Wednesday, January 30, 2008

EIA of Sentosa Integrated Resort

Last year, as part of an assignment for an Environmental Management and Assessment class I was taking, my group and I did an environmental impact assessment (EIA) of the integrated resort at Sentosa.

The future Integrated Resort at Sentosa

It is important to note that this is in many ways a hypothetical EIA. There were assumptions made and we did NOT do any baseline surveys or studies. Information were all taken from other sources and projected for this site.

Reclamation of Sentosa to expand the land area for the Integrated Resort

As our environmental impact assessment was done after development has already started, we had to work on several imaginary assumption as to the conditions to which we were given the "project". While we were not able to provide data as to the amount of rare or endangered species lost, do realize that the emphasis in an EIA is on analyzing the impacts and coming up with mitigations.

"Scorched earth" styled approach to development

Having done a rather detailed background understanding of the area which is detailed in the presentation slides, we realized that essentially natural coral reefs were being buried just to create marine park, aquarium and artificial coral reef! The marine areas were being filled in with sand and then dug up again to have a venice-like setting with waterways and promenades.

Reclaiming the coastline of northern Sentosa only to turn it later into a water-themed resort

On top of that, the areas that are nearest to the encroached forest inland is going to become a spa area. As such we propose a building design that minimizes the cutting of the trees. The scorched earth, raze to the ground then build up again type of developmental approach is definitely more destructive than necessary. Architectural and building sensitivity to the existing landscape can mitigate the impact of the development greatly. On top of that it would also increase the value and reputation of the property and business.

You can see the existing sediment screens (marked by the orange line bouy) used as a form of mitigation to the impact of the reclamation but how effective is it compared to not reclaiming at all?

Additionally, EIA are supposed to have a very comprehensive public participation component as well. The actual EIA done of the development both had a very skewered term of reference (the question or issue of concerned that is examined by the EIA) as well as a poor excuse of public engagement. In fact, we had to lock away our phones, cameras and computers when we went to view it. Pen and paper only!

Either way, we can only hope that as the development is still in varying stages of construction, there is still opportunity for changes to be made to the design, such as incorporating more ecologically friendly features.

More photos of the reclamation and development works can be seen here.

Read full article here

Daily Green Actions: 29 Jan 2008

  • trying to find organic cotton baby products for my sister. Everything is so expensive! And not much of it around! grrr
  • spent lights out in bahasa indonesia class.
  • sadly i had to take cab to the session but think im pushing it by running back to my office to grab my utensils for lunch. :| over the top?
  • spent the morning at a discussion session with some US journalists visiting Singapore. Shared about environment issues in singapore

Read full article here

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Daily Green Actions: 28 Jan 2008

We ate, we met, we discussed!

  • Lights Out will be spent at a Naked Hermit Crab meeting. Hopefully we won't be all crabby wondering if anybody will turn up
  • Find out your own personal Happy Planet Index and other indicators like ecofootprint, carbon footprint at
  • My carbon footprint is even lower mainly I suspect because I don't drive. My carbon footprint is 2.16 global hectares, or 1.2 planets.
  • The survey also says my ecological footprint is 4.64 global hectares, or 2.58 planets but this is apparently below Singapore's average! EEK!
  • I just calculated my personal Happy Planet Index. I scored super low at 27.8. Singapore average is 40.8. Think I'm just grumpy today :P

Read full article here

Monday, January 28, 2008

Daily Green Actions: 27 Jan 2008

  • was doing a bit of spring cleaning just now and realize i saved lots of water using a bucket to wash cloth rather than use running water!
  • lights out is difficult to do without leaving the house. im almost tempted to flout it. sigh will try my best.
  • was sitting in the toilet contemplating sheryl crow's calls for limit on loo paper. its honestly scary when ppl use half a roll used at once

Read full article here

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Daily Green Actions: 26 Jan 2008

  • Spent lights out enjoying the birds, the stars, really good western food and good conversation about enviro-education with friend in NUS
  • Theres a pair of woodpeckers on the rain tree in front of me at arts link! Oh my god. This is even better than owl hunting!
  • I have found my mission for tonight's lights out! To go explore the new Aston's grill at PGP residences. w00t!
  • lights out just round the corner. i don't know what to do! it's catching up on me *gulp* maybe I'll go for dinner and then library to read
  • started a social network for nature bloggers in singapore on! It is really a good platform for W@W, my big secret project
  • i am resolved to never take taxi again unless i am late for school. yes, I had to take a cab today, again! how do i stop myself?
  • spent the morning at a meeting for naked hermit crabs discussing visions and operationalizing our visions in action

Read full article here

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Daily Green Actions: 25 Jan 2008

  • I am so encouraged by all the young nature bloggers in the making. Hopefully the older participants will take to it too!
  • spent lights out conducting a seashore blogging workshop for young people with NIE green club and Joe Lai. It was exhilarating!

See my post on the IYOR 2008 Singapore website.
Others have also blogged about the workshop:
Do leave some encouraging comments for these budding nature bloggers!

Read full article here

Friday, January 25, 2008

Daily Green Actions: 24 Jan 2008

As mentioned in my Daily Green Actions...

Organic beer from UK at the Colbar off Portsdown Road near NUS. The colonial remnant used to serve the British officers living in the area and the legacy continues in the beer served there. However, my personal devil's advocate and in-house Homer Simpson challenged me, asking:
"Aren't all beer are organic anyways?"
Well the smart aleck was playing with the fact that beers are generally "organic" as long as it is not made of artificial chemical. However, at the same time, "environmentally", it is definitely difficult to determine if this beer is 100% organic. The resident capitalist also challenged if we can actually tell if this is more than mere marketing as it would probably sell more beers, appealing to the health and environmentally conscientious.

Yes, being organic could possibly mean superficially meeting criteria for the "organic" certification process. Or it could really ensure that every bit of its ingredients were produced organically without chemical input in its growth at all. Somehow, I have my doubts.

So did I really contribute my consumer dollars righteously by merely going for the first brand I see with an "organic" label slapped on it? Or am I just a sucker that the marketing executives were hoping to target and perhaps I am actually no better than people who doesn't even care how their food is produced?

This much I can tell you, the beer tasted good.

Read full article here

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Daily Green Actions: 23 Jan 2008

  • lights out was spent at changi with kids and their families exploring our shores in preparation for a workshop. how exciting
  • Have not been consistently keeping a watch on my "green behaviour" or has it become habitual? Probably not. Lightsout today spent at shore

Read full article here

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Daily Green Actions: 22 Jan 2008

  • I used to be the only one in my office so it made sense to stay away. Now it's a communal space with more efficient use of electricity
  • theres no lightsout today, or rather i felt like i've spent it in a public space. If I not been in the office, others would likewise be here
  • it should be lights out right now but my office is full of people sharing the same amount of electricity so im reluctant to leave... how?
  • i was a bad monkey - took a cab to school! apparently the new price hike is not enough to deter me. much less others.
  • was hardworking and spent the night writing collaboration proposal to NEA and organizing seashore blogging for kids on friday
  • lights out spend learning to drive again and then reading, walking, spending time with family. nothing exciting or new

Read full article here

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Daily Green Actions: 21 Jan 2008

  • was hardworking and spent the night writing collaboration proposal to NEA and organizing seashore blogging for kids on friday
  • lights out spend learning to drive again and then reading, walking, spending time with family. nothing exciting or new
  • My dad was complaining that "because of the trend", now even his favourite hawker store charges for extra packaging. Thumbs up from me!
  • The first email I received from my blogs is a reporter who wants to ask me, yet again, about plastic bags. Getting tired of the plastic bags

Read full article here

Monday, January 21, 2008

Daily Green Actions: 20 Jan 2008

  • beginning to question again what is the purpose of persisting with lights out? creating real change or just an exercise in determination?
  • slept lights out away. unfortunately it was so hot i had to keep the fan on. it's getting harder and harder to persist lightsout
  • think my visitor who is here to help out with an environmental sustainability class was a tad intrigued by my "green" behaviour.
  • yesterday lightsout spent walking around Singapore (blister to prove) with an australian visitor. used my portable chopsticks and no straws!

Read full article here

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Daily Green Actions: 18-19 Jan 2008

18 Jan 2008

19 Jan 2008

Read full article here

Friday, January 18, 2008

Daily Green Actions: 17 Jan 2008

  • lightsout was spent learning to drive, haphazardly, then reading at the busstop, chilling in the moonlight follow by time spent with family
  • If something already exist, does boycotting make it go away? If sharks fin is served, we refuse to eat, then what? waste it? moral dilemma
  • Was informed yesterday that my consumer support for the Singapore Flyer (the monstrous ferris wheel) is worse than using plastic bags. yes?
  • just came out from a talk by Ria Tan at the Geography module Biophysical Landscape of Singapore. What a rousing success. We had fun :)
  • planning a trip to bring some international (and local) guests from my department to see the "wild side" of Singapore

Read full article here

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Interview with Geosphere 2008

Monkey at the southern islands, 2007. Photo by Duck.

Last month, a junior from the NUS Geographical Society approached me to do an interview for the society's publication, Geosphere. Below after the break is the superbly long, unedited, original reply I sent to him for the email interview.

Amongst the questions include one about my motivations for starting this blog. That may interest some of you readers out there. There is also an interesting request for 3 suggestions for "Daily Green Actions" for the Geosphere readers. It was an exceedingly difficult question to answer but I tried my best. I did. If you have any suggestions on how I could improve my answers, please do drop me a note. Comments much appreciated.

The editors also requested a few photos of monkey at work so I threw in some here as well.

Read the full interview in the full article.

Monkey guiding NHC participants at Sentosa, 2007. Photo by Ron Yeo.

November Tan is a graduate student in the Department of Geography. She is also a volunteer nature guide and author of various nature-related blogs. Her current research is on the regional environmental impacts of Singapore’s vegetable import.

1. Congratulations on your blog being nominated Blog of Note on 20 November 2007 by Blogger! What is your motivation behind setting up this blog?

The blog was started as early as 2003 when I first joined NUS and started volunteering for the NUS Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research where I was introduced to the local blogosphere and its nature bloggers. Back then my blog was known as the Midnight Blog Patrol, which documented my reviews and reflections on topics as I come across news and others’ writings.

Monkey with Club Rainbow at Pedal Ubin, 2005

As the natural progression of blog evolution takes over, I went from being the comment monkey to being the rambling leafmonkey where I started writing about all things environment and heritage in Singapore. This time it was on a new and improved blog known as the Midnight Monkey Monitor (MMM). The move was actually inspired by my stay in Santa Barbara, California while I was on the NUS Student Exchange Program (SEP).

The name leafmonkey was inspired by the endangered and possibly endemic subspecies of monkey in Singapore known as the banded leaf monkey. Like the leaf monkey, I am similarly local and the blog was all about highlighting natural and cultural heritage in Singapore that are equally endemic and endangered!

In November 2007, I decided to start a new segment on MMM known as Daily Green Actions and Lights Out 365 that arose after a stint as tutor for the geography module Nature and Society. It occurred to me that so-called environmentalists are just as human as the next person and nowhere near perfect. I hope that by writing and reflecting upon my daily green (and non-green) actions, I would inspire others to think about their daily actions. I suppose that was when MMM got the attention of the Blogger’s Blog of Note team.

Monkey at her research field site recce with her local liaison in Cameron Highlands, Malaysia, 2007. Photo by Duck.

2. Should Geographers be more environmentally-conscious than the other undergraduates?

Environmental consciousness crosses discipline boundaries. It begins with our individual experiences and motivations and has nothing to do with our academic directions. However, I am sad to say that I am the only geographer amongst the many nature volunteers that I know of although it is often agreed that Geography is such an integral and often missing link in environmental action. Geographers have much to contribute to environmental sustainability of our world!

3. But we use a lot of paper to print our Geography readings! How do we deal with this dilemma?

First and foremost, I personally avoid printing as much as possible and read the articles on the computer if available. I have even tried scanning the chapters instead of photocopying. But if printing is unavoidable, I would print 2 pages on each side of the paper and print double-sided. I also take notes on my computer and print the lecture slides only if necessary.

Monkey counting the hundreds of abandoned straws on our coast during International Coastal Cleanup Singapore, 2007. Photo by Acroamatic.

4. What do you think is the most pressing environmental issue right now?

Every issue is pressing! That’s why we have such a difficult time prioritizing them. Let’s worry about the world another day and focus on our backyard. The most pressing issue in Singapore for me is the rapid loss of habitat to make way for economic development.

Likewise, Singapore is in the top 5 per capita carbon-emitting countries in the world mainly thanks to our still-expanding oil refinery industry. This is again attributed to economic development.

There is little incentive or perhaps there is yet a culture of environmental awareness amongst Singaporeans. We are desensitized to environmental issues as we feel secure, assured by the country’s excellent job in securing food, water, land and managing our waste. As such there is no incentive to step up or improve our lifestyles to be more sustainable.

5. Can you give our Geosphere readers 3 Daily Green Actions to get started on saving the environment?

We won’t be able to save the environment but we can try to make a difference for the future of our children by doing these simple things:

  1. Visit nature areas and speak up for the habitats that are under threat by development
  2. Be a responsible consumer – think about whether you giving away your money to support or create a greater environmental issue. Perhaps money could be better-spent supporting companies with “green” practices.
  3. Always choose a sustainable alternative if you can – for example, choose reusable bags over plastic bags, use reusable chopsticks instead of disposable ones, take public transport or carpool instead of driving etc.

Trying to pass time in the Forest Research Institute of Malaysia while MS tries to match supposedly extinct local primary forest tree species from historical herbarium records. Who said "saving the world" is exciting? Taken in 2007 by duck.

6. Singer Sheryl Crow called for a limit on loo paper to help the environment. Tell us your most outrageous suggestion to save Mother Earth!

Nothing is too outrageous, perhaps only impractical.

7. Name one thing you love about your current job.

8. What is your pet phrase?


9. Which topic in geography is your favourite and why?

My favourite aspect of geography is the study of human-environment interactions. Why? Because we are humans and we live, breathe, interact and change our environment every second of our existence. No human lives in a vacuum.

10. How has geographical knowledge helped you in life?

It gets me through my daily life.

11. How can you break the stereotype that Geography majors have “limited” or “no” future in Singapore? Give the junior Geographers some encouraging words!

The entire world is in your hands, limited only by your own creativity. Opportunities are endless, we need only seize it.

12. Complete the sentence: “I adore Geography because……” is a part of who I am.

Monkey on the Mekong River off Chiang Khong, Northern Thailand in 2006 Geography Field Studies module. I really shouldn't be smiling with all that river bank erosion in the background.

Read full article here

Daily Green Actions: 16 Jan 2008

  • spent lights out having a successful meeting with NLB who agreed to future collaborations to host workshops for The Leafmonkey Workshop
  • Today's lights out will be spent with the NLB staff discussing sponsorship of venue for hosting environmental workshops
  • yesterdays lights out was spent having dinner with Ria and thanks to her, I was reminded to use my portable chopsticks! 3rd use already!
  • are you a contributor of electronic waste (e-waste)? I constantly think about that when I throw away spoilt dvd-r/cd-r. sigh any suggestion?
  • Macbook Air - Apple's attempt to finally go green in their product design? how about improving existing products?

Read full article here

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Daily Green Actions: CNY Special

Was asked to speak on a mandarin radio interview tomorrow on what "green" things people can do for Chinese New Year during spring cleaning, shopping or visiting. It's a recorded phone interview but nonetheless I went about asking a few friends for their input as well as threw in a few of mine.

If you have more ideas, feel free to leave a comment. Remember, creativity is boundless!

  • buying new clothes? don't throw out the old clothes - donate them or make them into new clothes! check out the Little Brown Dress Project for creative inspiration
  • wenhua suggests: spring cleaning? remember to sort your waste and recycle!
  • instead of buying tons of packet drinks for house guests during CNY, how about brewing jugs of homemade drinks for them? cut down wastes
  • oh yes @evehow reminds: do not eat / buy facai moss (Nostoc flagelliforme). It's overharvested and banned
  • suggestion from @evehow: don't buy more than needed, don't buy too much food that end up throw away and check if your seafood is sustainable
  • suggestion from koksheng: no eat sharks fin and carpool with relatives when going visiting!
  • recycle your angpow packets! use it as an envelope, birthday angpow, rough paper or make a lantern!
  • bake your own cookies to reduce on packaging waste. otherwise reuse the cookies/love letter containers for food storage! we put bakua in 'em
  • what green things can people do for chinese new year? use biodegradable or reusable instead of disposable plates/cutlery during parties

More daily green actions from 15 January 2007 in the full article.
  • ever since I started daily green actions, people have been asking me for green tips. Dont they know I'm struggling along just like everyone?
  • tomorrow im getting a radio interview about "green things" people can do for Chinese New Year. Any suggestions? Help!
  • wrote up some responses for an email interview regarding minimization of plastic bags - look out for me in My Paper on Monday 21 Jan
  • I've decided not to turn on my office light as well since I sit beside the window! Lights out doesn't just apply to 7-9pm!
  • Went to find a lecturer in her office and found that she didn't turn on the lights and allow sunlight to illuminate her office! inspiring :)
  • we should be looking at whole ecosystems and not just single endangered species. they are just indicators screaming "engine overheated!"
  • species conservation alone is short-sighted and narrow minded. nonetheless, we SHOULD be responsible for our impacts. it will backlash later
  • feeling "green" and having apple-starfruit juice for breakfast but then it got me thinking where the fruits are from. occupational hazards
  • i really enjoy walking to the MRT in the morning where you can feel the morning mist and dewdrops on grass. then the car exhausts kills me.

Read full article here

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Daily Green Actions: 14 Jan 2008

  • a My Paper reporter called asking what I think Singapore could go one step further in reducing plastic bag use. Any suggestions?
  • spent lights out in the school library researching, reading, learning and then proceeded to kill a few trees photocopying. yes im guilty
  • I've been super "green" today - first I brought my own mug to the meeting at a cafe and had lunch in my own lunch box! happy
  • spent lights out reading in the jurong west community library. was planning on walking there but got blister on my foot so took bus instead

Read full article here

Monday, January 14, 2008

Daily Green Actions: 13 Jan 2008

  • think i shall spent lights out today hanging out in the public library :) it closes at 9! how convenient
  • used my portable chopsticks for the 2nd time at Ken's Ramen on Friday but I still haven't washed them! Being "green" means being hardworking
  • wait, im sure somebody's going to tell me a movie is not very environmental
  • already thinking about what i would do for lights out tonight. it takes that much determination to do this. sigh. movie / dinner anyone?
  • @evehow: the problem is i would have easy access to a car. i must resist the temptation!
  • im wondering how long i can withstand not using airconditioning. It's been about 2 months.
  • sick of people egging me on about how i would not be able to resist driving once i know how to. must. prove. them. wrong! :o

Read full article here

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Daily Green Actions: 7-12 Jan 2008

Daily Green Actions has been going on since November 9, 2007. It has been 2 months and 4 days! Sadly I was not exactly welcoming in the new year with green actions, but twitter messages resumed on 7 January and below is the compilation from the last week with a few highlights before the fold

Highlights of my favourite Actions

  • have you studied your household utilities bill recently? it sure helps to identify a strategy for daily energy/water conservation.
  • Driving is tiring and knowing how to drive enable people to carpool and share responsibilities. But we DO NOT each need a car of our own!
  • how far do you think one should go in influencing the actions of your friends and family? Kick a fuss or simply suggest and let them decide?
  • in addition to lightsout USA, in canada, WWF started an initiative called Earth Hour that also aims to turn off lights for 1 hr on 29 Mar 08
  • do you flatten your drink cartons or cans before throwing them away? In a minuscule way, this helps save energy used to compress them later
  • but in the first place, should we even buy packet, canned or bottled drinks? how about brewing your own and using a reusable jug or bottle!
  • Even little birdies goes green in light of climate change! a lil inspiration for myself and us all to persevere!
  • cheers to @juanicths for offering to help me with lightsout by inviting me to healthy activities like exercising and simply time with frens
  • finally used my portable chopsticks for the first time today when we ate sushi for dinner! I was so happy when I returned the disposables :)

12 January 2008
  • spent lights out yesterday at dinner with @evievie. friends are such wonderful activities. Lightsout should be spent as a group activity!
  • have you studied your household utilities bill recently? it sure helps to identify a strategy for daily energy/water conservation.
  • interesting to note that my household water consumption is way below national average but electricity is struggling around the average
  • trying to determine if lights out has indeed reduced my household electricity consumption but there was no meter reading in Dec! frustrated
11 January 2008
  • Driving is tiring and knowing how to drive enable people to carpool and share responsibilities. But we DO NOT each need a car of our own!
  • just had my 2nd driving lesson and already my dad is planning to buy a car! Grr! Knowing how to drive is not a bad thing but buying cars is!
  • how far do you think one should go in influencing the actions of your friends and family? Kick a fuss or simply suggest and let them decide?
  • Taking a lesson from feedback I got this morning, do not make a fuss about others' un-green behaviour or they will think i'm just angsty
10 January 2008
  • That makes a total of about 4 countries that I know so far that has a similar initiative under a different name - Japan, US, Canada, Taiwan
  • in addition to lightsout USA, in canada, WWF started an initiative called Earth Hour that also aims to turn off lights for 1 hr on 29 Mar 08
  • further reflection: whats the point of having lights out if i proceed to spend the next 22 hours on the computer?
  • today lights out will be spent learning how to drive. not exactly the best activity in the world. the driving school doesnt use hybrid cars!
  • but in the first place, should we even buy packet, canned or bottled drinks? how about brewing your own and using a reusable jug or bottle!
  • do you flatten your drink cartons or cans before throwing them away? In a minuscule way, this helps save energy used to compress them later
9 January 2008
  • 30 minutes more to lights out and i've decided to spend it on the bench outside my house, enjoying the cool breeze and company of giant wasp
  • while at botanical gardens, met vilma and prof wee! what a wonderful place. must hang out there more often!
  • spent lights out today at botanical gardens, planning my environmental education and capacity building initiative which organizes workshops
  • indulged in a bit of consumerism and bought a new laptop bag. necessary evil - consumerism.
  • Even little birdies goes green in light of climate change! a lil inspiration for myself and us all to persevere!
  • cheers to @juanicths for offering to help me with lightsout by inviting me to healthy activities like exercising and simply time with frens
  • forgot to switch off power sources at home before i left! this is precisely what i mean about being out of sync. it takes conscientiousness
  • why am i finding it so hard to get back to daily green actions after 20 days in USA? I was so inspired after 6 mths in santa barbara in '05!
  • may have another blogging workshop lined up for nparks volunteers. that makes it the 2nd confirmed blogging for nature workshop in 2008!
8 January 2008
  • alas i spent lights out being on the laptop playing scrabble online. i really need to find activities away from electronic items.
  • got a phone call earlier from a friend asking me to give a talk about what one can do for environment and community outreach. should be fun!
  • haven't done lights out in almost a month and now at a lost with 7 oclock ticking pass me! scampering to turn computer off. cya at 9!
  • Found an old resume where I wrote my objectives as "...sustainable community resource management through research, outreach or planning"
  • After a long chat with my professor (the one who's in IPCC), I've realized that my niche is in community engagement, NGO mgmt & strategies
  • I got approached to be involved either as a TA or guest speaker in the new Environmental Sustainability module offered by my department. Yay
  • finally used my portable chopsticks for the first time today when we ate sushi for dinner! I was so happy when I returned the disposables :)
7 January 2008
  • lights out today will be spent having dinner with friends so no electricity consumed. i made sure everything was turned off before leaving
  • lights out yesterday was spent sleeping. sadly I was so jetlagged, I comatosed and hit the bed without turning off the computer!
  • having a hard time adjusting back to being green but taking taxis is out of the question these days due to the price hike. yay!

Read full article here

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Daily Green Actions: 17-30 Dec 2007

I'm Back!

Apologies for my lack of posting while I was away. In fact, I have faithfully, as much as possible, continued with my Daily Green Actions on Twitter. I've simply not had time to compile them every day on the blog. Unfortunately I was not able to do lights out while living in others' home.

Nonetheless I have put all my Daily Green Actions from the last 26 days into one post. More after the break in the full post.

  • It is becoming harder and harder to document any green actions. I put my reusable shopping bag to use yest and walked outdoors at lights out
  • interesting that disneyland has more stalls selling fruits and have recycling bins with every wastebin. still the amt of litter is amazing
  • spent the whole day yesterday in disneyland. is it not permissible to enjoy the xmas lights even though i think its wasting energy?
  • im beginning to think its impossible to have any green actions here in SD, living in others' home on holiday
  • My friend working as a LA County Planner reminded me of plans to dim the skies of LA for the wildlife. If only Urban Singapore would do that
  • lightsout in the full moon here would be much better as the moon lights up the sky! Somehow I think N Am is better, not as lighted as S'pore
  • Experiencing full moon in the temperate latitudes never cease to amaze and awe. The moon is so big and bright. Moon in the equator is tiny!
  • yesterday went to the chula vista nature center which is a marshland area of the tijuana estuary. animals in tanks were not v nice though
  • merry christmas! sad to say I've not really been able to engage in "green actions" other than the usual rejection of plastic bags
  • despite the freezing cold, i still turn off the shower while soaping my hair even though it would be warmer for me to stand in the hot water
  • Went to the Griffith Observatory and coincided our visit with the Winter Solstice Celebrations. Saw the sunset on the hills. Happy Winter!
  • Being in downtown LA gives me mixed feelings. On the one hand it's the only non-sprawl but it makes the sprawl so obvious by standing out
  • was in Los Angeles today. Spent lights out at dinner, playing with puppies and taking the Greyhound back to San Diego
  • when living in other people's home, its harder to implement lifestyle choices against the host's wishes but at least recycling is convenient
  • happily used my shopping bag instead of plastic bags while shopping for groceries but mama drove from shop to shop around a strip mall argh!
  • went to a taco shop today and they only serve in styrofoam boxes and cups and it almost gave me a cardiac arrest. such misery
  • lights out has been permanently put on hold while on holiday. It gets dark here at 5pm! Yesterday spent lights out at dinner. Today? dinner
  • its very difficult to be green in another country, on holiday, dealing with another set of culture, practices and excuses. painful :(
  • As the plane approached Los Angeles yesterday, I felt depressed as I looked at the lights and traffic. Not a place I want to live in.
  • first morning in san diego. suburbia life makes me very angsty constantly. all that lightbulb for xmas decor and driving to get around. RAWR

Read full article here

The Monkey's Land Dilemma

View of Los Angeles from the plane landing at LAX

It's been 26 days since the monkey checked in with her daily green action. Despite having been back in Singapore since Sunday, almost a week ago, I've been struggling to keep up with school, work and friends. Blame it on jet lag or just culture-lag but I'm trying to adjust back to regular programming again.

Can't say I have been particularly green while in Suburbia San Diego. It was particularly difficult and frustrating. Just about the only positive thing I noticed is that the toilet paper used is particularly environmental while back home, thick luscious toilet paper makes me cringe at the thought of virgin pulp. And honestly if I have to resort to comparing toilet paper, you know there hasn't been much else to focus on. Environmentally, of course.

While I haven't been exactly shopping my days away, drowning myself in materialist consumerism, it was particularly frustrating to drive from strip mall to box mall. Living in a suburban sprawl, visiting the sites where the San Diego fire has taken its toll, looking at burnt slopes made it very difficult for my sense and sensibilities.

Suddenly, visiting downtown Los Angeles felt like a reprieve and haven despite the fact that I've always hated it. I realize it's not the city itself that was unsustainable but the urban sprawl in the greater LA county and its commuting culture in said suburban sprawl that was critiqued.

The Lost Angels and its sprawl can be seen very clearly in this photo taken from Griffith Observatory near the Hollywood sign. Photo taken on the 2007 Winter Solstice.

Within the city itself, it was really much better in terms of walking, public transport and even mixed use housing! Unfortunately, my friend who is a LA county planner informed me that it's very much gentrified within the downtown area now. Read: expensive housing for rich executives. Pretty much the same as Singapore's downtown area I suppose.

Perhaps it is due to Singapore's space constraint that we have planned our land much better. However, this nagging thought will always lingers at the back of mind if Singapore had the land, would we also be crying out for single-family residence with a backyard for the kids and dog? In Singapore, owning a landed property is very much a status symbol. If more houses and land were available, surely we will all be scrambling for one. Sadly, who would want to live in high rise buildings then?

Perhaps after 2 generations of living in highrise apartment buildings, we have lost the call of the land. While it has disconnected us from nature, at the same time I doubt the suburban dwellers in san diego are very much more connected to nature. It's all a dilemma for me.

I tried to argue that nature should be kept apart from cities. Despite my love for nature, I rather live in the city. Not because I love living in cities. In fact, I abhor cities. However, if it means keeping myself from encroaching on wilderness, nature reserves and other rural or "wild" spaces, I would gladly suffer it.

How many people would be willing to do that? Not many I would think. If given the choice we all want the peaceful, tranquil, close to wild open spaces for our kids to run freely. I wouldn't want to raise a kid in New York City for example. It's really a headache thinking about these questions.

Yet watching the news in San Diego about cougars (mountain lions) running into the suburban towns in California made me toughen my resolve. There is a difference between living in the suburban area and living in a suburban SPRAWL. I think the motivations of planners and developers, population wanting to serve their own desires and crazy monkeys like me who cares more about the environment than my own desires are wildly different.

In Singapore, we don't have much say about suburban sprawl. In fact, we have sprawled beyond control. Jurong West extension, Punggol 21, were they not all "wilderness" before? The government says we need land for housing and goodbye mangroves and forests. Private developers (and the government that allocates land to them) continue to encroach on the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve with condominiums at the edge of the forest. Likewise, the selling point of these developments is to be "close to nature". Yet how many of these Bukit Timah residents complain about snakes coming into their homes? I know a few. Another case in point of the cougars.

So are we much different from the sprawl in US or any other countries? My only consolation perhaps is that our planning applied the key features of the new urbanism concept which is to have things within walking distance and to reduce car use and building a sense of community. Well, it's debatable. Besides there have been critiques who thought that Singapore may do a better job at conservation if we never build satellite towns scattered around the island but focused on growing the city in one concentrated space.

Do we ever think about what we are doing to satisfy our selfish desire to be "close to nature"? While we love nature, do we want to destroy nature just for us to have a piece of it? Or should we "sacrifice" our selfish desire and suffer the urban populace so that we can still have a piece of nature to go enjoy on the weekends?

And that is my monkey land dilemma and honestly I still do not know what the "right answer" is. Nor so I have an answer for myself. What do you think?

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