Thanks to my hiking buddies, we had an immersive forest bathing experience, known in Japanese as “Shinrin-yoku” on 8 January afternoon.
The trees in the forest are truly our friends, as they provide shade, fresh air and immune-boosting phytoncides, even as they prevent soil erosion and cool the urban heat island effect, among many other ecosystem services.
I hope that the forest can be spared from further removal for BTO (Build To Order) housing development in this area, especially since the application rates for the BTO launches in Bukit Batok have been relatively low.
As noted in our feedback to the authorities last November:
“Although Bukit Batok Hillside Park area is relatively small and seemingly insignificant compared to other bigger forests in Singapore, it may well be our weakest link because any further disruption along this part of Bukit Batok nature corridor may irreversibly affect the safe movements of fauna (including pollinators and seed dispersers vital for our food security) between Western water catchment and Central catchment nature reserve.
The physical and mental well-being of our residents living in the vicinity is also at stake.”
P.S. A wild boar was seen by some of us at BBHP hill 2, which demonstrates that it most likely uses the forest here as an ecological corridor to move between Tengah forest and Bukit Batok nature park.
In view of our disappearing forests, I am learning to move beyond mere Nature appreciation to Nature conservation.
A plant observation or animal sighting becomes less of an academic exercise and more of an emergency exercise, in order for us to document as many species as possible, so as to (hopefully) protect them from being destroyed in the name of unrelenting development.
After all, undocumented flora and fauna species are like undocumented humans, who will stay invisible and marginalised and fall through the cracks of a discriminatory and dysfunctional dystopian regime.
As long as they are unnamed and unaccounted for, they remain unacknowledged, in spite of the intrinsic value they hold in the natural ecosystem.
Although they may be indigenous on this tropical island, they have become refugees in their own homelands, having been displaced by human migrants, no thanks to imperial colonialism in the 1800s and capitalistic nationalism since the 1960s.
Crass consumerism has resulted in certain “cute” wildlife and certain manicured gardens gaining celebrity status and being commodified for wealth and status, while other wildlife and unmanaged vegetation (such as in Tengah forest and Lentor forest) fall by the wayside.
It is an ongoing struggle for emancipation, as we seek to restore biodiversity in a holistic and sustainable manner, such that no one will be left behind.
Wild reflections on the nature of forests
As I wandered deep into the forest after finishing my shift and catching up on rest, I found myself wondering what Mother Nature could be telling me.
I am learning to keep my senses open and attuned to the quiet mysterious voice of Nature, allowing Her to be my teacher.
While I was sitting on a park bench and typing this post a while ago under the dimming evening sky, a beetle suddenly landed on my phone screen.
It gave me a startle, and I dropped the phone on my lap, and away flew the beetle.
Such an unpredictable encounter underscores the very nature of Nature – that there is always something new and/or unexpected to be revealed during a nature outing.
Perhaps the allure of the wilderness is not that we will eventually figure everything out, but rather that we will learn to embrace the unknown and accept the mystery.
After all, the whole forest is greater than the sum of its parts – it is much more than simply a certain area of the forest having an X number of species, or absorbing Y amount of carbon dioxide, or cooling the surroundings by Z degrees Celsius.
Instead, there is a certain X factor about wild Nature, which we cannot quite put our finger on but know intuitively that is important, if not indispensable, to our existence.
It is such that no high resolution photograph or video can fully encapsulate the experience of being in a wild forest – the sights and sounds in a nature documentary cannot capture the indescribable thrill of being there.
Unlike a garden that is arranged by human hands, a forest has no apparent order.
At the most, we can describe a forest by its structure, age, size, biodiversity, and so on, but is that all there is to it?
It is almost as if the forest has a way of unlocking the untapped potential and hidden primal memories from ages past, buried deep in our soul, which we would not have known had we stayed entrenched in a programmed modern society.
In other words, the forest may well be a mirror of who we really are, independent of the social identities and societal expectations imposed on us by the system.