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.


Sivasothi said...

Very nice!

Monkey said...

cool! thanks :) glad you enjoyed it!

Just found typo mistakes in there while re-reading haha i hope the editors find them too!

Anand said...

Ya, good work November. Nicely answered :)