A | Anxious?
How are you feeling about our planet’s state of affairs? Anxious maybe? You’re not alone. In fact, those at the Climate Psychology Alliance will tell you it’s a sign of empathy — and as we well know, empathy inspires wonderful things
B | Biodiversity
It’s not all gone to the grim reaper yet. NParks found more than 40 potentially new species of animals in Singapore following its multiyear survey of Bukit Timah Nature Reserve. Among the discoveries — reported in May 2019 — was a six-eyed spider named Paculla bukittimahensis. A comprehensive Southern Islands biodiversity survey starts this January while that for the Central Catchment Nature Reserve will begin in February. Why is this important? Because what we learn now will facilitate long-term conservation efforts.
C | Community gardens, nature reserves, parks and park connectors.
Plant life absorbs carbon emissions, boost biodiversity, protect our coastlines, filter air pollution and boost our mood and well-being. Fortunately, Singapore’s urban planners have ensured that almost 30 percent of our island is covered in green. We have over 350 parks, four nature reserves, a 150km Round Island Route park connector, a 36km Coast-to-Coast Trail and more than 1,000 community gardens. But the government’s counterintuitive decision to construct the new Cross Island Line beneath the Central Catchment Nature Reserve has certainly been met with concern.
D | Delivery services
So you thought you were managing your use of plastic pretty well. Or at least until you became reliant on Foodpanda, Deliveroo and Grab. Well, join the club that’s hanging its head in shame. We have no good solution to this dilemma either — beyond walking to the nearest eatery with a tiffin carrier. Hopefully Solon, the Singapore-based maker of food-grade biodegradable products (solon.eco) will come to the rescue soon.
E | Energy use
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) warns that energy-related emissions will increase by 70 percent by 2050. The good news is that green energy tariffs is no longer a foreign concept. Check out plans by Geneco, iSwitch, Sunseap and Sembcorp. Will one household on a green plan stop climate change? Maybe not, but it’s a symbolic choice that tells energy retailers, and the powers that be, that we care about the environment
F | Flying
Commercial airlines are expected to burn through an estimated 98 billion gallons (371 billion litres) of jet fuel by 2020, and aviation is responsible for about 2.5 percent of the world’s CO2 emissions — but it’s not all bad news. According to the International Energy Agency, more than 170,000 commercial flights have flown successfully on biofuel, and several major airlines have made longterm biofuel purchase agreements. Companies like Rolls Royce Electrical are also working on electric engine technology. In the meantime, may we suggest high-speed trains and crossing the Atlantic on a sailboat like a certain teenager?
G | Greta
More than “the icon the planet desperately needs” (in the words of Oscar-nominated director Darren Aronofsky), Greta Thunberg has shown us that the kids are okay. Gen Z is idealistic, motivated, innovative, tireless, self-confident, independent, thoughtful… and will hopefully turn our failures around.
H | Homegrown produce
If what’s stopping you from jumping on the sustainable living bandwagon is your lack of talent for growing your own food, well, at least the government is on it. While we import roughly 90 percent of our food, the goal by 2030 is to produce 30 percent of our nutritional needs locally. If you think you have what it takes to be a farmer of the future, know that your country needs you.
I | Invest wisely
Transformational shift in the global economy is just over the horizon. So strike while the iron is hot and invest in companies that are working to blunt the impact of climate change. Water, wind energy, waste management, meat-free products, etc — take your pick. (Surely you noticed that Beyond Meat’s stock is still up more than 100 percent.) MAS is also investing $2.7 billion in funds that have a strong green focus. Oh, and ask your wealth manager if you can opt out of funds investing in fossil fuels.
J | Jane Goodall
The world could do with more. Also Andie Angs, Peter Ngs, Acres and every conservationist, environmentalist and volunteer we’ve failed to mention here. Brad Pitts, Leonardo DiCaprios and BTS too — just because.
K | no Kidding,
climate change is real.
L | Landfill
Semakau Landfill has turned 20, and the haven for biodiversity is even more beautiful with age — nevermind that the island receives more than 600 tonnes of waste and 1,500 tonnes of incinerated ash daily. Singapore’s one and only landfill is known for its replanted mangrove mudflats and for being home to the country’s largest barramundi farm. But if we don’t drastically cut our waste, Semakau will reach tipping point by 2035.
M | Member of Parliament
The key role of an MP is to act as a bridge between the community and the government. MPs aren’t inaccessible. Meet the People Sessions are held weekly at most constituencies. So go tell your MP that action on climate change is important. But please be productive and value add. Seek him or her out with ideas or research. Perhaps the solution to our (awful) recyclables collection system lies with you.
N | Net Sustain (but we really just mean fashion)
We’ll give Net-a-Porter props for launching Net Sustain, an edit of brands sold on the site that meets its sustainability criteria. But it’s really just one emblem of a growing movement towards considered fashion. Max Mara upcycles its signature camel hair ﬁ bres into CameLuxe insulation for padded coats. Hermes has Petit H, which gives life to leftover material. And then there is the Fashion Pact, helmed by Kering chairman and CEO Francois-Henri Pinault, which now has 56 signatories representing some 250 brands who have pledged to work towards climate, biodiversity and oceanic goals.
O | Ok not Okay
Iceland’s Okjokull “Ok” glacier once covered nearly 15 sq km and measured 50m deep, but by 2014 was no longer thick enough to move. It received a symbolic funeral last August when activists and officials installed a plaque that reads: “Ok is the first Icelandic glacier to lose its status as a glacier. In the next 200 years, all our glaciers are expected to follow the same path. This monument is to acknowledge that we know what is happening and what needs to be done. Only you know if we did it.”
P | Plant-based
If livestock methane is what you’re hoping to reduce, one individual’s veggie diet won’t go very far in alleviating the impact — one of the top culprits of methane emissions is the oil and gas industry. That said, health is wealth, and a diet rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and healthy oils has been proven to reduce the risk of heart disease.
Q | Quandary
We don’t know about you, but we’re feeling helpless staring at this statistic from the International Organization for Migration: 25 million to 1 billion people will be forced to leave their homes due to climate change by 2050. Forgive us for calling this a quandary — it’s a crisis, and we need good leaders.
R | Rrrrs
For a long time we were mindful of the 3Rs — reduce, reuse, recycle. But just like how the 5Cs were upgraded, the Rs have been rethought, rehashed and revamped. Now depending on who you ask, there are five, seven, maybe 10 Rs: including, rethink, refuse, repair, repurpose and rot. Since the Rs are pretty self-explanatory, we’ll leave you to reflect.
S | Single-use plastics
So much has already been said, and we’re no broken record.
T | Throw-away culture
Nobody likes doing the dishes, not even our ancestors. Proof is a 3,600-year-old clay cup now on display at the British Museum in London. Experts believe it was made by the Minoans on the Greek Island of Crete to be used just once and thrown out after a feast. So while our modern consumerist society wasn’t the one that first popularised disposable ware, we’re the ones who need to break the chain.
U | Update to Paris Agreement
Singapore contributed 0.11 percent to global emissions, which sounds hunky-dory till you consider this: according to International Energy Agency data, each person here produces more emissions than individuals in the UK, China and Indonesia. A step in the right direction is that Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli officially relayed Singapore’s commitment to updating its climate pledge at the United Nations climate conference in December. Surely any new commitment must be more ambitious.
V | Voice
Al Gore probably said it best: “Use your voice, use your vote, use your choice.” Now go read the entry for “M” again.
W | Water
Remember the time you said “Eww, recycled water? From the sewer?” Fifteen years on, does anyone even wonder where NEWater comes from? No. It’s just water. Though the bulk of the ultra-clean, high-grade H2O (which has passed more than 150,000 scientiﬁ c tests) is fed primarily to industrial customers, NEWater is also added to reservoirs during dry spells. The blended water is treated at the waterworks, and ultimately flows through our taps. Thank you, PUB.
X | Xenophobia
Admittedly, we couldn’t think of an entry for X. In any case, fear, hatred or prejudice against those who are foreign or “strange” always needs calling out.
Y | Why we should care
Because the earth is our home. We know what is happening to it. There’s no feigning naivete or ignorance. What we do, and do not do, is a reflection of our character. [Note: Refer to plaque on Okjokull.]
Z | Zero-waste kitchen
Nudging us towards a circular economy, with more sustainable production and consumption practices, Singapore declared 2019 the Year Towards Zero Waste. But one government endeavour won’t cut it. (How many of us even knew about this campaign to begin with?)
Going from wasteful to zero waste was always going to be tough unless we forgo clothes and live off-grid. But we can start somewhere, and that’s by ensuring zero food waste at home — it’s absolutely doable and will help reduce the estimated 26,000 tonnes of food thrown out yearly by households. The key is to shop little but often; and meal-plan.
This story first appeared in the January/February 2020 issue of A Magazine.