Thoughts on E-poll on Public Cleanliness for Sustainable Singapore Blueprint Review

I received an email from NParks Singapore that says:

“The Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources wants to hear from you on attitudes towards littering and what can be done to get everyone to come together to keep Singapore clean. Fill in an online survey at http://bit.ly/1qzxqEn. The survey will be open from now till 20 July.”

The following are my responses in the online survey.

1. What are the obstacles and motivations to not litter in public places?

The root cause of littering has to be addressed in order for the problem of littering to be adequately and holistically resolved. The consumeristic, capitalistic and materialistic mindset and pattern of the societal system has to change, and the connection between us and the natural environment needs strengthening.

2. What are the main influences that shape our attitudes towards littering?

We have lost sight of our connection to Nature. People are obsessed with running the rat race and competing with one another to buy the things they don’t need just to impress people who don’t care.

3. What can we, the Government and the community, do to change these attitudes?

Stop propagating the illusory dream of material wealth and prosperity, and start advocating an eco-friendly and sustainable culture to replace the buy-and-throw-away culture.​

Please refer to the video entitled “The girl who silenced the world for 5 minutes – YouTube” for more information.

To promote greater community ownership of our environment and to complement community initiatives, NEA also empowered members of the public for action against littering as Community Volunteers, who encourage their fellow residents not to litter. Based on feedback from the volunteers, they want to be able to do more. We are empowering them to enforce against littering. The volunteers could look after the cleanliness of a particular area and enforce against offenders where necessary.
4. What do you think of the Voluntary Enforcement Scheme?
(No comments)

On top of regular enforcement patrols, islandwide blitzes have also been conducted at littering hotspots to increase enforcement pressure at targeted areas and raise awareness of the problem of littering. There was also a pilot scheme of utilising surveillance cameras to deter littering at hotspots such as McCallum Street.5.What are your sentiments towards different types of enforcement approaches?

These approaches have their place, but they only address the symptoms of the problem of littering, much like putting a band-aid over the deep wound. We need to deal with the root of the problem, and it involves going back to Nature and living a sustainable and egalitarian life that benefits both humans and the environment. Please google “The Venus Project” for reference and inspiration. Thank you.

6. Are there ways we can leverage social media or such online community action to bring about our desired state of cleanliness, e.g. more avenues for enforcement, reinforcing positive social norms, or others?

It is really not about more enforcement. Having more laws only keep people in an infantile state of mind and discourage them to think for themselves. Real change begins when people learn to think for themselves and take responsibility for their own actions and not rely on outward regulations.

7. How can we improve enforcement methods? Should enforcement be stern or educational?

(No comments)

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Birke Baehr: What’s wrong with our food system?

“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.”

– George Orwell

Video information

11-year-old Birke Baehr presents his take on a major source of our food — far-away and less-than-picturesque industrial farms. Keeping farms out of sight promotes a rosy, unreal picture of big-box agriculture, he argues, as he outlines the case to green and localize food production. (Filmed at TEDxNextGenerationAshevillen.)

Birke Baehr wants us to know how our food is made, where it comes from, and what’s in it. At age 11, he’s planning a career as an organic farmer. Full bio »

Below is the transcript of the video.

Hello. My name is Birke Baehr, and I’m 11 years old. I came here today to talk about what’s wrong with our food system. First of all, I would like to say that I’m really amazed at how easily kids are led to believe all the marketing and advertising on TV, at public schools and pretty much everywhere else you look. It seems to me like corporations are always trying to get kids, like me, to get their parents to buy stuff that really isn’t good for us or the planet. Little kids, especially, are attracted by colorful packaging and plastic toys. I must admit, I used to be one of them. I also used to think that all of our food came from these happy, little farms where pigs rolled in mud and cows grazed on grass all day.

What I discovered was this is not true. I began to look into this stuff on the Internet, in books and in documentary films, in my travels with my family. I discovered the dark side of the industrialized food system. First, there’s genetically engineered seeds and organisms.That is when a seed is manipulated in a laboratory to do something not intended by nature — like taking the DNA of a fish and putting it into the DNA of a tomato. Yuck. Don’t get me wrong, I like fish and tomatoes, but this is just creepy. (Laughter) The seeds are then planted, then grown. The food they produce have been proven to cause cancer and other problems in lab animals, and people have been eating food produced this way since the 1990s. And most folks don’t even know they exist. Did you know rats that ate genetically engineered corn had developed signs of liver and kidney toxicity? These include kidney inflammation and lesions and increased kidney weight. Yet almost all the corn we eat has been altered genetically in some way. And let me tell you, corn is in everything. And don’t even get me started on the Confined Animal Feeding Operations called CAFOS.

(Laughter)

Conventional farmers use chemical fertilizers made from fossil fuels that they mix with the dirt to make plants grow. They do this because they’ve stripped the soil from all nutrientsfrom growing the same crop over and over again. Next, more harmful chemicals are sprayed on fruits and vegetables, like pesticides and herbicides, to kill weeds and bugs.When it rains, these chemicals seep into the ground, or run off into our waterways,poisoning our water too. Then they irradiate our food, trying to make it last longer, so it can travel thousands of miles from where it’s grown to the supermarkets.

So I ask myself, how can I change? How can I change these things? This is what I found out. I discovered that there’s a movement for a better way. Now a while back, I wanted to be an NFL football player. I decided that I’d rather be an organic farmer instead. (Applause)Thank you. And that way I can have a greater impact on the world. This man, Joel Salatin, they call him a lunatic farmer because he grows against the system. Since I’m home-schooled, I went to go hear him speak one day. This man, this “lunatic farmer,” doesn’t use any pesticides, herbicides, or genetically modified seeds. And so for that, he’s called crazy by the system.

I want you to know that we can all make a difference by making different choices, by buying our food directly from local farmers, or our neighbors who we know in real life. Some people say organic or local food is more expensive, but is it really? With all these things I’ve been learning about the food system, it seems to me that we can either pay the farmer,or we can pay the hospital. (Applause) Now I know definitely which one I would choose. I want you to know that there are farms out there — like Bill Keener in Sequatchie Cove Farm in Tennessee — whose cows do eat grass and whose pigs do roll in the mud, just like I thought. Sometimes I go to Bill’s farm and volunteer, so I can see up close and personalwhere the meat I eat comes from. I want you to know that I believe kids will eat fresh vegetables and good food if they know more about it and where it really comes from. I want you to know that there are farmers’ markets in every community popping up. I want you to know that me, my brother and sister actually like eating baked kale chips. I try to share this everywhere I go.

Not too long ago, my uncle said that he offered my six-year-old cousin cereal. He asked him if he wanted organic Toasted O’s or the sugarcoated flakes — you know, the one with the big striped cartoon character on the front. My little cousin told his dad that he would rather have the organic Toasted O’s cereal because Birke said he shouldn’t eat sparkly cereal. And that, my friends, is how we can make a difference one kid at a time.

So next time you’re at the grocery store, think local, choose organic, know your farmer and know your food. Thank you.

(Applause)

Below is a list of “five myths about genetically modified food” by Greenpeace.

542447_10151364300843908_878281230_n gmo myth

Thoughts on child rearing and family planning

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,

For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.

~Khalil Gibran

Newborn child, seconds after birth. The umbili...
Newborn child, seconds after birth. The umbilical cord has not yet been cut. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I like this poem by Khalil Gibran. Yes, children come through their parents but not from them, and children possess their own thoughts and their own soul, not their parents. While parents can have a hand in nurturing and guiding children especially at the initial stage of their growth and development, they need to allow freedom for their children to express their own authentic self and cultivate their own ideologies and belief systems.

On a similar note, I think the proverb “train up a child in the way he should go” has sometimes been used by religious parents to control their children and impose their ideologies on them, which is unfortunate. I learnt that the proverb actually meant in the original Hebrew to bring up children according to their natural bent or inclination (or individual gift). I think this interpretation is more in line with the wisdom in Khalil Gibran’s poem as it pertains to recognising each child is unique, and giving the child the space and freedom to express his or her unique personality and individual gifts. For example, whether the child wants to be a free thinker is up to them, and I admire parents who respect children’s rights and freedom to be themselves and think for themselves.

VHEMT Volunteers love babies as much as anyone else. “Having babies” is not so much the problem—having adults is what’s causing the problems. The environmental impact of disposable diapers is heavy, but we are adults much longer than we are children.

People who envision having a baby often forget that they are creating an entirely new human being who will leave in a few years as an adult.

Youth is a wonderful phase of life, whether it’s people, panda, or panther. It’s sad to imagine there being no more of any of them. A baby condor may not be as cute as a baby human, but we must choose to forgo one if the others are to survive.

Children’s welfare will improve as there are fewer of them to care for. Considering the future world we are creating for future generations, procreation today is like renting rooms in a burning building—renting them to our children no less.

Choosing to refrain from producing another person demonstrates a profound love for all life.

The Voluntary Human Extinction Movement (VHEMT)

Two adult Emperor Penguins with a juvenile on ...
Two adult Emperor Penguins with a juvenile on Snow Hill Island, Antarctica. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Yes, generally speaking, having fewer children enables parents to devote more time and resources on them and focus on providing for their needs better, given the constraints of the environment. It will also help in environmental conservation in the long run, especially when more families adopt this wise and sustainable approach to family planning. Even in the natural world, animals such as emperor penguins have built-in wisdom in family planning – they usually have only one kid during each breeding season so that the parents can devote their time and energy to look after their children until they are old enough to fend for themselves. This is vital since they live in Antarctica where food is only found in the seas, and the climate is very cold, and survival itself can be challenging. Humans can learn from the natural world and plan their own families accordingly, so as to ensure their future generations can have their needs met in the long run without putting a strain on the environment.

“The Emperor Penguin is perhaps best known for the sequence of journeys adults make each year in order to mate and to feed their offspring. The only penguin species that breeds during the Antarctic winter, it treks 50–120 km (31–75 mi) over the ice to breeding colonies which may include thousands of individuals. The female lays a single egg, which is incubated by the male while the female returns to the sea to feed; parents subsequently take turns foraging at sea and caring for their chick in the colony.”

(From Wikipedia)