Saturday, April 29, 2006

How to protest in Singapore

Honestly, I was shocked.

And I was wondering how come we never see any protests like in Hong Kong when there are big IMF / WTO and the likes having their meetings here. So this is how....

But then as I read on the article and it quoted Wong Kan Seng saying that there are no "illegal gathering of more than 4 person" ... haha i just wanted to laugh my ass out loud because in Singapore we are so so so used to that! Remember the NKF-CPF Silent protest? It's just classic.

Overseas protestor needs to learn a thing or two from these 4 brave folks. this is the trend to all future protests in Singapore

Oh well those poor civil groups, i know they're make a big hoohaa about how there are no rights in singapore yada yada yada but you know i guess... i'm sort of glad. maybe because im a chicken bred by singapore but then its gonna be so chaotic if there were ritual suicides like the korean farmer (left; below photo) in Cancun Mexico. No need for such drama here my friends.

Caption: Korean farmer Lee Kyung-hae (L) shouts slogans as he sits atop a barricade, blocking access to the road to Cancun's hotel strip, which is hosting a World Trade Organization ministerial meeting, September 10, 2003. Lee later stabbed himself in the chest shortly afterwards and died of his wounds in hospital. A friend said his suicide was an 'act of sacrifice' to show his disgust at the WTO and its policies. REUTERS/Daniel Aguilar

The protesters in HK were only just recently released. One thing though, I actually know people in SB that goes all over the world to protest the WTO like Katie... *cough* lol but it's interesting to read this article and try to put ourselves in their shoes. I must say I do very very much support their cause but then I guess since being so used to the singapore laws, I'm not as outraged as they are about this. Think of that bear who campaigned for anti-fur causes during the the queen of england's visit to Singapore. At least she was creative.

The bear in question, literally.


Activists Concerned over Singapore's "Caning" Threat
by Emad Mekay

WASHINGTON, Feb 28 (IPS) - Concern is brewing among advocacy groups and civil society organisations that monitor the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, a staple of protests during the annual meetings of the two organisations, after Singapore threatened a crackdown on some of their activities.

A number of international civil society groups are drafting a letter to the government of Singapore to dissuade the country from vows that its chief security official made against their activities.

Singapore's Home Affairs Minister Wong Kan Seng had reportedly said that certain civil society actions may "attract severe punishment, including caning and imprisonment" in this southeast Asian country where a political gathering of more than four people requires a security permit.

Activists interpreted this as a more or less veiled threat towards civil society organisations and wrote a letter to be sent to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, possibly later this week, asking him to roll back the warning and allow full access to the groups during the Sept. 19-20 meetings.

"Many groups are concerned about these threats and intimidations, but are determined not to let such threats undermine actions being planned," said Rukshan Fernando of the Bangkok-based Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) in an email message to IPS.

The 184-member IMF and the World Bank will hold their annual meeting amid what is expected to be highly tight security in the wealthy city-state, where public demonstrations are banned and the last police licence for a demonstration in Singapore was issued in the late 1980s.

The annual meetings, held outside of Washington D.C. once every three years, are the largest and most comprehensive gathering of global financial representatives in the world. They are expected to draw about 16,000 visitors this year.

Organisers in Singapore, a country of 4.5 million people, expect some 300 to 500 non-governmental organisations to be accredited by the IMF and World Bank for the meeting.

Meetings for international financial and trade institutions, which often discuss the course of global economic development and plan the underpinning policy strategies, have attracted heated activities from advocacy groups along with street protests, some of them marred by violence.

Around 30,000 demonstrators turned up for the 1999 World Trade Organisation (WTO) talks in Seattle in the United States, and more than 20,000 protested against the Bank and Fund in Washington the following year. However, fewer numbers have protested since the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks in the United States.

Some critics have pointed out that these institutions have been holding their meetings in tightly controlled countries, including the last IMF/World Bank meeting outside Washington, held in Dubai. In 2001, the WTO organised its ministerial conference in Doha, the capital of Qatar, ruled by an authoritarian regime with close military ties to the United States.

Singapore, however, where people are penalised for failing to flush a public lavatory, for instance, had to accept a request by the IMF and World Bank to allow demonstrations during the meeting in order to be able to host the gathering, which usually attracts finance, trade ministers and central bank governors from around the globe.

But activists say that if implemented, the threats from Singapore to place restrictions on the activities of civil society groups could in fact impede their engagement during the meetings on strategic issues such as trade, aid, debt and sustainable development.

"Thus, we would like to highlight the importance of spontaneous and unrestricted civil society actions before, during and after the WB-IMF meeting," the groups said in their draft letter to the Singapore government.

Dozens of organisations have endorsed the letter so far. These include Focus on the Global South, the Halifax Initiative Coalition in Canada, the Think Centre, and Jubilee South.

Singapore says that the IMF and World Bank have an 'established process' to engage these civil society groups, including having them take part in activities throughout the annual meetings.

The groups said they expect that even the regulated processes, agreed upon by the IMF and the World Bank with the government of Singapore, will likely follow previous patterns where participation has been selective and exclusive, and has provided limited opportunities for the expression of civil society voices.

But a spokesperson for the IMF told IPS that the security issue for the meeting is under discussion with the government of Singapore and said his institution will press for the full participation of civil society groups.

"The bottom line is that we want to have an inclusive meeting, with active and open NGO participation. That's the whole plan," said William Murray of the IMF. "I am not aware of any desire by anybody to cane anybody. This is a hypothetical situation and frankly security is an issue of ongoing discussions."

Civil society groups have long criticised the IMF and the World Bank, both dominated by industrialised nations, for placing the interests of international corporations, the rich and local elites before the middle classes and the poor around the world.

Another point of alarm for civil society groups were statements by the government that it would only allow peaceful protests by foreign organisations - waiving the rules that normally apply in Singapore รป and that local groups will not be able to participate

The activists said that peaceful protests are universal rights that should be extended "to all people, including Singaporean people and organisations."

Earlier in January, the Consumers Association of Penang and Friends of the Earth Malaysia called for a boycott of Singapore Airlines, the national carrier, to protest the warning issued by the Singapore government that it is prepared to "cane" or imprison protesters.

"Imposing restrictions on demonstrations by civil society to express their outrage at the brutal policies of the IMF and World Bank that impoverish societies and destroy the environment, is indeed a restriction on the freedom of expression and the right to dissent against unjust policies", said Mohd Idris, who heads the two groups.

Activists fear that Singapore's vow to place restrictions on civil society groups is likely to be translated into unwarranted screening of participants in the events and anyone who enters Singapore during that period.

The Singapore government has been keen to use the opportunity to promote tourism and showcase the country as a leading financial centre.

During the last annual meetings in Washington, it set up a colourful booth to advertise its housing in 2006. It has already launched a website in anticipation of the event that touts the country's glittering skyscrapers and thriving port. Singapore says it has also prepared a visual arts extravaganza that will take place for the first time in Southeast Asia. (END/2006)

Source: TargetWTO

Read full article here

McGovern kena governed

Recently I've been quoting this one guy from the TWN article about food security alot. I even used it in my exam. Savage said it's a good quote and I agree.

"Food security in private hands is no security at all!"
- Senator McGovern of the US Senate [TWN]

Today while I was reading Wonkette, I saw this shocking photo and caption.

Jim McGovern (D-MA)* becomes the first congressman arrested this year for reasons other than corruption. (AP)

ARGH! so I have been quoting a crime-doer?

Well apparently not! 4 US congressmen were protesting outside the Sudanese embassy in the US for them to stop the genocide in Sudan. They were prepared to be arrested by the Secret Service and one of them even sent out a press release beforehand saying they will be arrested! Besides, they were booked at the police station then released with $50 fines. O_O" Don't even need to call people to bail them out! I guess this is the good part about being lawmakers instead of lawbreakers.

OK, this only just totally increased my admiration for this man. Not only does he stand strong against food corporatization but he also goes about in protests just like college kids. I mean this is really amazing because they put themselves out there to make a statement without care of being arrested or tarnishing their reputation. Instead they are using their standing to make a bigger and louder statement.

On top of that, got to really thank Wonkette for bringing the genocide in Sudan to this ulu monkey's attention since the elections started, all war crime and life has apparently stopped in this world.

Besides, even if it didn't, I doubt CNA will ever report about these things. *sigh*

* (D-MA) = Democrat-Massachusset

Read full article here

Friday, April 28, 2006

Local Wildlife Immortalized

Did you know that many of our natural heritage are featured in our currency?

Before the whole president series, our dollar bills were MUCH MUCH more interesting. Just the other day such a bill came to my hands and I had to look at it for very long because I had not seen something like that for at least 15 years!

Check out the fish in its beak! Looks almost like a mudskipper! But interestingly this is an urban bird as seen regularly in NUS and St Andrews Cathedral!
This blog does not support scanning of currencies but this is... for educational purposes!!! Photoshop actually warns of this too. Interesting.

It was a red $10 bill with a blue kingfisher on it! A colorful dollar note! How interesting! The collared kingfisher looks particularly vivid on it. It was a beautiful piece of currency unlike our plastic feature right now.

This blog does not support scanning of currencies but this is... for educational purposes!!!

Of course many of us know about the tembusu on the green $5 bill. I myself have used it everytime I guide on Ubin when we introduce Fagraea fragrans to the participants. Even Prof Leo Tan mentioned it recently in his speech at the HSBC NYAA award and opening of the heritage tree register! Yes that tree on the $5 note is most probably a heritage tree.

On an aside, if you visit Changi, you will see many signboards along the road and those identify the magnifique heritage trees that was part of a large dipterocarp forest in Changi!

So I did a little search and found out there are more of such wildlife dollar notes from Singapore! In fact, theres a website in the US that actually list all the "animal coins" in the world. I guess there are lots of people out there who like animals on their greens.

Here's more animal money:

Sea Eagle, Singapore 10 dollars
Oriental Darter, Singapore 5 cts
Rabbit, Singapore 10 dollars
Rat, Singapore 1984 50 singold
Sumatran Tiger, Singapore 10 dollars
Lion, Singapore 1 dollar
Boar, Singapore 10 dollars
Yellow Seahorse, Singapore 10 cts
Swordfish, Singapore 20 cts
Lion Fish, Singapore 50 cts
Pomfret, Singapore 5 cts

I mean this is just incredible! The 10 dollar note seems to have a freaking zoo parade past it in the history of Singapore currency. I don't know how real this list is because I sure as hell has never seen these before. Rest assured, I will hunt them out. Maybe the Mint will give me a better clue. Of course these are only the ones that the website has. Maybe there are more!

I think a trip to the Singapore Mint Coin Gallery is a must. I went to their website but I'm not sure if it's my browser blocking the scripts or what but I could not see the content. Anyways, the good news is, I can now verify that there was most likely rabbit and rats on the curency because it seems part of the zodiac sign and here's one with the rooster (my year!) :)

Picture taken from Visit Singapore

Check out the Mint's website and read about the currency evolution of Singapore. It claims to have all the currency since 1819 listed on the website!

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Read full article here

Why eat local?

Everyday Worstedwitch throws me a tidbit for my greening soul.

An abstract from her post "Everybody's Doin' the Localmotion":

"'Eat local' is a mantra I’ll never tire of pimpin’ for a myriad reasons, the principal of which is the concept of “food miles,” a measure of the distance your food travels to get from the farm to your plate. (The minimum distance that North American produce typically travels is 1,500 miles. Grapes can clock 2,143 miles to get from vineyards in California to markets in Chicago.) Because of the proportional increase in oil consumption and greenhouse-gas emissions, the higher the mileage on your food’s odometer, the greater its (and by extension, your) negative impact on the environment. Factor in the fuel needed to process, package, and preserve your food, and the plot thickens like molten molasses in a steel vat. Blame industrialization, world travel, and increasingly sophisticated taste buds. Or finger cheap overseas labor costs. However we got into this mess, the fact is that mounting food miles, in the face of a global peak-oil crisis, is an issue we ALL need to address."
Now all I need to do is translate that to Singapore, SEA terms. I really want to get the damn eat local thing off. Is that possible in import-dependent Singapore? If even the government can't solve this problem, can I?

So far, only 2 person has applauded by inclination towards sustainable agriculture and food subsistency in Singapore. 1) Robert, the trainer at the NEA workshop who is angmoh and works for an NGO in Thailand - a food exporter. 2) Savage, but in a purely academic level only. Everybody else is pure skeptical.

This is so depressing. The other day when I told this fellow YEE about why I decided to drop the farm project, she was all indignant and said "hey Im interested in food too"...

RIGHT... then why is her group doing recycling? The most expounded on problem in SIngapore yet never moving ahead at all. Come on people, diversification is needed here. Why keep harping on something and in term making Singaporeans feel that there is no problem but recycling problem in this urban island. The more we need to show people what is out there.

Yes the extreme end of the spectrum is nature conservation but that's not all there is to it! What about consumerism? When we are not only conspicuous consumers but also consumers that seem to be left without a choice?

Of course, joining a Community-Supported Agriculture program in your neighborhood is one of the best ways to get your hands on local fruits and veggies. Another favorite resource of mine is, which helps you locate restaurants, farmers’ markets, CSAs, grocery/co-ops that offer sustainably grown food in your area.
What are the chances of me actually starting any of those in Singapore? Perhaps the only way about this is to start a consumer guide at the very least. But, again, I cannot do this alone! How do I get people interested in it to do with me? I must say though, my parents are more supportive of the farming thing than the greenies I know. I think I'm disappointing them by not pursueing this.

Actually, one of the things holding me back is that I did not want to start a project and then pull out of it when I leave the country. The woes of monkeys these days, our primate ancestors surely would not be able to imagine. I wonder if dear Mitochondrial Eve had these concerns when she left Africa for greener pastures. Alas.

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Read full article here

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

For the unhealthy yuppie

The Best Natural Foods on the Market Today: A Yuppie's Guide to Hippie Food, Vol. 1 by Greg Hottinger

This is a definitely useful book for all who wants to know how to eat healthy. If you want to know how to effectively change your diet and perhaps to be convinced on why you need a dietary change, heres the book.

Read the abstract here.

Read full article here

Global Food Miles

The WorstedWitch wrote:

Most of us know that buying local is one of the linchpins of sustainable living, not only because of the tremendous amounts of fossil fuel it takes to transport food vast distances, but also because of the pollution fuel combustion releases into the environment. So why import what we already have?

Gawd, if only I could write as well as her during my Sustainable Agriculture paper where I was struggling to defend the importance of reducing food miles.

So have you been buying local?

The worstedwitch asked about making her own soy milk at home and I was happy to remember that Erkie makes her own soy milk and tofu at home so I did a few search online and sent worstedwitch the links. Yes, my sister is a bigger more hardcore dedicated defender of the environmental lifestyle than me. lol.


At least I can say I never bought Silk Soy and have always gone for Organic Valley coz of the cute lil cows and the label that touts "Family of Farms - 752 farms strong!" If nothing more, that is a statement to me about its commitment to small farms. In itself, it testify to reduced importation, anti factory farming and supporting the local economy. Looking at the website, Organic Valley is a co-op and that again speaks well for itself but hey NTUC is a blardy co-op too. *faints* Nothing is perfect in this world. Of course all this talk of milk is in the US and I would only be able to do the same if I can find a diary farm in singapore that produces organic milk. HAH! One thing though, Organic Valley is cow milk while Silk Soy is well soy milk. I think I still prefer Soya Bean Milk (which is different because I think Soya Bean milk is sweeter)

Lishuang told me the other day that essentially they put so much hormones in the cows that the milk produces pus and beyond a certain high level, they would reject the milk but then if the limit is 50 and the milk has 49, it is still released to the market and we are drinking pus. Argh. Hadn't anyone heard of bioaccumulation?

Aside: More book reads from Organic Valley eStore. I'm collecting a list of reads to consider for buying with my $300 book voucher. Worsted Witch also has a list of recommended reads.

Read full article here

Friday, April 21, 2006

Monkey got mail

Yesterday I receive a letter with a SMU envelope. It was my invite to Margaret Chan's launch of her new book - Ritual is Theatre, Theatre is Ritual: Tang-ki: Spirit Medium Worship!

Read more about it here.

You can probably tell this is one of my heritage-taoism lobang (meaning "hole", referring to a loophole in the system which arose in an opportunity for the loopy monkey). In some ways I'm really glad I did the movie screening with heritage society because that gave opportunity for me to meet with 'old' friends (like chinatownboy) and new ones!

So who's going to the launch on Wednesday? Well, the people I know were on the invite list was duck (coz i asked him), chinatownboy, chen my TA, otterman, and timothy pwee, the guy who wrote the review. Should be fun, I should be seeing some familiar faces. That should make my day, the day after my exam finish :D

Read full article here

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Boon Lay on TV

Just as Channel U is tracking down the issue of tearing down the old flats at Boon Lay, they interviewed this old couple that moved from a kampong in Tuas.

It was then I felt really nostalgic and poignant because I recall that essentially most of the people living in Boon Lay all came from the old villages and kampongs around Jurong and Tuas. I did find out a bit about Jurong when I was supposed to embark on the Jurong Community Trail and this is bringing back all the memories.

The couple said that their flat in Boon Lay was the first flat that they had since moving out of Tuas Village. Now, getting to move would be the first time in probably 30 years and they were really exciting.

Personally I can understand how exciting it is to move out of that smelly dingy place (it is) since the upkeep is really bad. How is it then that Chinatownboy can stay in Chinatown all his life but here we are in Boon Lay, struggling to stay put without being shuffled around? Ok, he did move from various place but still in Chinatown. That's kinda hard in Boon Lay when we are being taken over by condominiums and shuffled to Jurong Industrial Area. I guess it's exciting for the old ones to move because unlike in Chinatown where they can see all the excitement and change downtown, life here can be rather stale.

Maybe they should just let us go back to farming. It would definitely be more exciting.

Read full article here

This day in history

Well not quite today but then on 17 September 2005, I took a photo of Clifford Pier entitled "a piece of history in 2005". Not quite a year later, Clifford Pier is closed and almost gone. They are going to redeveloped it into some recreational area. I really hope they do a good job of it.

Photo by Monkey, 2005


Some flats in Boon Lay have been boarded up and ready to be knock down. My xiaoyi's house is also going to be torn down. It was even all over channel u. Those flats in Boon Lay? It's been in the family for a really long time. My dad's sister used to live there and I actually bunked there for a year! It's some sweet memories.

I've gotten so scared of seeing boarded up houses. When I was young, a whole neighborhood of flats were TNT-ed and now it's just a really big piece of open land. Why? Well keep it that way before they build another condominium here. Our flat was actually scheduled to be torn down but for some reason they kept us around, probably for the unique architecture. Thank the lord for that. Still, better go take photos soon.

Before everything is gone. It's so depressing.

Yes I'm so free blogging about clifford pier because ive FINALLY finished the NHB stuff. Going to mug like theres no tomorrow now. Ooo on another note, I figured out what I'm going to wear on Saturday already - something suitable for receiving prize, climbing heritage trees and taking exam. Wahahaha

Read full article here

Friday, April 14, 2006

We flood

Makes you wonder how is it that we spend so much money on flood control in singapore but we still flood. it's definitely not from a lack of trying. A lot of time we smiply are not able to predict the worst and build to handle the worst.

Rain causes flash floods; short bursts of rain expected till end May
By Rita Zahara, Channel NewsAsia
14 April 2006

Rain caused flash floods in several areas of Singapore on Friday, especially in the eastern parts.

Police said they received many calls about flooding in low-lying areas in Chai Chee, Bedok Reservoir and the PIE towards Changi.

The Met Services advised the public to exercise caution, saying the highest rainfall of 77.6 millimetres was recorded over eastern Singapore from 1.30pm to 4pm.

The weathermen said Friday's rainfall was not unusual during this inter-monsoon period when rain can fall in intense bursts over short periods of time.

The inter-monsoon period usually lasts till the end of May. - CNA/ir

Read full article here

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Wet Noses and Soft Bellies do it for me

Pangolin in Singapore. Photo from Wildlife Singapore.

Despite Leong "googly eyes" Wai's insistence that big googly eyes sells conservation fundraisers, personally, I think wet lil wet pink noses and soft bellies do it for me!

I never though Pangolin were exactly... cute. But having seen these photos on Wildlife Singapore, who could resist though soft lil bellies that just wanna make you give them a nice belly rub? rubba rubba rubba *think angel flopping over*

Photo from Wildlife Singapore

And look at those pink lil wet nose. I can just imagine it sniffing around oh-so-cute! Alright, eyes are quite cute too and it sure as hell doesn't need to be big or googly like a tarsier who looks like it has more eyes than brain! :P

Read full article here

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Recycling Saga Part Deux

The following was lifted off my comments to Otterman who actually still reads my blog and blogged about my recycling saga. I did not blog about the followup with NEA and Colex because I actually started a new lil "green" journal in a red notebook (lol) to record my feedbacking and projects. :)

Otterman wrote:

Interesting thought, and worth writing in about - would suffice.

One hopes the residents are more adaptable than that though. Still with Recycling Monkey on their case, the new contractor will find themselves accountable to residents as well as the NEA.

Monkey replies:

yah cept that i am afriad they (nea and the new contractor) will be put off by me.

there is actually a part 2 to the saga. NEA who got the case from the call centre called me back and the contractor got the heat from NEA and also called me back.

conclusion is...
1) they are new and need time to settle down which i told them is fine by me
2) i feedbacked that they should try some other ways to inform people of changes other than just putting the date on the plastic bag but the impression i get is not very possible
3) While NEA officer who called back assured me that they most probably will continue with the same schedule but Colex guy said not possible at all. Sigh.

i just think that there is not enough communications between the contractor and the residents other than a plastic bag

the person in charge at the contractors also got an admission from the workers that this week, when they collected from my estate, they did not leave a plastic bag as they should have.

i'm monitoring this over the next month but i hope no more need for phone trails... expensive for my handphone bill!!!

Besides I don't want them to get put off by me, instead I hope to have a good and close relationship with them in the future. Haha don't want to be marked as the annoying unit. they might not come collect my recyclables next time!

i sincerely hope that it would work out for the best and yeah maybe im thinking worst case scenario about residents being unadaptable. :)

Read full article here

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Recycling Transition

Having not much sleep last night, I am driven by adrenaline and feeling industrious. Today was collection day for my estate under the national recycling program. However, no plastic bags were distributed and neither were the recyclables collected.

As such, I began my usual phone call to Alvatar who has been our contractor for the last year. However, I was informed that the estate's contract has been taken over by Colex. They gave me the NEA call center hotline to make my enquiry.

Calling NEA's call center was pretty much useless since they couldn't give me any answers so I demanded for NEA's recycling department's phone number. A receptionist machik picked up the phone who then told me to call a Mr Chong. Mr Chong then directed me to a Mr Alvin Tan, in charge of the Jurong area.

Mr Tan then informed me that Colex began their contract on 1 April and gave me Colex's number. Colex informed me that because they took over from Alvatar, dates will be changed and collection schemes different, etc. So for the last few years, it has always been alternate wednesdays and years of habit forming goes down the drain overnight. Then I accepted the fact they will call me back and let me know when our recyclables will be collected as I felt helpless in knowing nothing will come out of venting my anger at the receptionist on the phone.

Thinking back, I really should have feedback to Mr Tan that in an estate with mostly old people in charge of taking out the recyclables for collection, a change of contractors and a total overhaul of dates for collection will result in the lost of many faithful recyclers. Many would not have made a million phone call like me but simply assume that the program has stopped or the contractor being useless and gave up. That's what my dad immediately assumed anyways. This is undermining the effectiveness of the program and we are back to square one. No notice was sent out in advance to advise of the change. In fact, 5 days after the changeover of contractors and STILL they are NOT aware of their new collection schedule. This is extremely ineffective.

No plastic bags. No notices. Nobody coming to collect the bags of recyclables people put out early in the day. What would residents think but the worst?

Now, if a new date was set, how many would actually notice. Many has already been so used to the alternate wednesdays system that nobody actually look at the dates on the bags. In fact, Alvatar often gave bags with the incorrect date reflected. Sometimes we use outdated bags to hold the extra recyclables. All of these can only be done because there is a consistent system in place.

All that of course is now down the drain.

How is NEA to build up a recycling culture in our country when it doesn't create the infrastructure or prepare for even something as important as a smooth transition between contractors? Humans are but creatures of habit. That is the first rule that the contractors and NEA has to understand and work to their advantage. Sadly, this was not done. If every 2 years there is a change of contractor with similar ineffective transition, then a consistent recycling habit and performance in Singapore's heartland will never been achieved!

Read full article here

Qing Ming Adventures Part I

Slept at 2am after completing my final essay of the semester *phew* and woke up at 6.30am to head out for Qing Ming "grave sweeping". Today is the actual day of Qing Ming.

Since I'm such a klutz, I thought that today we were going to my maternal grandparents' grave. Instead, we went for my paternal grandparents side at Brights Hill and Bukit Timah's Bee Loh See. The systemization and commercialization of Qing Ming sickened me. At Bright Hill, we didn't have to bring anything, went to an aircon room, look at a piece of paper on the wall and paid out respect. All the food was prepared. Even burning of offers was done in a systematic way where a relay is formed from the people giving the offerings to the bangladeshi workers who then throws it in a swift motion straight into the big burning pit that is the end of your offering.

Nothing personal about the whole process at all. It was depressing. It totally undermines the entire purpose and meaning of Qing Ming. This corruption of our tradition with convenience speaks only of the generation's obligation to do something they do not necessary enjoy.

On the other hand, my maternal grandparents are at the crematorium in Mount Vernon where you are allowed to pay your respects and offer food and incense right in front of the urn-stone (since it's not exactly a tombstone). All of us chip in, chit chat, then proceed downstairs to burn the offerings together. After that we split the food and buy 4D of our grandparents "numbers" over breakfast. THAT is the true modern interpretation of Qing Ming. We do not need to be at a cemetery but the spirit lives on.

Photos to follow with Part II on April 16 when we head down to Mount Vernon for our second Qing Ming! Yay!

Read full article here

Monday, April 03, 2006

10 ways to change the world

"Your world. Your verdict: the small but beautiful ways that can help the fight to save the planet"
By Terry Kirby and Lucy Phillips
Published: 03 April 2006
The Independent Online Edition


Fit new buildings with solar panels or wind turbines
* PRO: Would reduce reliance on fossil fuels and provide renewable source of energy. Solar panels are benign and getting better at converting sunlight into electrical power.
* Against: Wind turbines would pose planning problems as well raising concerns over health and safety. Larger turbines already opposed on grounds of unsightliness and interference to birds. Solar and wind power may not be substitute for fossil fuels.

Label products according to their effect on climate:
* Pro: Would raise awareness among consumers about environmental impact of products. Could lead to companies competing in terms of being environmentally friendly.
* Against: Difficult to judge product's true impact on environment.

Force passengers to pay environmental cost of flying:
* Pro: Would have an impact on one of biggest sources of carbon dioxide emissions.
* Against: True environmental cost of flying difficult to assess and would be difficult to reach a consensus.

Public transport should be made cheaper:
* Pro: Minimises pollution in urban areas.
* Against: Trains are infrequent in certain areas.

Make energy- efficient light bulbs compulsory:
* Pro: Compact florescent light bulbs use up to 67 per cent less energy than traditional bulbs, and last 10 times longer. Incandescent bulbs waste 90 per cent of their energy as heat.
* Against: Currently CFLs cost between £5 and £8 each, compared with less than £1 for an ordinary incandescent bulb

Encourage people to work from home:
* Pro: Companies could reduce road congestion and greenhouse gas emissions, and help revive rural communities.
* Against: Companies would have to stump up to install computers and home offices for workers. Health and safety standards could be hard to enforce, and employees used to might find home-working an isolating experience.

Use the law to encourage recycling:
* Pro: Britain produces some 28.2 tonnes of household waste every year. Of this 87 per cent is incinerated or dumped in landfills, yet most household waste is suitable for either composting or recycling.
* Against: Collecting, sorting and recycling waste not cheap - councils with high recycling rates spend up to three times as much on waste collection as other local authorities.

Ban 4x4 cars from cities (SUV, MPV, etc.)
* Pro: Would reduce harmful emissions and would make roads safer for other motorists and pedestrians.
* Against: Motorists are still buying them - 187,000 4x4s were sold in Britain last year.

Reduce packaging on products
* Pros: Would drastically reduce the amount of waste we produce.
* Against: Recyclable wrapping can be more expensive, with costs passed on to buyers.

Ban patio heaters
* Pro: There are 750,000 in Britain producing 380,000 tons of greenhouse gases every year.
* Against: Ban would be difficult to police.

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