecological history of deforestation in the Philippines – followed by urbanisation, the further degradation of our forests and climate change – continues to explain the tenacity of dengue in the country.

Hence, it is imperative that the authorities take drastic steps to stop or minimise deforestation as much as possible, in order to curb the current dengue outbreak in Singapore, which has become the worst outbreak in recent history.

My Proposed Alternatives
In view of my concerns described above, may I propose the following alternatives?
First, we can consider reinstating Bukit Batok Hillside Park as an enhanced nature park with educational trails and conservation zones.
Second, we can choose to focus on recycling or redeveloping brownfield sites (such as old or disused developed areas) instead of clearing greenfield sites (such as Bukit Batok Hillside Park) for future housing development, as also suggested by HDB CEO Dr Cheong Koon Hean in her IPS-Nathan lecture in 2018.

“Similar to many mature cities, as we become built up over time we will be left with more brownfield rather than greenfield sites. This requires us to shift progressively into an ‘urban redevelopment/regeneration’ mode.

For an island city-state limited by our territorial waters, available land for new development will come mainly from ‘recycling’ existing land and properties.”

– Dr Cheong Koon Hean, HDB CEO (IPS-Nathan lecture, 2018)

Last but not least, we should definitely review our national development master plan, since The Straits Times reported on 3 July 2020 that “recent trends ensure that Singapore’s population will be significantly below 6.9 million in 2030″. Surely we don’t really need to keep destroying our few remaining valuable forests for housing development, given that our population is not expected to increase as quickly as we had once thought?

Conclusion

In summary, by sparing Bukit Batok Hillside Park (and other greenfield sites) from deforestation for housing development and by choosing to develop brownfield sites instead, we can achieve the following benefits:

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The residents of the new and existing flats in Bukit Batok West and Bukit Gombak will appreciate having Bukit Batok Hillside Park for recreation and outdoor education on nature conservation.
“We recommend the conservation of these secondary regrowth forest patches as they are, as refuges for nationally threatened native species, which make up about 20% of the species we recorded in each forest patch (namely, Bukit Batok Hillside Park, Bukit Batok Town Park, Bukit Batok Nature Park and Bukit Batok East Forest).”
(Source: The Vascular Plant Flora in Bukit Batok, Singapore by National University of Singapore, 2013)

My concerns about the plans to build a direct underground MRT tunnel underneath MacRitchie rainforest in Singapore

Several days ago, I emailed Land Transport Authority (LTA) of Singapore to voice my concerns about the plans to build a direct underground MRT tunnel underneath MacRitchie rainforest in Singapore, as follows.

Dear sir/madam,
I am writing to provide my feedback on the cross island line construction.
I am concerned about the environmental impact on the central nature reserve that may be caused directly or indirectly by the direct alignment option.

Such impact can be detrimental to both wildlife and natural vegetation in profound ways that we may yet fully understand.
Below are my specific concerns:
1. NParks signboards state that we are only guests in the fragile nature reserves, and we should preserve it for ourselves and future generations. Therefore, no construction works should be carried out within the central nature reserve, even if they are deep underground or along the periphery of the rainforest.
2. NParks also states that any noise within the zone will affect sensitive wildlife in the central reserve. Please see attached screenshot. We cannot guarantee that the construction works won’t generate noise or vibrations, whether they are carried out along the forest fringes or underneath the forest floor, even if it mainly comprises hard rocks underground.
3. We cannot totally rule out the possibility of any tunnel accident or collapse, whether during or after construction. The Nicoll highway MRT tunnel construction accident is a cautionary tale for us. In the event of an accident or incident in an underground tunnel below the nature reserve, any rescue work will likely affect the nature reserve, especially if a shaft needs to be bored deep into the earth, like in the case of the dramatic rescue of the Chilean miners some years ago.
4. Last but not least, we cannot fully ascertain the vastness of the underground hot spring around Sembawang. I believe there is a reason why the existing MRT tracks are built above the ground along the North-South line between Kranji and Bishan MRT stations. It is possible that the northern and north-central parts of Singapore may have hot underground reservoirs, which may extend to the area between Lower Peirce reservoir and MacRitchie reservoir. If so, it would be dangerous for any kind of deep underground construction works to be carried out in this region. Please see attached diagram for reference.
The nature reserves are the only remaining primary rainforest and wildlife habitat we have left in Singapore. With the ongoing development works that have been destroying other green spaces including Bidadari, Lentor and Tengah forest, we cannot afford to risk losing or affecting the last vestiges of our original forests. They are our most important natural heritage, and they serve as our green lungs, refuge for our wildlife residents and sanctuary for our soul.
Thank you for your kind attention and I look forward to your positive response.

I then followed up with a second email to LTA.

Dear Sir/Madam,

In addition to my first email, I would like to add the following point.
While LTA may be concerned about time and cost factors, as stated in the EIA report, my stance is that no amount of time and money can recover or compensate for the potential loss and/or disturbance of the fragile biodiversity.
A case in point:
Years ago, Singapore built Bukit Timah expressway that divides between Bukit Timah nature reserve and Central nature reserve, which invariably affects the migratory routes and long-term survival of our native wildlife species.
As a result, we recently have had to spend enormous amounts of money and resources to build an Eco-link to hopefully restore some amount of ecological balance in the nature reserves.
Isn’t it better to leave the natural ecosystem untouched in the first place instead of creating disturbance and then spending even more time and money to rectify the situation?
Finally, there is no doubt that LTA wants to enhance the mobility and convenience for people in Singapore even further by building the cross island line.
But we have to bear in mind that many, if not all, of our native wildlife species, which we share our home with, are not as resilient or adaptable as us human beings in the face of rapid urbanisation, as shown in the innumerable cases of wildlife species being driven to extinction around the world by unsustainable development and environmental degradation over the years.
The following is the reply I received from LTA.

Dear Jimmy,

Thank you for your interest and feedback on the Phase 2 Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for the Cross Island Line (CRL).

During the EIA study process, measures to avoid or reduce impacts associated with the proposed alignment options were prioritized. This has led to the placement of worksites as far from the primary forest patches within the CCNR as possible. For both direct and skirting alignment, there will not be any surface construction works or above ground structures within the CCNR. Railway construction and operations, including and not limited to emergency procedures and escape provisions, will conform with current codes of practices and operational requirements in the existing MRT lines.

Measurements were undertaken to establish the vibration baseline levels within the CCNR, and vibration generated from tunneling activities were assessed to be below the baseline vibration levels that are currently experienced by wildlife. As a precautionary measure, LTA will carry out vibration monitoring during the tunnelling works to ensure the levels are kept below the baseline levels. The vibration levels generated during railway operation were assessed to be even lower than those generated during construction, it is therefore not expected to give rise to impacts to wildlife within the CCNR.

In view of the value and sensitivity of the forest habitat, LTA will be exploring further means to optimize the worksite footprint at the Advanced Engineering Study stage of the Project, so that site clearance can be minimized. In addition, LTA will be collaborating with NParks on reforestation plans to restore connectivity between forest fragments around the Project area. A comprehensive Environmental Management and Monitoring Plan (EMMP) to mitigate the impact has also been developed in consultation with various stakeholders. The EMMP will be a framework for monitoring and checking of mitigation measures, so that changes can be made to ensure these measures continue to remain effective throughout the Project construction.

Based on the EIA, both underground alignments for the CRL are feasible and the residual impacts are largely moderate or below. These impacts can be managed with mitigation measures. Thus far, the Government has not made a decision yet on the alignment option. In deciding on which alignment to adopt, the Government will have to consider the full range of factors such as travel time, commuter benefits, impacts on home owners and environment.

Once again, we thank you for sharing your views with us. Views and suggestions of different stakeholders will be taken into considerations for Government to make decision on the final alignment of the CRL.

There is no mention of my concern about the underground hot springs in their reply. I suppose they probably need to look into this matter first.

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.

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?

Circuses and our evolving consciousness

National Geographic has published an online photo gallery of the Ringling Bros Circus. I don’t remember following Ringling Bros Circus but I vaguely recalled having watched some circus shows on TV when I was younger. In today’s rising consciousness about animal welfare, changing lifestyles and perceptions and so on, it is perhaps understandable that circuses aren’t generally as popular as they were during their heyday.
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One vivid memory I had about circuses though is the book I read when I was in primary school called “Mr Galliano’s Circus” written by Enid Blyton. I remember I was struggling with learning English in Primary 1 or 2, and did not score well in English tests or exams, partly because I wasn’t well read at a young age. When I stumbled upon “Mr Galliano’s Circus” in the school library, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the language level was just right for me at that point in time, and I believe it marked a turning point for me to develop a love for reading story books, thanks to the intriguing premise of the story about a boy called Jimmy (the name sounds familiar) who embarked on an adventure when he got to travel with the circus with his parents.
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I googled about the book and found it interesting that a reviewer wrote the following

“But Mr Galliano’s Circus is also quite subversive. An ordinary family gives up their comfortable suburban life and joins the circus. Ultimately this is a book about freedom and escaping the rat race.”

For all the controversies surrounding circuses, I have to admit that circuses at that point in history probably would have developed from a different set of cultures, values and circumstances than that in the kind of modern societies in which I live. Back in those days, animals from the wild were seen as mysterious and taming wild animals was a wonder for people who grew up all their lives in urban concrete jungles to watch, and the circus life was seen as a source of entertainment and an escapade from the mainstream societal system that didn’t have iPads, YouTube and MTVs for instant entertainment.
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As much as I empathised with the wild animals such as lions and elephants that had to bear the ignominy and inconveniences of being confined in unnatural cages and subjugated to perform circus tricks, I have to understand that the people who grew up being involved in circus life didn’t know much better at that time, and through a rising consciousness about how we are all interconnected, we begin to understand a bit better about ourselves and others, and we begin to make positive changes and learn to make adjustments to create a better, more humane and equitable world…

Water pollution issue in Singapore

This is the original, unedited letter I emailed to Straits Time forum. It was published online on 8 September 2016, entitled “Don’t overlook rubbish in less-frequented areas“.

It has been said that Singapore is not so much a “clean” city as it is a “cleaned” city. I agree. On 23 August 2016, I saw lots of rubbish floating in the river next to Braddell bus depot. It must have been washed into the river from drains flowing through Bishan and Toa Payoh after a storm.
Polluted river canal
© Photographer: Jimmytst | Agency: Dreamstime.com

I highlighted the water pollution issue to PUB via OneService app, and three days later, I saw some workers cleaning up the river at Potong Pasir from the rubbish that we, as a society, have been littering or disposing of.

River cleaning
© Photographer: Jimmytst | Agency: Dreamstime.com

On 7 September, I revisited the river at Potong Pasir and noticed that the rubbish has reappeared after a pre-dawn downpour.

Polluted river
© Photographer: Jimmytst | Agency: Dreamstime.com

I think we tend to focus on having clean-looking waters in the more frequented areas such as Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park and Kallang Basin where residents and visitors hang out, but the less frequented areas are often neglected. Also, I doubt that the otters living in Kallang Basin would want to swim upstream back to Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park when there is rubbish floating in Kallang River that flows through the high-density populated areas.

We must realise that everything that we throw indiscriminately in the drains will end up in the rivers that flow towards the sea. But we are so preoccupied with our own lives that we fail to see the impacts of our inconsiderate actions. It is usually when a storm occurs that all these accumulated rubbish in the drains are washed into the rivers that we notice the full impact of our actions – unsightly flotsam, stinking water and eutrophication caused by algal bloom, all of which affect aquatic life negatively.

Are we going to continue to ignore the root of the pollution problem in our country and shirk our responsibility in keeping the environment clean by distracting ourselves through our consumeristic lifestyles and not caring about how we dispose of rubbish in public places? Are we only concerned with keeping up an image of living in a supposedly “green and clean city” by focusing only on the appearance of the more frequented areas and neglecting the less frequented areas? When we do not think about how our actions affect the animals, plants and the environment, our actions will ultimately affect ourselves adversely because we are all interconnected in the ecosystem.

Two days after my letter was published in ST Forum Online, I noticed the river at Potong Pasir appeared to have been cleaned up by the national water agency PUB (Public Utilities Board) as it looked cleaner, but this morning (13 September), I noticed the water pollution has recurred, as the river had floating rubbish and debris, presumably washed into the river from nearby drains after a storm had occurred the day before.

“Water in the Kallang River flows into the Marina Reservoir.”

(From PUB says water pollution at Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park “not likely to be kerosene”)

Enough is enough – something has to be done to deal with the persistent water pollution problem at its roots. We are all complicit in this violation against the environment, and ultimately against ourselves.

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Stubby squids and other mysteries

A National Geographic article shared by a colleague invites readers to watch a video of a googly-eyed sea creature that cracked up scientists. The purple stubby squid is intriguing indeed. I googled about it and found another video of this “muppet” swimming on the ocean floor.
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 The cartoon-like eyes of the squid make me wonder… who came up with the idea that big round eyes make for cute, cartoon-like creatures? Before the discovery of this squid with cartoon eyes, one would probably have thought that big round eyes are the invention of human cartoonists and muppeteers, which are often featured in cartoons ranging from Mickey Mouse to Dragonball to Sesame Street. But Mother Nature surprised us through this discovery, as if to proclaim that such big-eyed cartoon characters have always existed all along since time immemorial in real life – in the form of stubby squids and the like, way way WAY before such cartoons came on the scene through the invention of media like televisions and comic books in the modern world.
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Perhaps another mystery is… how did human beings conceive of big round eyes of a stubby squid when they first drew cute cartoon characters, long before they had ever seen such creatures in real life? Are we human beings an extension of the Universe such that we are all interconnected with all other living beings, and by some telepathy or mysterious soul imprints and mystical connections, we intuitively create works of art resembling some other creatures without knowing of their existence or seeing them before?
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Maybe there is something deeply profound in the imaginations of human beings, which may be a key to unravel the ancient mysteries such as pyramids, crop circles, UFOs, and so on…
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Meanwhile, life goes on… in a world where students are often told by the education system to not daydream and study hard so that they can work in a rank-and-file capitalistic system and live a nondescript life, while the mysteries of life continue to stay hidden in the deep recesses of human consciousness, unexplored and unexplained.

A visit to Lentor-Tagore forest 

Having been reading on Facebook about the impending development of Lentor area that will result in the destruction of forest and two natural streams, I decided to check out the area this afternoon in search of the elusive streams. 

But it turned out that I was a bit too late because when I arrived at Yio Chu Kang road via Ang Mo Kio Avenue 5, I saw that the entrance to the forest, where the streams were supposed to be, has been fenced off, and a portion of the forest behind a bus stop along Yio Chu Kang road has already been cleared. 

I decided to cycle around Lentor private housing estate, hoping to find another way to Lentor forest. The nearest I could get to the forest is via a canal near the junction of Lentor avenue and Seletar Expressway (SLE).

From the end of the canal, I could see heavy machinery clearing the forest. I found a path through the forest fringe that led me closer to the clearing. 

I decided not to venture too close to the clearing and turned back. I later circled round the area via Springleaf nature park in the north to the other side of the forest, hoping to find an entrance to the forest from Tagore Industrial Avenue. 

I managed to find a small entrance along the avenue, and walked some distance along the fringe of the Tagore forest. I came to the point where forest clearing was taking place in the south beside a stagnant-looking water body. 

Is that part of a natural stream? I wasn’t sure, and I didn’t want to trespass the construction site, and decided to hike in another part of the forest. I followed a track through Tagore forest that led me to SLE in the north. 

Apart from some wildlife such as a wild boar, a jungle rooster and munias, I didn’t see much in this area. There seems no signs of any natural streams. I suppose they are only found in the part of the Lentor forest that has been fenced off, which I wasn’t able to access. (Or maybe there is another entrance to Lentor forest that leads to the streams that I am unaware of, as I am unfamiliar with the area.)

I decided to call it a day, as evening was approaching. I cycled via Teachers’ Estate back to Ang Mo Kio Avenue 5, and took a lift up to the highest floor of a HDB block, and snapped some sunset pictures, showing an aerial view of the remaining forest next to Teachers’ Estate.

#BLM & #CLM: Being part of an oppressed group and standing in solidarity

#BlackLivesMatter and #CyclistsLivesMatter

I have come to realise that just as Black people, or darker-skinned people in general, are the most oppressed group of people on Earth when it comes to race and ethnicity, cyclists are the most oppressed group of people on Earth when it comes to the mode of transport or travel.

This realisation came to me recently while I was mulling over activism on social issues, particularly issues on anti-Black racism and anti-cyclist sentiments that have persisted for many years.

For a start, what do #BlackLivesMatter and #CyclistsLivesMatter have in common?

On the surface, both of these liberation movements seem unrelated and disparate because one has to do with race and the other has to do with the mode of transport or travel. But I would venture to say that both the Black community and cycling community have been subject to systemic oppression and inexplicable hatred from others for the longest time.

For the Black community, the age-old enemies have always been “micro-aggressions, white privilege and white supremacy“. Through centuries of white Euro-centric media propaganda as well as colorist traditions and mindsets in various parts of the world that favour white skin or fair skin over dark skin, the most sacred spaces in Black people are “often filled with stories of trauma, internalized racism and the struggle of self-love“.

Black Lives Matter Black Friday
Over the years, many of our Black brothers and sisters, though they were unarmed and innocent, have been subject to police brutality especially in USA. (Source: Wikipedia)

Similarly, for the cycling community, the enemies are usually prejudice, ignorance and classism. On pavements or sidewalks, cyclists are often unwelcome as they are seen as a menace or nuisance by many pedestrians. On roads, cyclists are also regularly harassed or bullied by many motorists who drive cars, taxis, buses or trucks.

cyclistslivesmatter
Cyclists often face hatred and resentment from motorists who do not care about sharing roads with those on bicycles (Source: Cyclists Lives Matter Facebook page)

Both the oppressed groups – the Black community and the cycling community – often feel like they don’t really belong to the societal system because they don’t fit into the perceived norms. They are also often subject to unfair or negative stereotypes.

For example, whenever the issue of anti-Black racism or police brutality on unarmed Black people is brought up on social media or discussion threads, someone would attempt to derail the conversation by mentioning some negative stereotypes such as Black-on-Black crime instead of acknowledging that the problem of racial discrimination and institutional oppression does exist. The irony is that Black-on-Black crime is a direct result of White supremacy and internalised racism. If not for White supremacy, would Black people (or people of colour in general) be struggling with internalised hatred towards themselves and towards one another?

Similarly, whenever the issue of anti-cyclist sentiments is brought up on social media or forums, someone would attempt to deflect from the issue by talking about errant cyclists who knock down pedestrians on sidewalks or who flout traffic rules on roads. While there will always be a handful of rude or inconsiderate cyclists who give the majority of cyclists a bad name, it doesn’t detract from the reality that cyclists in general are discriminated and not given equal space, whether on pavements or on roads.

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Standing in solidarity with the oppressed as one humanity, and as one family of brothers and sisters (Source: http://www.seattleglobalist.com)

Contrary to negative colonialist views of Black people, Africans and African Americans in general are some of the most amazingly warm, humane and hospitable people in their own right. They have contributed to many important inventions and shaped the American culture, and they excel in art, sports, music and entertainment, to name a few. Without Black musicians, for example, there would be no rap, R&B, rock and roll, and soul music as we know and hear them today.

Similarly, cyclists are changing the world for the better in a number of ways. They take up less space and help ease traffic congestion on roads. They are environmentally friendly, as compared to motorists driving greenhouse-gas-emitting vehicles. Many of them also advocate a healthy lifestyle.

It is time for the world to acknowledge that Black lives do matter and cyclists’ lives do matter. It is also time for the world to stop subscribing to negative stereotypes of Black or darker skinned people as well as of cyclists and stop harming or killing them, and start appreciating them for who they are and how they contribute to the betterment of the world in their own ways and start standing in solidarity with them.

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Communicating with stones and crystals

I learn from kids rather than sophisticated and educated adults

Yes, kids who are free from societal programming can teach us much more than sophisticated and educated adults as they are still fresh from (I believe) a higher realm, having arrived on the earthly plane barely a few years ago, and they are naturally intuitive and curious about everything as they explore the new world with wide-opened wonder and awe, and express their innate nature of love uninhibitedly. It is also interesting to learn about how he listened to the crystals to form a crystal grid in which the crystals work together and charge one another to send healing energy to the world. I googled to find out more about listening to crystals speaking, and came across this informative post in a forum that says:

“Native Americans call rocks The Stone People, and also make reference to The Plant People, and The Animal People, etc. The differing vibrational qualities of each thing is the way it “talks.” And the effect of each vibrational quality is what heals us, and what we call, its “medicinal value.” Many people are also familiar with how the Animal People communicate with us (animal spirit guides, totems, power animals, etc.). They teach us by their examples, and show us how to nurture certain qualities they possess, that we also possess within ourselves. This is their communication, how they “talk” to us, and humans have had this dialogue with The Animal People for a very long time. …”