“Counter-imagining the Dystopia” Photo Exhibit

My first forest experience was in MacRitchie forest during secondary school, which organised a cross-country run event every year.

Since the forest is part of the central catchment nature reserve, it is in no danger of being cleared.

Since then, I had taken forests in Singapore for granted.

It wasn’t until 2016 when I saw firsthand how one secondary rainforest after another was razed to the ground by bulldozers.

First was Bidadari forest, followed by Lentor forest, and then Tengah forest.

Then came news reports of roadkills and human-wildlife conflicts, mainly due to deforestation in Mandai, Punggol and Pasir Ris.

Finally, revelations of development plans in Bukit Batok hillside park area, Clementi forest and Dover forest in 2020 were the last straw that compelled many concerned citizens to advocate the conservation of our remaining forests.

Lately, as I revisited MacRitchie forest, I realised how fortunate it has escaped the axe, after having been regenerating from human disturbances 150-200 years ago.

As I survey the lush greenery, I hope that the photographs of this forest will inspire action to be taken to conserve and restore the forests outside of the nature reserves for climate resilience, biodiversity protection and public health management.

The OML photo exhibition hopes to bring together leaders who provide active resistance that challenge our social, cultural, economic, environmental, and imagination crises and open thresholds to foresee the shape of what can become possible.

One challenge of advocating nature conservation and environmental sustainability is not to fall into the doom-and-gloom fatalism (which I occasionally find myself meandering into).

Hence the need for “counter-imagining the dystopia”, which is the theme of this OML (One Million Leaders) Photo Exhibit, organised by NELIS Global.

The exhibit showcases visions of a more beautiful, compassionate, regenerative future that already exist.

After all, we live in a world where contradictions and paradoxes exist, as I have come to realise.

Whether we are for nature conservation or economic development, we find ourselves inextricably enmeshed between the two spheres.

For example, since we live in a monetary-based society, nature conservation advocacy work requires funding to be successful.

Similarly, no business can remain sustainable without relying on the regenerative nature of the natural environment.

Perhaps it is a matter of where the resources are channeled to.

For example, are they used to protect the environment, biodiversity and thereby our physical and mental well-being?

Are they also used to promote nature awareness?

On this note, I am glad to have my three photos – together with other amazing photos by other photographers – contributing to the success of the OML Photo Exhibit in Tokyo, Japan, which I learnt “was very well received”.

The online gallery is found here.

Their video, heartfully received by NELIS’s audience on the 5th of November, is helpful for their ongoing Web Expo awareness campaign this month.

Feel free to watch and share the link.

If you feel inclined to help support this Web Expo movement, may I invite you to share the post and/or purchase any of the photos in the online gallery?

By doing so, you will be supporting the OML Programs running worldwide (OMLA -Africa-; OMLATAM -Latinamerica-; OMLAS -Asia-; OML-MENA -the Middle East & North Africa-).

You will also be supporting the local doers, dreamers, and their communities or initiatives working towards “one world in harmony”.

P.S. For the purchase of each photo, 50% of the funds goes to NELIS/OML and 50% to the photographer.


Inter-University Environmental Conference (IUEC) 2022 – Conversations for change beyond SGP2030 (Perspectives on Energy Reset & City in Nature)

On 9 October 2022 (Sunday), I attended the afternoon session of Day 2 of the Inter-University Environmental Conference 2022. It is the largest youth-led sustainability conference in Singapore, jointly organised by students from the 8 major universities of Singapore.

The 2-day conference features 5 panel dialogues with representatives from 5 ministries, academics, and youth leaders to advance conversations about SG Green Plan 2030. (Picture credit: IUEC2022 Partnerships Team)

The conference facilitates focus group discussions, open debates and exhibitions with government representatives, youth leaders from our favourite organisations, and fellow participants.

The Conference Partnerships Team has kindly provided their bite-size booklet on all we need to know about the SG Green Plan.

During the Energy Reset dialogue, over 40 questions were asked by members of the audience for the panel speakers to answer.

The questions asked at the Energy Reset dialogue include the following:

How will Singapore decarbonize the economy that’s so reliant on $ from fossil fuels while we’re shifting away from using them ourselves?

how can singapore take accountability for the emissions it facilitates but isnt directly responsible for (e.g. refineries, airport)?

Nuclear power has become exponentially more safe and, in the near future, can become more compact. Does/should it have a future in Singapore?

Cross Island Line will be built under Central Water Catchment? Thoughts?

Singapore is considering nuclear energy. Do you think the market will consider nuclear energy as an alternative to fossil fuels (which are cheaper)?

is there any way we can pursue electrification without increasing demand for extractive, harmful mining practices around cobalt, lithium etc?

Is there room for nuclear power in singapore?

Has Singapore figure a solution for recycling solar panels that are implemented in the solarnova project

Why is nuclear fusion not currently used in the electrical energy generation industry ?

With Singapore’s current reputation as a massive oil hub, how can we become a profitable renewable energy hub with quick reduction on fossil fuel dependence?

How is the research and development for fusion reactors in Singapore?

it seems like energy reset will cause a significant impact on marine life, is there a way to go about energy reset without impacting biodiversity?

Are there solid plans for Singapore to de-emphasize car-based transport infrastructurally?

What needs to be done to mine lesser minerals to prevent exploitaton of Least Developed Countries by Developed Countries to achieve their climate goals?

Are there enough actions to incorporate solar into our electricity mix (XT’s not-pofma slide showed 3%), and what more can we do?

Electric bus fares are rising with other public transports. How can we encourage less carbon when fewer people are willing and able to pay for public transport?

German policy of $9 a month for trains feasible for SG?

Will hydropower be used in Singapore?

If dont import energy then get from where hah

Apart from taking public transport, how can individuals make a difference?

Is there any other alternative to making electric batteries? Since it does have negative impacts on the environment too (ocean pollution)

What are some of the strategies for demand reduction of energy?

How is SG handling the waste generated from the lithium batteries of EVs?

Why dont we dig up landfills to extract materials

Should reduction of energy (on industrial levels especially) have a bigger role in this conversation?

Is SG’s efforts to make the air-con more efficient? Eg, the bldg is so cold today & temp can be adjusted so that less energy is used & everyone feels comfotable

How can the government push for industries to reduce their energy use since they contribute the most? (edited)

Do you think investing in asteroid mining for resources would be a good alternative to mining for resources?

Seems like usage of energy is also a matter of choosing the less evil. In your opinion, what is that ‘less evil’ we can pursue more aggressively?

What are some ways the public transportation sector can increase efficiency and lower emissions in SG?

Does reducing our energy demands mean that progress as a whole country will be stunted for a bit given that there will be a transition phase which takes time

Technology is used to improve energy efficiency, but technologies are also the culprit of carbon emissions e.g. Data Centre, how do we strike a balance?

how do we change social paradigms that value and encourage private car ownership?

How will we prioritise forest conservation since extracting minerals for making electric vehicles etc via mining has environmental and human rights concerns?

are there any corporate governing bodies that could set net zero targets for shipping or energy usage?

Another environmental impact of EVS is the battery recycling. Does Singapore have a plan for that?

What can MOT do to encourage cycling as a mode of transport, like in some European countries?

What Singapore have done in energy reset? what can the youth do to make It better way for Singapore

What about tidal energy?

There are studies being conducted for the cross island line, on how it would affect the nature there, and it seems like it wouldn’t as it would be built deeper

Up next is a series of talks by panel speakers, Dr Shawn Lum, Mr Syazwan Majid and Mr Tan Kiat How, who offered various perspectives about Singapore as a City in Nature.

“City in Nature – The Orang Pulau Perspective” shared by indigenous islander Mr Syazwan Majid, Wan’s Ubin Journal

For example, we learnt that Singapore is more than just an island nation, for we are a nation of islands.

We also learnt about the plan by the Ministry of National Development (MND) for transforming Singapore into a City in Nature, with the help of community stewardship.

During the open debates at the foyer, the participants wrote their answers to pertinent questions about nuclear energy, forest conservation, and so on.

One of the questions at the open debates is:

“Should Singapore immediately halt all clearing of forests and large expanses of land (eg Dover forest/western catchment)?”

I wrote one of my answers as follows:

“Quality of green spaces matters, in terms of ecosystem services, biodiversity, ecological connectivity, etc (not just quantity), so forest conservation must be done in tandem with the one million tree planting programme.”

During the City in Nature dialogue, over 50 questions were asked by members of the audience for the panel speakers to answer. These questions include:

what are the various panelists’ opinions on otters and what actions should we take in response to the increasing prevalence of otters related interactions?

The key targets of the SG green plan mostly focuses on green spaces. Will there be more commitment to protect our blue spaces as well?

How do you negotiate between building new green spaces (e.g. the parks you mentioned) and keeping existing spaces (e.g. Dover Forest)?

How can cultural preservation work hand-in-hand with the city in nature movement?

Biophillia is great but what about making this functional i.e. biodiversity value of the space, ecosystem service valuation?

Do you think culture can be a double edged sword, and we should denounce certain activities we deem unsustainable, or should we trust it throughout ?

Hello! Do you think that planting multi-tier roadside verges will increase the chances of roadkill/wildlife-vehicle collisions?

what are consequences of focusing too much on tangible benefits of nature and ecosystem services? good for humans =/= good for wildlife

Is there space for indigenous people in Singapore?

Why don’t we talk about indigenous practises more in mainstream narratives of sustainability and living harmoniously with nature

How is “nature” being defined in City of Nature?

What can urban designers/ planners learn from indigenous ecological knowledge?

Are strips of park connectors, high-rise bound urban parks, and limited ecological complexity suffice in the greater plan of ecological connectivity?

What’s the definition of a park? Some “parks” are just one tree one bench one path

Is de-urbanization possible? Why look for nature based solutions instead of stopping the problem…

how can we bring singaporean to be more appreciate /self awareness more nature around us.

I work with architects, when they plan for nature areas, they ask ‘why care about the animals? They add no value to people’? How will we change this mindset?

What is your definition of nature? (edited)

will history/social studies in school change to teach young sgeans abt our indigenous roots?

Many of the forested areas are cleared for developmental purposes(e.g. punggol for housing) How can these tree cover be brought back in the now developed areas?

what plans are there for older buildings to integrate into nature (not just new-build ones to have green walls)?

Is there more or less native species in Singapore over the years?

Why not instead of greenery only, we can include farms ?

There is a concern for animals being extinct in the near future due to climate change and it’s effects. What work can we do to prevent this from happening?

Are we going to continue exterminating bees when green corridors attracting more bees to build hives closer to residents. Bee are Keystone species to ecosystem.

Otter populations will self regulate, pls otter-proof your house if you want to keep koi or other fishes

This building is an example of so much Aircon. Are we making any progress in this regard?

How can we encourage biophilia and expand parks while developing and our remaining secondary forests? How can we negotiate this tension?

Can we relocate beehive instead of exterminate by releasing toxic chemicals? How can we manage wild bees in a more sustainable way?

Will we consider reduced or negative economic growth to reduce the land use pressures?

Is there a possibility of mandating private developers and HDB to educate potential buyers of possible wildlife conflict in the area?

Are there any plans for food forests?

beyond gardens and parks, what interactions w nature will singaporeans have in the future?

How big of a priority do you think it is to maintain local biodiversity in its development journey? Considering land use for energy, defence, industrial etc

Some spaces are slated for development in a long time, but these secondary forests become homes for many wildlife. How do we mitigate the loss of these wildlife

Is there any available effort for sustainable fishing and harvesting practices?

Why do we need to exterminate bees when we can humanely rehoming them? They are important to our ecosystem?

Can we focus on conserving forests instead of just planting trees, as research shows 10 ha of forests can cool over 300 m, while rooftop gardens only up to 4 m?

How do you prepare people to live in our city in nature, including certain lifestyle adjustments they may have to make.

Does Singapore can achieve 100% greenery country in earth?

Can more people be taken through green spaces and nature on their commute to work or school? For example, MRT lines or shuttle routes going through them, quietly

what can sg’s current aquaculture R&D efforts learn from orang laut/other indigenous fishing practices?

Why is the EMMP tossed out the window when the development phase reaches landscapers and architects?

Other than ecosystem services, can we shift to value the biodiversity in a less-human centric manner?

As we become a city in nature, there will be many more encounters with wildlife. How can we manage potential human wildlife conflicts? (edited)

Why we cannot stick to nature rather than investing new technologies? By reducing, we can rather not use the technologies like before.

Would you consider more co-living typologies to reduce the need to develop land for residential buildings?

Is there any recent examples of Singapore heritage construction techniques embedded in modern real estate projects?

how do Singapore implement more VIA project or activities to spreading awareness of importance of city in nature

But bringng about green takes a lot of time. Eg, to grow trees. Is there anything that can be done?

By 2023 will there be more planting over the HDB flats? What can we expect by 2023 for City of Nature?

how to Singapore bring closer to children to let them know what’s is the important of greenery country.

With more natural green spaces, can there be more danger posed to people passing through, especially at night?

Can we conserve 50% of Tengah forest as it connects western and central catchment areas & has critically endangered species like pangolins, so to avoid ecocide?

How may we discern between real housing “needs” (eg long term homes) and superficial housing “wants” (eg selling BTO upon meeting 5-year MOP for quick profits)?

Kudos to the youths for organising and participating in this landmark environmental conference. May it inspire many positive changes to be made for our environment, flora and fauna, and ultimately our well-being.

My feedback to Housing & Development (HDB) on soil erosion and tree fall at Bukit Batok south hill, aka Bukit Batok hillside park hill 2 (via One Service)

Dear Sir/Madam,

Earlier today, I noticed that parts of Bukit Batok South Hill area (next to Bukit Batok hillside park) have been denuded of trees and shrubs, and the heavy monsoon rain has washed the exposed topsoil away, causing soil erosion.

Heavy monsoon rain causing soil erosion and tree fall at Bukit Batok south hill next to Bukit Batok hillside park area on 13 August 2022 morning

On a steep slope along Bukit Batok West Ave 9 opposite Block 467B, the clearing of vegetation appeared to have resulted in a tree losing its stability and falling onto the pavement.

Tree fall in a steep slope where shrubs and other plants have been removed

This is worrying not only because such tree fall may cause obstruction and potential injury to any passers-by, but also because the hills in Bukit Batok and Bukit Gombak have a long history of slope failures and landslides (in view of their geology, topology, etc, which make them vulnerable to the negative impacts of urban encroachment).

These hazards suggest that we have crossed the ecological threshold through rapid deforestation and urbanisation – please see here for reference on a recent slope failure at Bukit Batok Hillside Park.

Moreover, along Bukit Batok West Ave 5 opposite Bukit Batok Hillside Park area, the cleared land along the perimeter of the marshy grassland may have caused the pavement to be flooded more easily during wet weather.

The removal of vegetation along the perimeter of the marshy grassland reduces soil permeability and increases surface runoff during rain.

Even if the clearance of vegetation has been done to prevent overgrowth onto the pavement, it appears to have been done aggressively to the point where there is less tree and shrub cover to absorb the rainwater.

As this low-lying area was formerly a depression or valley between Bukit Batok South Hill and Bukit Batok Hillside Park before a road (aka Bukit Batok West Ave 5) was built to divide the two hills in 2018, it remains a freshwater marsh on both sides (which support a fairly rich biodiversity) and is also prone to flash floods.

May I urge the relevant authorities and agencies to keep any trimming or pruning of vegetation to a bare minimum in this area please?

This is to ensure that it will not affect the habitats of the wildlife (which include uncommon forest-dependent species such as red-legged crakes and copper-cheeked frogs, as recorded in the Environmental Impact Studies report) and it will also minimise incidences of flash floods, considering the fact that climate change is causing more frequent and more severe storms as reported in the news?

“As for rainfall, the IPCC said that in general, bouts of rain could become more intense and frequent with each additional degree of warming.”

From “IPCC report indicates Singapore could take bigger hits from climate change” (The Straits Times, 9 August 2021)
The excess water pooling on the pavement during and after rain causes the surface to be wet and slippery, posing a hazard for people

Incidentally, I reported a case via One Service recently, in which the slippery pavement along Bukit Batok West Avenue 5 has caused me to almost slip and fall down while travelling along the pavement. The puddles and flash floods in this area during wet weather may pose a hazard to other pedestrians, joggers, cyclists and food delivery riders who use the pavements.

Tree fall along Bukit Batok West Avenue 5, a likely result of edge effects and habitat fragmentation, where trees along forest edges experience increased wind exposure and other microclimatic changes

Last but not least, I learnt that NParks is currently covering several green areas (including Bukit Batok south hill and Bukit Batok hillside park area) and future parks in an environmental impact assessment (EIA) along Bukit Batok nature corridor, in line with its efforts to reduce fragmentation of habitats in Singapore.

“Mr Lee said that based on findings from the exercise, future environmental studies are expected to consider the ecological connectivity of the development site to other adjacent habitats.

Enhancement works in the nature corridor’s two parks will mainly consist of habitat restoration and other works that will help improve ecological connectivity, he added.”

From “Environmental impact assessment covering 122ha in Bukit Batok to start at end of year” (The Straits Times, 15 November 2021)

It would thus be inappropriate (and even unethical) to remove any trees along this critical part of the ecological corridor, which links Tengah nature way to Bukit Batok nature park and Bukit Timah nature reserve, especially while the EIA and ecological profiling exercise are still ongoing, as it would invariably affect the liveability of the environment and the biodiversity that depends on it.

Otherwise, the findings and results of the EIA may be skewed at the expense of the wildlife residents who live and move around here, as well as the human residents in Bukit Batok who have come to enjoy and appreciate the wild nature, the cool ambience, and the mental health and immune boosting benefits provided freely by the forests along Bukit Batok nature corridor, both now and for many generations to come.

Thank you for your attention.

Yours sincerely,
Jimmy Tan San Tek

P.S. My feedback was submitted through One Service bot in Telegram via the blog weblink due to space constraints, as I wasn’t able to submit it via One Service app due to technical issues.

Approximate locations of tree falls along Bukit Batok West Ave 5 and Ave 9 on 13 August 2022. (Source of base maps: One Service app, National Parks Board and Straits Times Graphics)

As within, so without: Soil and our mental well-being

During my lunch shift yesterday, I came across a banner saying “Save soil” in Little India.

This message speaks to me because I have been mulling over the subject on the environment.

Soil – a much-taken-for-granted entity that we have grown up with – is becoming rare, as Singapore becomes increasingly urbanised and concretised.

After gaining independence, Singapore was planned to be transformed “from mudflats to metropolis”.

Perhaps the need to survive in the capitalistic system might have caused its proponents to push for “economic development at all costs”…

even the costs of negative impacts on the climate, biodiversity, ecological connectivity, human well-being, and so on.

Just last Saturday, I attended a seminar on the mental well-being of our youths, organised by Red Dot United, between my lunch and dinner shifts.

A study shows that about 1 in 3 young people in Singapore has mental health symptoms.

One of the panel speakers, Elijah Tay, aptly summed up the different kinds of stress experienced by young people: studies stress, work stress, minority stress, and social stress (as a result of social injustice and climate crisis).

Incidentally, studies show hotter weather caused by human-induced climate change has adverse effects on mental health, such as causing aggression and anxiety, resulting in higher incidences of crimes and suicides.

I wonder how much the cases of crimes and suicides correlates with the mental health crisis experienced by our youths.

Research has found that for every 1C increase in monthly average temperature, mental health-related deaths increase by 2.2%. Heat waves also impact cognitive ability, increasing aggressive behaviour and violent crime rates. The best thing we can do to help ourselves and future generations is to act on climate change, say experts.” (World Economic Forum, 14 July 2022)

Given the complex nature of mental health issues, could we also address the issue of soil loss, which is related to a loss of forests and organic soil-based farms?

Science tells us that fat in soil bacteria can alleviate stress, hence could our youths lack exposure to wild green spaces nowadays?

In biblical times, a renowned teacher once taught about the four types of soil in the human heart: wayside, rocky, thorny and good ground.

Has the soil in our hearts become so hardened (or desensitised) or distracted to receive the seeds of grace that we become alienated from ourselves and Nature?

Could the inner condition of our humanity be manifesting as the outer condition of the environmental destruction around us?

Perhaps to resolve the stress in our society, we need to go within and allow the seeds of grace to grow and bear fruit in the good soil of our hearts.

On this National Day, may we remember to rely on Nature’s grace instead of our self-efforts or self-righteousness.

I hope we will restore our ancient soils and forests too for the sake of our well-being.

The densely growing trees in Tengah forest can cool the urban heat island effect more effectively and extensively than small parks and gardens.

One year after wild boar incident near deforested area at Pasir Ris Park

On this day, the mangroves are witnesses to the destruction that lay waste to the forest.

The echoes of the frightened wild boar escaping from its diminishing habitat reverberate till this day.

The sounds of the roaring wind from the sea appear to muffle the grating noise of the construction works.

From times past, the landscape has seen one forest patch after another flattened to become concrete blocks.

The wildlife inhabitants fled from one forest fragment to another, often invisible.

Until one day, when the last straw broke the camel’s back, one wild boar decided that enough was enough.

In its daze, it knocked down a human being along Sungei Api Api and fled.

The news broke the next day, and the reckoning of our self-destruction dawned on us.

No more deforestation, we tell ourselves and one another, for we have overstepped our planetary boundaries.

No more harm to our flora and fauna.

No more harm to our mental health.

No more damage to our warming climate.

No more damage to our ailing mangroves.

No more.

Reference: My Feedback on the survey on wild animals in Pasir Ris estate

ST Forum: Restrict use of petrol-powered blowers, mowers

I appreciate the inclusion of the ST file photo to my letter (30 October 2020), which illustrates aptly the detrimental noise of grass cutting in residential areas.

“The sound of petrol-powered leaf blowers and mowers can be heard clearly from as high as the eighth storey of a residential building.

With more people working from home these days, such noise affects concentration and adds stress, which is detrimental to mental health.

Already, a survey found that 61 per cent of those working from home reported feeling stressed, compared with 53 per cent of front-liners (More working from home feel stressed than those on Covid-19 front line, Aug 20).

These machines also harm our flora and fauna. For example, the leaf blower pollutes the air, stirs up lots of allergens and dust, and harms plants, micro-organisms and pollinators.

Similarly, the mower harms benign insects such as grasshoppers, and natural predators of mosquitoes such as frogs.

I urge the authorities to consider clean and harmless alternatives such as brooms and rakes for sweeping leaves, and restrict grass-cutting activities to only certain areas outside parks and housing estates.”

For an audio illustration of the jarring noise of a petrol-powered leaf blower, please view the video below.

Climate change: Time is of essence

It was a hot and stuffy night.

I woke up this morning at around 5 am, and cast a bleary eye on the phone to check the weather forecast.

It showed “28 degrees Celsius”.

“Ok, it is a bit higher than usual, but it seems to feel warmer than that,” I thought to myself.

I scrolled down the screen to check the humidity.

It showed “88 percent (feels like 33 degrees Celsius)”.

That explained why it felt like being under the hot afternoon sun, even though it was barely pre-dawn at this time.

Meanwhile, the table fan continued to whirl, doing little to cool the air around me.

I don’t recall Singapore getting this hot and stuffy, even at this time of the year.

I think that climate change is affecting us all at a faster rate than we might have expected.


Time is of essence.

A verse came to my mind later today.

“Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”

The psalmist who wrote that verse had prayed for a heart of wisdom by being taught to number our days.

I realised that once we learn to count our days, knowing that we have a limited time on earth regardless of our attempts to increase our longevity, we will learn to make each day count.

For many (if not all) of us, we would learn of the passing of a loved one or someone we looked up to, every so often.

I am also coming to realise that it is not only individual lives that are temporal, but also humanity as a collective.

(After all, from the perspective of the geological time frame, humans have only existed for a fraction of the entire history of the earth.)

In other words, it is a matter of time that human extinction becomes a reality.


Is this another bogus “end of the world prophecy” that we are too used to seeing in the media?

No, I am not referring to any religious belief or superstition that uses fear mongering to control people.

Nor am I referring to some political agenda for depopulating the earth (though there are indications that can serve as evidence of it being carried out in some places).

Rather, there is scientific reason to raise this concern (which isn’t new by any means).

The signs are everywhere, both close to home and abroad.

Some signs are gradual, such as rising sea levels and temperatures, which are slowly killing coral reefs and flooding low-lying coastal settlements; they are so imperceptible that many of us miss them as we go about our hustle and bustle of life.

Other signs occur suddenly in a big way, whether in terms of extreme storms or heat waves or some other natural disasters, which can result in casualties.

As another writer has observed in her blog:

“What can we reasonably expect to see every year for the next ten years?

More heatwaves like in Japan. More wildfires like in Greece and California.

More crop failures like in the UK and Australia. The big dry will continue.

The flooding will continue.

Food and water will continue to be just out of the reach of those who need it most.

Millions of people will be displaced by sea level rise or some other climate related catastrophe.

If the best indicator of future behavior is past behavior, the next ten years do not look promising.”

Some people may continue to ignore these signs.

Some people may dismiss efforts by individuals and companies in recycling, reusing or reducing waste.

(After all, it has been said that privilege is when you think something is not a problem because you aren’t affected personally.)

But I find it rather ironic that many people would choose to observe the signs of the stock market et al than pay attention to the signs of the environmental crises.

No doubt, following the stock market accurately may bring them and their families material wealth through investment.

But the environmental crises affect us all – humans, animals, plants, the entire planet.

Also, some people are willing to pay thousands of dollars to learn all kinds of persuasion skills to sell products and services and make more money.

(I suppose there is a place for that, so long as we are in this unsustainable capitalistic economic system, and it depends on how we utilise that, if we choose to do so.)

But I think that the environmental issues require no persuasion skills.

I have nothing to sell by highlighting environmental crises, and I have no persuasion methods to employ, except to present these evidences as they are.

I also have nothing to gain, except perhaps the pleasure and satisfaction of seeing Nature preserved and conserved just a little bit more, a little bit longer.

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)

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.


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.


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)