Tag Archives: environment

A Rally Memorable Event

Singapore Climate Rally

On 21st September 2019, Singapore had her first ever climate rally. For some, this event was a monumental occasion – they had hopes that it will be the catalyst for greater climate action from the government.

If you were unable to attend the SG Climate Rally, here is a detailed account of my experience!

Pre-main event – Activities and Booths

When my friend and I reached Hong Lim Park at about 3.30pm, I was pleasantly surprised to see a tremendous turnout. The registration queue was long but also really quick as the smiling volunteers were hard at work in managing the crowd. Immediately as we entered the park, you could not only feel the blazing heat, but a fiery atmosphere full of passion and excitement to match!

1
Sources say over 1,700 people turned out!

As the main event was slated to start at 4.45pm, we had plenty of time to explore the ‘booths’ (or Welcome Activities) and meet people. The “What on Earth is the Climate Crisis” booth was situated near the entrance, so this was the first activity we went to. Here, we could listen to the volunteers giving a crash course on the climate crisis (and related concepts) while also providing a safe space to discuss and ask questions about the whole topic! It was nice to see people openly talk about a wide variety of issues and their specific interests like geoengineering or environmental justice. Additionally, there was a quiz that you can attempt to test your knowledge on climate change 😛

The next booth which caught my eye was the Community Mural Painting; throughout the event, it was constantly being swarmed by people waiting to write or draw messages to express their thoughts and feelings towards the climate crisis! In fact, the volunteers had to roll out an extra banner just to accommodate more people.

Next, we headed to “A Postcard to My MP”. As the name suggests, the booth provided us with postcards, stamps and addresses for us to mail a letter to our MPs! Beyond expressing our concerns for the climate crisis to the government, this activity was also an introspective one for me. It really got me thinking about climate-related issues and what I personally hope an individual with power can and should do. Do I describe my fears and anxiety for the future and hope that their humanity understands mine? Or should I expect more from the ministers and demand something to be done, since it is a crisis after all? I found myself reflecting a lot about my role in environmental advocacy and what I should do as someone who wants to pursue this as a career – because of this, “A Postcard to My MP” was my favourite activity!

By the end of the activity, my friend and I were parched and proceeded to the water station to refill our bottles.

20190921_154120.jpg
BES Drongos guides Hoyan and Lydia volunteering for the event!

On the way, we saw many interesting signs that were quite well thought out! Some were also hilarious and uniquely Singaporean like “Respect Your Mother” and “O-Levels are soon, so is this irreversible climate crisis”. Here are some of my favourites but do check @SGClimateRally on Instagram for more!

68

Unfortunately, we missed other activities like “Share Your Climate Crisis Story” and “Kids Read for Our Future” as it was already time for the main event – the speeches and the die-in.

Main event – Speeches

The speeches were all pretty neat. Each speaker had their own unique perspective (from an 11-year-old boy to an NGO’s co-founder) with their own take on the issue at hand. At the same time, there was a connecting theme between each speech – the weariness of being told about individual action which translates to the demand of the government and industries to take major action. I highly recommend anyone interested to visit The Online Citizen and watch the recorded speeches! Notably, I admire Oliver’s passion at such a young age and Karen’s wholesome honesty about her fears in speaking out to the government.

It makes no sense to me that we are told to switch off our lights when not in use, but the lights in Jurong Island never seem to be switched off – Ho Xiang Tian

Main event – Die-in

Honestly, I was quite skeptical about the whole “die-in” spectacle and felt that it was going to be an awkwardly uncomfortable experience. The idea was to have us “collapse domino-style” as a show of solidarity to everything we have lost to the climate crisis; thereafter, we can extend our reach to neighbouring attendees as a symbol of the interconnectedness between all things. Even as I type it now, the concept still seems quite peculiar to me!

SmartSelect_20190923-161848_Instagram
Taken form @SGClimateRally instagram!

Alas, perhaps it was because of the impassioned speeches right before, or perhaps it was because of the activity lead who was listing off all the elements of the 6th mass extinction, but the actual die-in felt surprisingly poignant. Despite whatever feelings you have for this segment of the event, I think that it made the rally a whole lot more memorable. Just like the annual Pink Dot, the die-in was SG Climate Rally’s big spectacle that had involved all attendees and meant something profound.

Conclusion

I personally found Singapore’s first Climate Rally to be a huge success! The organisers definitely didn’t bite off more than they can chew and everything seemed to have gone quite smoothly. Despite the heat and haze, it was also refreshing to see people still so energetic about wanting more to be done. While I believe that such rallies will still be needed in the near future, it was amazing to see Singapore’s environment-based civil society come together to demand better.

Written by: Afiq

Advertisement

Singapore’s National Bird

If you have been walking around our “rural” parks and forests, you may have noticed a bright flash of red darting from shrub to shrub. What you have seen is most likely the crimson sunbird! It is an attractive and iconic species that can be found in Singapore.

What is the crimson sunbird?

The crimson sunbird, Aethopyga siparaja is a species of sunbird found in the Indian Subcontinent, Southeast Asia and Southern China [1]. It inhabits a wide range of habitats ranging from parks and gardens to forests. Males have a distinctive crimson red plumage on the head, mantle and upper breast while females are drab, with olive green upperparts and yellower underparts [1]. Its diet consists largely of nectar and insects [2].

 

Where can they be found?

While the more common sunbirds such as the olive-backed sunbird can be found in urban areas and parklands, the crimson sunbird is less commonly seen outside of rural parks and forests in Singapore. The best places to find them would be the Central Catchment Nature Reserve or Bukit Timah Nature Reserve [1] which are not too urbanised.

 

The national bird of Singapore?

Back in 2002 [5], this iconic bird was designated the unofficial national bird of Singapore after it emerged winner in a poll organised by the Nature Society. Although nature groups have pushed for its status to be made official, no relevant ministries have declared so. At a dinner held as part of the 6th Asian Bird Fair in 2015 [6], there was a short-lived euphoria when it was mistakenly declared as the official national bird of Singapore. However, the crimson sunbird remains a popular choice as the national bird among Singaporeans.

Parting thoughts

While this species is still quite common in Singapore, they are not as commonly seen as other bird species. Hopefully, with the ongoing greening efforts utilising more native plant species, we will see more of them in our neighbourhood parks and gardens. Giving such an iconic species the official status as the national bird of Singapore would also pique people’s interest regarding Singapore’s natural environment, helping to raise awareness about the rich flora and fauna we have on this sunny island.

I hope you have enjoyed reading this entry! Till next time!

Written by: Ke Yao

References

[1]: https://singaporebirds.com/species/crimson-sunbird/

[2]: B. C. (1992). A Guide To The Common Birds Of Singapore. Singapore: Singapore Science Centre.

[3]: https://fryap.wordpress.com/2014/08/09/crimson-sunbird-in-singapore/#jp-carousel-2183

[4]: https://pixabay.com/photos/sunbird-bird-birds-doi-ang-khang-1863178/

[5]: https://singaporebirdgroup.wordpress.com/2015/11/01/crimson-sunbird-is-now-the-official-national-bird-of-singapore/

[6]: https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/environment/is-the-crimson-sunbird-singapores-national-bird-er-not-official-yet

What are the millennials up to lately?

Self-centred, self-absorbed, self-entitled. They are always on their phones, can’t let go of what they love, and seriously, they always think they deserve better in this world.

They are the millennials the society all so frown upon this day… right?

1
Article posted by The Straits Times last week!

If you have seen young people watching their instagram feed every moment at noon on 15 March, looking disconnected and dissatisfied with the world, you have probably just encountered someone who has joined the Global Climate Strike 2019 (Tan, 2019). And he or she is probably more conscious about her surrounding and the world than you did at that moment.

Advocating for greater climate action is no longer the sole responsibility of climate scientists or influential businessmen and politicians; the young ones are taking charge, telling the world how the future generations deserve better and how the planet deserve better.

Capture
Greta Thunberg (in yellow) the 16-year-old millennial who started this movement!

The global climate strike was a concerted effort of thousands of students from all over the world. In many of the countries, the students were skipping school and physically coming together to show the grown-ups that one doesn’t need to be rich and powerful to demand a change from the world.

Despite the growing movement towards sustainable development, climate change scepticism still prevails. This clearly shows that we should no longer rely on the scientists and statisticians to persuade the authorities and the general public.

In Singapore, where strikes and protests are not an option, the young people chose to make their voices heard by having a virtual strike on social media.

2
Post for the Global Climate Strike from local advocates @theweirdandwild and @tingkats.sg

Several of the climate action and sustainability pioneers in Singapore have also expressed their support for this initiative. Singapore, as the forefront of urban development in Asia, has the ability to lead and set an example on sustainable development for the region (Hermes, 2019). While the booming trend of adopting zero-waste lifestyle such as ditching single use plastic straws and other disposable products used to be criticised as simply a fad, the fact that a growing number of young people have stayed religiously faithful to their commitment shows that the millennials in Singapore are ready to be the change they have envisioned.

Indeed, the millennials are still self-centred, self-absorbed and self-entitled. However, the sense of “self” has grown out of the stereotyped individualism. To the fervent advocates of climate actions and environmental sustainability, they feel the sense of entitlement not for themselves but for the environment, they are so stubborn that they refuse to budge from their pledges to slow climate change and most of all, while the world label millennials to be full of themselves, their belief that every individual has a power to change allow them to push forth many successful ground-up initiatives in the past years.

The strike may be over, but climate change doesn’t stop, and neither should our climate actions!

Written by: Andrea Law

References:

Tan, A. (2019, March 11). Global youth movement on March 15 calling for greater climate action may be held in Singapore as well. Retrieved from https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/environment/global-youth-movement-on-march-15-calling-for-greater-climate-action-may-be

Hermes. (2019, March 15). Strike by Singapore students unlikely. Retrieved from https://www.straitstimes.com/world/strike-by-spore-students-unlikely

Journey to Becoming a Rockstar: Discovering Geography in Ubin

As a reader of this blog, you might already know plenty about the amazing biodiversity in Singapore, ranging from pitcher plants to crocodiles. While these flora and fauna are certainly interesting, have you read about the amazing life of rocks in Singapore? If not, sit tight as I introduce to you one of the many types of rocks in Singapore!

Seemingly unimportant, yet found everywhere, Singapore has a surprisingly large variety of rocks despite our small size. I would even argue that they are the bedrock (pun intended) of every aspect of the Singapore we know and love today. Before we begin, allow me to give you a quick crash course about rocks.

Understanding Rocks

There are 3 types of rocks: igneous, sedimentary and metamorphic.

Firstly, we have igneous rocks. Derived from the Latin word for fire, these rocks are formed from solidified lava or magma (Rocks Information, 2017). These rocks are generally hard and can be commonly found in Bukit Timah and Pulau Ubin (Friess & Oliver, 2015). Picture 1 depicts granite, an igneous rock.

picture 1
Picture 1: Granite, an igneous rock. , Taken from: http://geologylearn.blogspot.com/2015/03/granite.html

Secondly, we have sedimentary rocks. As its name suggests, these rocks are formed by sediments. Transporting agents like rivers transport and deposit these sediments, causing them to pile up. With layers of sediments piling on top of one another, the bottommost layers eventually fuse together to form a new type of rock (Rocks Information, 2017). Such rocks can be found in Jurong and Sentosa (Friess & Oliver, 2015). Picture 2 depicts sandstone, a sedimentary rock.

picture 2
Picture 2: Sandstone, a sedimentary rock., Taken from: https://www.minimegeology.com/home/mgeo/page_84/banded_sandstone_sedimentary_rock.html

Thirdly, we have metamorphic rocks. When igneous or sedimentary rocks experience high temperatures and pressures, they transform (or undergo metamorphosis) to form metamorphic rocks (Rocks Information, 2017). These rocks are the least common ones in Singapore due to the lack of high pressure and temperature we usually need to form them (Friess & Oliver, 2015). Picture 3 depicts gneiss, a metamorphic rock.

picture 3
Picture 3: Gneiss, a metamorphic rock., Ttaken from: http://www.sciencekids.co.nz/sciencefacts/earth/metamorphicrocks.html

Armed with some basic background information about rocks, let us now go on a virtual field trip in Pulau Ubin through my phone lens.

Pulau Ubin

For those who have never been there, Pulau Ubin is an Island located in northeastern Singapore. Despite experiencing no geologic activity today, Singapore saw frequent earthquakes and volcanic eruptions a mere 250 million years ago (Friess & Oliver, 2015). “Old” Singapore was comparable to today’s Indonesia. The upwelling of magma and the occasional volcanic eruptions translate to a large amount of igneous rocks being formed. Most of Singapore, Pulau Ubin included, sits on large igneous rocks.

Picture 1 above shows an igneous rock known as granite. It consists of visible grains of greyish-white feldspar, black mica and transparent quartz. These crystals are visible because the magma cooled slowly underground over a long period of time. Eventually, erosion of the land on top revealed these rocks. Since these rocks are more resistant to erosion (because of how hard they are), they result in the “hilly” appearance of Pulau Ubin (and Bukit Timah) (Friess & Oliver, 2015) as seen in the picture 4 below.

picture 4
Picture 4: Ubin is the dark coloured, hilly part of the picture in the background! Photo: Lee Yang

In our hot and wet climate, feldspar in granite weather quickly. Surfaces of granite exposed to water (especially the corners) decompose, causing the parent rocks to become smaller and rounder (Friess & Oliver, 2015). Such rounded rocks are common in Singapore, Ubin included. Picture 5 shows one of such rocks in the process of rounding. As we can see, most of the rock is still “trapped” underground and perhaps a few thousand years later, more of the rock will be exposed!

picture 5
Picture 5: One of the many granite rocks still stuck underground in Ubin. Photo: Lee Yang

Feldspar decomposes into clay, which is then transported by water and carried to the sea. In Chek Jawa, I saw a mini delta formed by a small river. In Picture 6 below, we can see the river as it heads into the sea and deposits the clay particles in the delta, forming the mud of the mangrove. Mangroves are very important habitats that provide many ecoservices such as being nurseries for fishes and coastal protection (Brander, et al., 2012), and one mightc say that without all this mud, the mangroves would not be present. On a side note, Picture 7 below shows a Black Spitting Cobra we encountered! Needless to say, the mangrove was teeming with life, and I argue that the geography (climate and geology included) of Singapore plays a fundamental role in sustaining Singapore’s high biodiversity. Hence, as we appreciate the diverse wildlife of Singapore, let us not forget the seemingly unchanging and boring rocks for breathing life into Singapore. I hope that this post has given a small preview of the complexity of the world and the beautiful web of relationships present, allowing you to better appreciate the Earth for everything it has and have made our planet just that bit more precious to you.

Picture 6
Picture 6: Can you see all the clay deposited by the stream? Photo: Lee Yang

picture 7
Picture 7: A well camouflaged Black Spitting Cobra. Can you see it? Photo: Lee Yang

Written by: Lee Yang

References:

Brander, L. M., Wagtendonk, A. J., Hussain, S. S., Mcvittie, A., Verburg, P. H., Groot, R. S., & Ploeg, S. V. (2012). Ecosystem service values for mangroves in Southeast Asia: A meta-analysis and value transfer application. Ecosystem Services,1(1), 62-69. doi:10.1016/j.ecoser.2012.06.003

Friess, D. A., & Oliver, G. J. (2015). Dynamic environments of Singapore. Singapore: McGraw Hill.

Rocks Information and Facts. (2017, January 18). Retrieved from https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/earth/inside-the-earth/rocks/

Meat Lovers: Pitcher Plants

You’ve probably seen pitcher plants around. After all, they are a common sight in nurseries and at pasar malam markets. They are well known for being carnivorous, trapping small insects inside fluid-filled jugs where they unfortunately meet their sorry end. But what exactly are pitcher plants and why are they so different from normal plants?

The term “pitcher plant” generally refers to any carnivorous plant with pitchers that trap insects. This includes several families of organisms such as Nepenthaceae and Sarraceniaceae .

Untitled1.png

Image: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/08/090804081545.htm

So, how do these plants catch their prey? Basically, insects make a beeline for the pitchers, attracted by their colour or the smell they emit. However, when they stand on the peristome, also known as the edge of the pitcher, they fall in, landing in a pool of enzyme-containing fluids where they are slowly broken down into simpler nutrients such as amino acids [2] [3].

Untitled2.png

Image: https://www.sciencesource.com/archive/-SS2521889.html

Pitcher fluid contains more than just insect-digesting enzymes. In fact, the components that make up the fluid of different types of pitcher plants vary. While generally acidic, the fluid in certain species are mostly made up of rainwater that collects in the pitcher, while those in other species contain more secretions from the plant itself. Pitchers also have an operculum, or lid. In some species, the operculum prevents rainwater from entering the pitcher diluting its fluids.

Untitled3.png

Image: https://www.bhg.com/gardening/flowers/perennials/growing-pitcher-plants/

Pitcher plants generally live in areas where the soil does not have enough nutrients for typical plants to thrive. Therefore, they rely on insects to obtain sufficient amounts of what they are unable to get from the ground. However, pitcher plants still photosynthesise to produce glucose. Insects are only a replacement for substances they would otherwise have absorbed from the soil.

It is interesting to note that many species of pitcher plants are not closely related to one another, suggesting convergent evolution – different organisms independently evolved to have this particular appearance and insect-trapping ability. For example, the Australian pitcher plant is more closely related to starfruit than to other species of pitchers [7]. It’s pretty amazing how all these different pitcher plants adapted to their situation in similar ways.

So the next time you see one of these protein-guzzling plants around, do remember that they’re simply doing what they can to live their life to the fullest, just like you and me.

References:

[1]: https://www.britannica.com/plant/pitcher-plant

[2]: https://www.sciencedaily.com/terms/pitcher_plant.htm

[3]: https://www.botany.one/2013/10/adapted-kill-pitcher-plant-traps-prey/

[4]: https://academic-oup-com.libproxy1.nus.edu.sg/aob/article/107/2/181/188441

[5]: http://www.bbc.com/earth/story/20150420-the-giant-plants-that-eat-meat

[6]: https://www.thenakedscientists.com/articles/questions/carnivorous-plants-can-photosynthesise-so-why-eat-flies

[7]: https://www.nature.com/news/how-plants-evolved-into-carnivores-1.21425