Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Interview with Straits Times

Few days ago, an email came by the mountain express to the monkey in the highlands. A reporter from straits times wanted to do a feature on "Green Champions" to appear possibly this Saturday.

Here is our email interview after the break. Warning: Pardon my long windedness at times!

(1) What do you to to conserve the environment?

I started volunteering actively for the NUS Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research volunteers (Toddycats!). Then I started as a Pedal Ubin ( guide and because of that I got in touch with my personal family heritage and history on Pulau Ubin and started a blog Pulau Ubin Stories ( that documents that stories and history of the island. I also was the project manager for the Hopea Sangal Education Program ( I was awarded the Bayer Youth Environmental Envoy 2004 for these works. Then in 2005 I got selected to represent Singapore in the Bayer Eco-Minds Awards. I am also a member of the NEA Young Environmental Envoy and I started working on exhibitions and public outreach with Toddycats. I started an initiative called Toddycats Engage which tried to generate constructive feedback and comments to various agencies and organizations about various environmental issues. In 2006 I was doing my thesis on Chek Jawa and I got to know many of the other key members of the conservation community and started working very closely with them. I volunteered as a Ubin Npark volunteer and joined the Naked Hermit Crabs in 2007. I became a shore guide on top of an Ubin guide. In 2008 I started The Leafmonkey Workshop ( to conduct training sessions for nature guides as well as to introduce various technology for more effective environmental awareness. I am also an active blogger and try to do environmental outreach through my blog and was highlighted by as being a Blog of Note last year. ( You can read more about this on my blog.

I focus mainly on outreach and awareness projects as well as "capacity building". I also give talks to share my personal experience in volunteering and greening personal lifestyles. I work very closely with most of the environmental groups in Singapore. I also work with the student environmental groups in NUS as well as the campus sustainability committee. I believe in networking resources for more effective conservation efforts.

(2) Why are you doing this (motivation)?

"A passion for the environment". When I was in my first year of university, I saw a poster that asked "Do you have a passion for the environment?" and I thought, yeah I did! And that's how I ended up joining the Toddycats.

(3) When did you start doing this, and how did it all start?

Prior to the Toddycats, I already started being very interested in JC (1998-1999) during a talk by the vice president of Nature Society (Singapore), Shawn Lum. Back then I was inspired to try to initiate mangrove restoration projects and I also joined NSS as a volunteer but nothing really took root until 2003 when I entered NUS. How? When I saw the poster.

But the love for nature began as a child as my parents brought us for hikes in the forest and romp at botanic gardens on weekends. My love for plants and animals had long manifested since I was young.

(4) How long have you been doing this, and have you won any awards thus far?

I would say that I have been doing this since December 2003 and never stopped. awards mentioned above.

After the Bayer Eco Mind, I got the HSBC NYAA Award and several NUS Student Achivement Awards

(5) What would you say are your key achievements in this area of environmental work (anything you're particularly proud of)?

it's a work in progress. I'm a perfectionist, I constantly feel that I haven't done enough. But key achievements are generally highlighted above. I do a lot of miscellaneous stuff that I haven't mentioned. I am quite proud of the fact I got highlighted by as a sort of pseudo international recognition. It helped spread the word more and that made me very encouraged to continue my work.

(6) Do you find this cause fulfilling? Why?

Absolutely. Every time I hear somebody come up to me saying that they felt inspired to do something for the environment, even if it's as simple as to stop using straws, I feel a sense of fulfillment.

(7) Are there any difficulties which you've faced along the road (eg sacrifices, juggling pursuit of work/education and env cause, ridicule from others)?

(8) How did you surmount these difficulties?
Not giving up. Talking to others, exchanging notes, encouraging each other, knowing that we made a different, hearing little encouragements from people we guide or people who felt inspired by us always always helps gives me enough burst of energy to last quite a while. Discouraging comments dampens the spirit but small lil encouragements go a long long way. This is why we try to advocate giving constructive feedback and positive comments whenever possible. Too little good news out there that people forget that there are actually a lot of positive things out there. And people doing good work need a lil pat on the back to affirm their work and to give them motivations to continue on with their work. A deserving compliment goes a long way. People tend to only complain about negative things and forget to give praise to the things they like about the things around them. Only when it's gone then they complain. To preempt that, we need to remind people of the positive things there to show that they are very much appreciated.

(9) Is there any person/people who has/have been a constant source of support, or perhaps someone who has inspired you?

Ria Tan.

N. Sivasothi

They are my mentor and friend. Definitely inspired me countless time. I work closely with both of them.

(10) Do you have any message you'd like to send to readers/the general public?

Everyone makes a difference. Every little action counts. Each thing you do goes a long way. Remember to appreciate the good thing around you. Explore - get to know your backyard, get to know Singapore and all the wildplaces you never thought exist in Singapore. Express - be a voice for nature, share with others what you saw. Act - volunteer, go one step further and put words to action.


Kevin said...

Monkey, have I told you how awesome you are? Since you started with all this blogging and twittering, everything you've done has just taken a life of it's own. Keep up the great work saving the planet one update at a time :D

Monkey said...

it has taken on a life of its own? wow. hehe kevin, are you just trying to put to practice answer #8 in the interview? hehe :P

But anywho, thanks so much *hugs* and happy birthday ;)