Tuesday, January 31, 2006

I want one too

My Sunshine

In Garrett Hardin's own words, from his famous paper "Tragedy of the Commons":

"People vary. Confronted with appeals to limit breeding, some people will undoubtedly respond to the plea more than others. Those who have more children will produce a larger fraction of the next generation that those with more susceptible consciences. The difference will be accentuated, generation by generation.

In C.G. Darwin's (Charles' grandson) words: "It may well be that it would take hundreds of generation for the progenitive instinct to develop in this way, but if it should do so, nature would have taken her revenge, and the variety Homo contraciptiens would become extinct and would be replaced by the variety Homo progenitivus

... The argument has here been stated in the context of the population problem, but it applies equally well to any instance in which society appeals to an individual exploiting a commons to restrain himself for the general good - by means of his conscience. To make such an appeal is to set up a selective system that works towards the elimination of conscience from the race".

- From the paragraph "Conscience is Self-Eliminating"

My ticking biological clock aside, seriously, this particular quote has really set me thinking. I have always been of the belief that as the knowing ones, we should set a good example.

In JC, I thought that the best way to save the world is to wipe out all of mankind. Then after the first week of class in NUS, I found out why people even bother "saving the planet" - it's really because we the humans need it and want to keep the environment as we know it. Recently, I have been firm that we could create a snowball effect if we each play our own part and stop the consumption and thus supply of destructive products such as sharks fin and virgin paper by stopping our own consumption. Similarly, how could we continue to populate this overcrowded planet when we know how depleted it already is. Some would say we should thus play our own part and stop contributing to our over-population.

Having read Hardin, I now believe that having a guilty conscience from contributing to the pressures on earth's carrying capacity is definitely better than letting the evil, selfish, self-centered, egocentric, souless, conscienceless, capitalist and developement-happy Homo progenitivus take over our planet!

Let us all go forth and procreate NOW!*

* The above offer is only available to all environmentally conscientious souls who may otherwise be held back by a guilty conscience as previously mentioned above.

Read full article here

Friday, January 20, 2006

The Birding Monkey

Monkey has never been much of a birder. In fact, I was a serious disappointment at Fraser's Hill where all the bio grads were glued to binoculars and ooo-ing and aaa-ing at the great diversity of birds there.

However, being an avid reader of Prof Wee's bird ecology blog, I have begin to learn by osmosis and somehow, somewhere, I must have caught the bird flu... the birding flu that is!

Today when azurev and I were slacking having lunch at the grounds of St Andrews Cathedral, enjoying the vast greenery in the heart of the city, I suddenly saw a flash of azure.

No azurev didn't flash me but I saw azure wings reflecting in the sun and landed on a branch about 40m away from where we were seated - in front of the church. It had beautiful clear bright blue wings and pure white chest.

The first thought that came to mind was that WOW kingfisher! But what the heck are kingfishers doing in the heart of town?

I quickly prod azurev and after trying very hard and short of doing a printscreen and drawing an arrow on the bird, she finally spotted the bird. Just then, another of white-breasted bird landed 0.5m away from the first one, on the next branch. Wow, must be a couple. However, I cannot see the wings of the 2nd bird so I decided to walk forward to check them out.

It's hard to sneak up on 2 birds when there's no camoflague in sight. It's like a giraffe stalking a deer in the clear open grassland, without nothing to hide behind.

I walked relatively slowly and approached the tree on the other end of the field. (we were on opposite ends of the church ground or "field" if you prefer.) As I got about 10-15m away from the tree, I finally saw the blue wings of the 2nd bird to confirm that they are indeed a couple.

However, just then, the first bird and I made eye contact and he started to make the most raucous call ever! Indeed, I shall call it a squawk. It was so loud and immediately I know that he's trying to warn me away from his tree. Perhaps his nest is there?

Once he started squawking, I turned back and looked at azurev excitedly because I had made contact with the bird, despite a not-so-friendly one. I can tell from her expression that she's heard the squawking too which goes to show how loud it was. She described it as being as loud as a "fog horn".

Sadly, both of us did not have a camera on us, not even a camera phone. It's times like this that you wish you subscribed to the technological fervor.

Oh well, when I came back to the office and searched around online, the only bird I can find that looked even slightly like it was the white collared kingfisher (Halcyon chloris).

So far, all mention of this species I found online are of sightings at Kranji or Sungei Buloh. What was it doing at St Andrews Cathedral? Did it really have a nest on that tree? Or did it fly from the marina bay area and was stopping for a rest?

I did find a picture of the collared Kingfisher at the botanic gardens though.

In Ria's Mangrove and wetland wildlife at Sungei Buloh Wetlands Reserve, it writes this about the White Collared Kingfisher:

The Collared Kingfisher is the most common Kingfisher in Singapore.

Collared Kingfishers are particularly aggressive. Not only towards their own kind, but also towards other Kingfisher species. This could be another reason for the widespread presence. The decline in the White-throated Kingfishers might also be due to the spread of the Collared.

They are also aggressive towards other birds such as mynas; vigorously driving off these birds from their feeding grounds, particularly during breeding season. They may even drive off landbound creatures.

The Collared Kingfisher is not considered at risk in Singapore. In the past, they were mostly found along the coasts and mangroves. But they have moved inland to hunt along freshwater wetlands, cultivated lands, gardens and parks. They usually avoid forests.

That surely explains why it was found in the garden of St Andrew Cathedral then and its agressive behavior towards me. I'm guessing now that the first bird is a male because mated males are supposed to be more blue than the females which is a lil more greenish.

I'll definitely go back again with a camera, just hope that it's still there for me when I go prepared!

Read full article here

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Palgrave Environmental Reader

Few days ago I mentioned the books on my monkey shelf. Well, it just so happened that I borrowed this book Palgrave Environmental Reader out of pure... boredom and good intentions (like making myself be hardworking and enrich myself beyond the classroom).

Then on Thursday during Savage's lecture, he was going on and on about how university students dont read original texts of landmark literature anymore, like Garrett Hardin's Tragedy of the Commons.

Of course I've heard of Tragedy of the Commons. In fact, Hardin was a professor at UCSB for 30 years. I've used the concept many times. Still, Savage was right. I never actually read the original article. He also recommended reading Glacken's Traces on the Rhodian Shore which I must say I was fortunate enough to have even heard of Glacken by the pure coincidence that my nature, science and religion class had a reading list of very well known works. Now thinking back, both Savage and Proctor both did their PhD in UC Berkeley. That's probably why they are all harping on Glacken. Apparently Glacken was Savage's PhD supervisor. Gosh!

Just on a slight digress, after Savage's class, I can almost totally understand now (if I can actually remember my then-epiphany) why Proctor is considered a geographer since his preoccupation is mainly with nature science and religion. Something along the line of every religion has a perspective of the space/environment that will have subsequent impact on it. Well that pretty much sums up Proctor's lecture which I got an A+ for but suddenly... my aging memory with dozens of competitive uses threatening to blind me has caused me to have a sudden mental blackout. Bah.

Back to Palgrave.

Well, so yesterday I decided to be hardworking and was happily flipping the book and guess what I saw?

Garrett Hardin's original text of Tragedy of the Commons published December 13, 1968 in the journal Science, Vol 162, No 3859.

So I spent the whole of yesterday and a bit of today reading it and I've decided to reproduce sections on the blog every other day. It's a really good read and it's easy to digest. I want to ingrain it in my memory.

There are also other interesting and landmark articles on the environment such as Pinchot (the father of the US Forest and Wildlife Services), John Muir (the father of the alternative movement of FWS, the US National Parks Services - though Muir started out working for Pinchot), Rachel Carson (the person who wrote Silent Springs and shed light on DDT and agent orange), EO Wilson, and to go back a few centuries, Palgrave also included Emerson and Thoreau. The best part is, they also include famous legal acts and bills such as the actual text of the Wilderness Act and the Kyoto Protocol.

I'm sad to say though that this book focuses only on the US environmental growth, change and evolution over the last 3 centuries. It's not altogether comprehensive but it is a start.

As the editors, Daniel Payne and Richard Newman, writes:

The US has gone from "first generation environmental reform concerned primarily with land use issues such as resource conservation, wilderness preservation and the establishment of national parks and monuments" to "second-generation environmental issues, such as nuclear war, disposal of nuclear wastes, chemical contamination, global warming, biodiversity and so on, [that] have superceded land use politices as the primary focus of many environmentalists".
Reading that, I wonder where Singapore is - First generation or Second generation? On one hand, we have on surface levels, dealt really well with second generation issues which are mainly a focus on brown and gray issues but we have failed miserably and has never passed the test of solving first generation issues while the US has at least tackled it. Singapore is like a kid who failed primary school but jumped on to secondary school and found that it does well and try to present to the world the appearance of an environmental hub of asia by its clean and green branding. However, that will not stop people from criticizing that it has failed miserably at its primary level - that of pure and simple biodiversity conservation.

Read full article here

Ignoramus politicae

The nightmarishnostalgic reminders of school uniforms, assembly halls and the boon lay community center where I was collecting the same thing those lil peep squeaks are today.

Why is it that the first thing MP Ho Geok Choo ask me when she hears I'm studying geography is that "are you going to be a teacher?"

In my environmental politics class, my lecturer said that politicians are mostly lawyers, political science types or economists. Seldom are they scientists. And surely they are too busy to be kept up to date on issue. Apparently it keeps them rather shallow and ignorant too.

Of all the people from the university category who were award the bursary today, I was the only one she did not invite to join the Boon Lay Youth Club in her lil chit chat on stage when she hands over my "stipend". I was going to scoff at her if she did anyway. Maybe she read my mind. Still, I'm offended. Bah! I'll have her know my sister was in the Boon Lay Youth Club! PFFT!

I'm so offended that ms reverse psychology has decided to win the freaking SYA award just to rub it in mdm ho's face. Maybe better yet I'll win greenwave too. One thing for sure, I'm definitely going to see what Ms Irene Ng has to say. I mean if this is the standards of female politicians in Singapore? Dear lord, it leaves much to be desired for.

Read full article here

Friday, January 13, 2006

Nanotech, Friend or Fiend?

The other day I was trying to tell the divinebovine how Nanotech is bad but then after a year away from progressive people rubbing off on me and back in development and technology deterministic red dot on the map, I was at a lost for words.

If I could persuade Maral in SB that Nanotech is bad, then I'm sure I have had been pretty persuasive.

So here's an article from Associated Press that would do the convincing for me.

Came across it just now when I was gathering environmental news for Ocean Futures Society. (Yes I'm still an intern there O_O")

Study Raises Concerns about Nanotech
Associated Press, 11 January 2006

(I'm still digging around for more articles. I'm not just concerned about human health but just undermining general safety and weapons and what not)

Nano Hazards: Exposure to minute particles harms lungs, circulatory system
Science News Online, 19 March 2005

What About Nanotech's Potential Danger? [PDF]
Techcomm Journal, April-May 2005
View as HTML

Read full article here

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Specialist Monkey

Is it my training or is it just me?

People always say that NUS general degree produces nothing but generalists who knows nothing. But why do "geographical" stuff keep jumping out and hitting me in the face? Maybe I simply aspire to be like Prof Wong who told us that if you want to be an expert in your field, you must be able to go out there and be able to assess the environment with one look and be able to sum up the problem. Of course he also said that his ability came with 30 years of field experience. Maybe I would like 30 years of field experience too. In fact, I was really impressed when I saw Prof Wong's Honors Thesis on the physical environment of Singapore in 1966(?). How incredible. I hope I would be able to go through most of the geog thesis ever written in the history of geography department.

Why do I bring this up?

Yesterday on our way to the hairdresser, when we drove by this slope near my Aunt's house, near the PIE exit, something suddenly caught my eye. A relatively large area of the slope had suffered from mass movement, if I'm not wrong, it's either a rotational slip or a slump. It looks exactly like the diagrams we see in textbooks all the time.

Slumps are supposed to be lubricated by groundwater seepage and this was precisely what occured if I'm not wrong. There was a spring gush of water coming out from the exposed slopeface. I suspected it was the effusive permeation due to the excessive rainfall but my parents think that it could be a water pipe leaking since we don't really have real groundwater flow in singapore (hah! so they think).

I can't verify until I go and take a picture of it soon, as soon as the rain stops of course. *cough* But thinking rain made me think of something totally different that happened around this time last year.

This time last year, we were having a dry spell or drought and even resulted in quite a bit of bush fire!

Looking back at last year's blog posts, Straits Times reported "256 bush fires in 40 days" on 13 February. Understandably, that is still a month away and this almost monsoon like wet season might be over. Still, this really smells like climatic imbalance to me, does it not?

Aftermath of Bush fire in february 2005

On one hand, we have floods and water pipes bursting in holland village with overflowing water every where but last year this time we were dryer than summertime chapparel grassland. Or maybe the fengshui experts will suggest an elemental imbalance. *snigger*

2006 Anthropogenic Flood at holland avenue
Photo courtesy of the otter.

Oftentimes, it is occassion like this where most of slope failures and disasters occur. People in temperate countries get plagued by the flu and in California, the rain (yes it rains in CA!) results not only in floods but massive landslides which killed many people (like La Conchita last year). Trains get stopped and tracks get washed off. Multiple car accidents happened as highways get too dangerous. Even in Singapore, as above, the landslides do occur too! Just pray that nothing gets worse than this.

The infinite rain looked as if the sky opened up and dumped the south china sea on us.

Read full article here

Saturday, January 07, 2006

On Monkey's bookshelf

Indigenous people and migrants of northeen papua indonesia
by Howard, Michael C. & Naffi Sanggenafa (Editors)
Published: 2005, Thailand, 1st Edition
ISBN: 9744800658
[Borrowed: NUS Libraries]
Status: Awaiting my furry touch

The Palgrave Environmental Reader
Edited by Richard S. Newman and Daniel G. Payne
From Palgrave Macmillan
Pub date: Nov 2005
[Borrowed: NUS Libraries]
Status: Awaiting my furry touch

So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish
by Douglas Adams
[Borrowed: National Libraries]
Status: In reading. Sitting in my bag now. Better than Mostly Harmless. I like the story of fenchurch. Sounds like a mouse's name.

Life, the Universe and Everything
by Douglas Adams
[Borrowed: National Libraries]
Status: Awaiting my furry touch

Mostly Harmless
by Douglas Adams
[Borrowed: National Libraries]
Status: Borrowed and returned. Didn't finish reading. Was too boring.

Read full article here