Thursday, October 15, 2009

Blog Action Day: Acting for Climate Change

A lil late for Blog Action Day but nonetheless! This year's theme is on climate change and for this whole week, the topic has been high on my attention. Mostly because I was attending a launch of the video "High Stakes" at British High Commission on Tuesday and attending a talk by lecture by James Leape, Director General of WWF on COP15 on Wednesday.

The video "high stakes" is a visual summary of the ADB report on the "Economics of Climate Change in Southeast Asia: A Regional Review". I suppose it's really handy when people could not sit through reading a dry report on the topic. Instead, the short film explained using visuals, graphics, dialogues and interviews.

After the film screening is a talk by Mr James Hardy who founded the Green School in Bali. The school is built entirely of bamboo and engages local artisan craftsman to help build just about everything in the school! To add to that, the curriculum of the school involves both conventional English Math Science syllabus as well as an ecological environmental science component and learning creative arts! Sounds like my dream school. After the presentation, I cannot stop thinking about moving to Bali to teach in the school and be part of this wonderful project. To learn more about the school, visit their website. Interestingly, Mr John Hardy was interviewed in this Reuters article today.

Being involved full time in a wonderful project like that, living and working in an effort to make this world more sustainable, for and with our future generation, now that's action!

Read full article here

Friday, October 09, 2009

Blog Action Day 2009: Climate Change

It's time for taking action through your blog again!

Every year on 15 October is Blog Action Day where the bloggosphere aligns its conversation for a day towards a particular cause by talking about the same thing on the same day. This year's cause is "Climate Change". Very timely since the treaty succeeding the Kyoto Protocol will likely be adopted at this year's COP15.

For the last 2 years, Midnight Monkey Monitor has been taking part in Blog Action Day. 2009 will be no different. I have registered my blog. So far 31 blogs from Singapore are listed. Are you one of them? Will you be joining in the action? Register your blogs now!

"Saving forests five times better than carbon capture for climate action"
7 Oct 2009, WWF Sweden

WWF Sweden is urging its government — holding the current EU Presidency - to get behind an effective international agreement on halting forest loss as a key and highly cost effective measure on climate change.

"Sweden should follow the examples set by its northern neighbors in developing systems to halt deforestation," said WWF CEO General Lasse Gustavsson.. "One Swedish krona to stem deforestation results in the same emissions reductions as five kronor for the controversial carbon capture and storage technique."

Gold in Green Forests, a report issued today by WWF-Sweden, says that next to energy efficiency halting forest loss and degradation is the most cost-effective method for mitigating climate change.

The annual loss of natural forests in developing countries is equivalent to one third of Sweden’s surface area. Forest fires, the conversion of forests to agricultural land and the cultivation of energy crops are responsible for the high rate of forest loss.

A program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation, known as REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) is currently being discussed in the negotiations for a global climate deal. REDD aims to make it worthwhile for developing countries to maintain their forests, as opposed to cutting them down.

In order for REDD to succeed it needs a suitable framework and international finance, including aid to developing countries will be required. Potential investors recently surveyed by WWF said they would be ready to support a forest carbon market if certainty and support were forthcoming from the international community and key national

"prioritise solutions that are best for both the environment and our wallets"

In Indonesia, where large areas of forests are cut down and prepared for palm oil plantations, 80 percent of greenhouse gas emissions come from deforestation. Halting deforestation would not only reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but would also secure the livelihoods of people living in these forests.

”We should always prioritize solutions that are best for both the environment and our wallets, especially during the ongoing financial crisis. Sweden’s cautious attitude in this area is therefore very surprising,” said Gustavsson, who calls for the government to take action during the ongoing climate change conference in Bangkok and secure a system to finance the protection of the world’s forests.

”Norway, Finland, Denmark and Germany have already guaranteed financing for REDD between 2010 and 2012. It's time for the Swedish government to take action - both domestic and as EU President,” he said.

If parties are able to come to an agreement on a new climate deal in Copenhagen, it will not enter into force until 2013. Meanwhile deforestation will continue to accelerate in large parts of the tropics.

“Time is passing and the possibility of reaping the positive climate effects that a stop in the loss of forests entails is decreasing rapidly. Complex social, economic and ecological are involved which is why a global cooperation for REDD must be carefully prepared,” says Stefan Henningsson, Climate Director, WWF Sweden.

WWF negotiators in Bangkok are urging a an insitutional structure for REDD which guarantees transparency, effectiveness and longterm financing from developed countries in support of measures in developing countries. In financing, WWF is seeking the equivalent of $US 42 billion per year after 2013, a key element of an estimated financing requirement of $US 160 billion annually for climate change adaptation and mitigation in developing countries.

The scheme would aim for a goal of zero net deforestation by 2020, with WWF also emphasising that forestry and climate projects must also contribute to the conservation of biological diversity and respect the rights of local and native populations.

Read full article here

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Wet and Wild in Sep-Oct 2009!

As some of you may know, this monkey is no longer a full time graduate student but is now a gainfully employed member of the workforce since August 2009. Still, that is no excuse for my silence on the blog front. Just some updates on what I have been up to since my last post!

4 Oct 2009: Really Really Free Market
Been waiting 2 months to give away clothes at the Really Really Free Market, held monthly at Post-Museum, Rowell Road. Everything at RRFM is free and people can freely take and give. There are also a lot of indian workers in the vicinity who takes the clothes to give their family and partners. I brought down 4 big bags of clothes and items which were all taken by the end of 4 hours! There were about 10 pieces of leftovers which were collected by one kind soul who sent them to a disaster relief collection point. I hope all the clothes went to good use and good homes.

3 Oct 2009: Guided GE2221 Nature & Society Students at Chek Jawa
Had a wet and wild afternoon with students from the NUS geography module "Nature & Society" at Chek Jawa, talking about conservation and development in the pouring rain. Despite being drenched, I had a thoroughly good time and I hope they did too! More photos here.

2 Oct 2009: The Naked Truth and other Sluggish Affairs
After a 2 months hiatus, we kick started activities at The Leafmonkey Workshop with Chay Hoon's naked workshop on slugs and other naked molluscs. Read more about what happened on the newly revamped The Leafmonkey Workshop website! Photos can be found here.

Revamp of The Leafmonkey Workshop Website
To celebrate our upcoming 1st year anniversary of The Leafmonkey Workshop, I recently revamped the website to a user-friendly version with a new logo to commemorate our first milestone. One young, tender leaf to mark our first year.

28 Sep 2009: "Kelongs Vanishing fast in Singapore"
I was recently contacted and quoted in a ST article on "Kelongs Vanishing Fast in Singapore" (28 September 2009)

Ms November Tan, who runs environmental workshops islandwide, acknowledges that aquaculture is a popular solution for food sustainability: 'Food security will be easier met with fish farming,' she said, but added that there are environmental problems with aquaculture.

'There are issues with water pollution due to faecal waste and risk of disease due to fish overcrowding.'

The best solution, she said, is to cut down on consumption so the natural population in the sea can replenish itself.

'It boils down to consumer choice,' she said. 'Singaporeans almost never ask where our fish come from. We seem to think there is a never-ending supply. That is not the case.'

Read full article here

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Haze is back

This morning I took this picture from my office building. Seems like the haze is back indeed. Although I saw the haze at home this morning, a visit to NEA website this morning stated PSI was still good. I wonder if it got worse in the next update. Oh well. This Channel NewsAsia article shows that it did.

Haze in Singapore as 50 hot spots detected in Sumatra
By Hasnita A Majid, Channel NewsAsia
06 August 2009

SINGAPORE: The haze is back in Singapore and you can expect more hazy days ahead.

Smoke haze shrouded Singapore on Thursday morning, with an acrid burning smell hanging in the air.

And the Pollutant Standards Index (PSI), which measures the air quality in Singapore, was around 60 on Thursday.

Though this is still in the moderate range, it is however slightly higher than Wednesday's reading of 52.

Smoke haze has been blowing into Singapore and the National Environment Agency (NEA) said that over the past few days, its satellite pictures detected significant hot spots with moderate to dense smoke.

The hot spots are mainly in the Sumatran provinces of Riau, Jambi and South Sumatra.

On Thursday alone, 50 hot spots were detected in Sumatra.

NEA added that with prevailing dry weather in the region and the wind direction expected to remain the same in the next few days, hazy conditions can be expected in Singapore over the next few days.

Doctors have cautioned against outdoor activities if the situation worsens, especially for those with respiratory illnesses.

Dr Chuah Li Li, a general practitioner from My Family Doctor, said: "Usually the discomfort is felt in the eyes, where people will feel there is a little bit of the smarting discomfort or a dry sensation. The other thing that you might feel is the throat discomfort.

"For people who have lung problems, chronic obstructive lung disease and asthma, there might be a sensation if there's a little bit of difficulty in breathing and a chest tightness or cough.

"Elderly people with pre-existing lung condition or children with asthma should actually cut down on outdoor activities, especially strenuous activities like playing basketball and football."

But members of the public are not too concerned about the situation now.

"At the moment, still not so serious, maybe if it gets serious, we will do some precautionary measures," said a member of the public.

Singapore has expected the haze to return this year as the El Nino weather phenomenon develops, bringing with it hotter and drier weather.

The situation is expected to worsen in the coming months, especially when the dry weather peaks in September.

The haze is the result of smoke from slash and burn activities in Indonesia, when farmers clear their lands to make way for new crops.

Hot and dry weather can also cause dry twigs and leaves to burst into flames spontaneously.

Just recently, Singapore handed over three air and weather monitoring stations to Jambi Province in Sumatra to help calculate the risk of fires starting and spreading in the surrounding areas during dry weather.

Read full article here

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Thinking about Bio Walls

"Living Wall" by Intrepidacious

Today on Twitter, Debby (@torvaanser) of Pulau Hantu Blog posted a question: "What do u think abt biowalls (aka living/greenwalls)? Are they all they claim to be? Wld u like to see more of them?"

So, what are BioWalls? What do I think of them? Monkey was put to task to think about these biowalls as I sought to answer these questions for Debby's article about the increasing installations of BioWalls in Singapore.

Biowalls are usually a wall with plants growing on it, and a big hype in green building designs of late. They are supposed to serve wonderful purposes such as insulation from heat (as building facades) or air and water purification (as walls inside buildings).

Biowall Diagram by The Robertson Building
Ideally, a Biowall should serve these functions as illustrated in this diagram. This was installed in the robertson building in Canada.

So what do I think?
Active biowalls are a wonderful ways to combine technology with natural ecosystem services such as air or water purification by plants in our buildings for example. However, if these biowalls are not fully integrated into building systems design, it defeats the purpose of installing the "so-called" biowalls. They become merely aesthetic horticultural features, making them no different from existing floral features.

We all know Singapore love to sell ourselves to be clean and green. But having just a wall made up of plants without proper integration into the building to allow it to provide environmental services to us, then that does NOT make it a "biowall". They would just be another piece of indoor plant decor "art". If building developers still went ahead and label them as "biowalls" then i definitely smell greenwash in the air.

So the next time you see a "biowall", let's be critical and ask about the natural services these plants provide for the building, if any. But if building developers do make a concerted effort to fully harness the potential of these walls then we should definitely applaud them for it! Kudos.

Read full article here

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Pulau Ubin Stories Workshop, 3 Jul 2009, 7pm

I will be conducting a workshop suitable for nature guides and those of us who frequent Pulau Ubin and would like to share more of the island's history and geography with friends and family. This is not a talk but a workshop with activities that would help to enhance public communication. I am still hoping to invite some special guest speakers who are veterans on the island who would hopefully be able to share stories that even I don't know about!

Vacancies are limited. Only 10 spots left! Do register early to avoid being disappointed.

Date: 3 July 2009, Friday
Time: 7.00pm - 9.30pm
Venue: Civil Service College
31 North Buona Vista Road Singapore 275983


November Tan
November is a graduate student in the Department of Geography at NUS as well as an active nature guide on Pulau Ubin amongst others. 3 generations of her family traces their roots back to Pulau Ubin and she traces hers on Pulau Ubin Stories, a blog which archives the stories old and new on Pulau Ubin. She did her undergraduate honors thesis on "Saving Chek Jawa: Social Capital and Networks in Nature Conservation". She has also authored several heritage trails publications for the National Heritage Board. She currently coordinate workshops for nature guides at The Leafmonkey Workshop and writes at the Midnight Monkey Monitor.

Read full article here

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Cat's Night Out at Jurong Point!

The Cat Welfare Society is organizing an opportunity for Singapore to showcase our lovely domestic breeds! Unfortunately I don't have the honor of caring for any lovely feline of my own so I have instead been asked to be a judge at the Cat's Night Out!

They are looking for "Most Beautiful Domestic Cat" and "Most Popular Domestic Cat". Prizes include $300 worth of Jurong Point Shopping Vouchers, cat supplies from Pets Station and Fancy Feast products.

But I think the real prize is giving our "longkang" cats an opportunity to show Singaporeans how beautiful they are and what wonderful temperaments they have. Usually cat shows are for purebreds only and is more of a show of what better breeders and groomers or trainers the owners are. But often, these attitudes of "purebreds are the best" result in things like puppy mills, irresponsible breeders and more abandonment!

How about adopting a stray cat and giving him or her a home? Neutering your cats instead of breeding them. No "paper" or certifications does not make them any less beautiful or loveable. Especially once neutered, many of them are wonderful companions with great temperament.

Personally I just can't wait to get to meet everybody's cats! So bring your cats down to the Cat's Night Out!

Date: 20 June 2009
Venue: JP1 Centrestage
Time: 9 - 11pm

Click Here To Download The Application Form (Right-Click and Save As)

Fill up the form and email to with a good picture of your cat!

See you there!

Why is the Leafmonkey one of the judges?
The Rambling Leafmonkey is the founder of an online cat photography connoisseur club on called Pussy Patrol. And mainly because she's crazy about cats and it's an open secret that she hopes to be a cat lady when she grows up. She claimed that she offered to be the emcee for the event but ended up being asked to be a judge as consolation. Unable to believe why she got asked, she bugged CWS day and night asking for them to confirm it and they probably figured they're stuck with a monkey for good. *grin* We think she bribed somebody with a lot of catnip.

Read full article here

Monday, June 08, 2009

Cat Welfare Society at the Singapore Animal Welfare Symposium

Last month, I attended the Singapore Animal Welfare Symposium and reported from the venue LIVE via twitter. Today, friends at Cat Welfare Society got me to write a short 150-word report on the event for the CWS newsletter. Not the final draft as the editor will do some addition but thought I'll share it with everyone. If you're interested in reports of the proceedings, you can find them on twitter. Alas, the search tag that we have been using for SAWS has been removed. I will eventually get around to archiving them on the blog. Apologies for my tardiness.

Singapore Animal Welfare Symposium 2009
First Draft By November Tan

Co-organized and hosted by NUS Student’s Animal Welfare Group and ACRES, the second Singapore Animal Welfare Symposium was held on 16th May 2009 at NUS. The symposium was open to public and had 2 lively panel discussions on Wild Animals in Entertainment and Domestic Animal Welfare.

Cat Welfare Society (CWS) President Ang Li Tin was panelist on the Domestic Animal Welfare session along with Dr Leow Su Hua from Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA), Letitia Chang (Action for Singapore Dogs) and Deirdre Moss (SPCA) with N. Sivasothi as moderator. CWS also took the opportunity to share our Trap-Neuter-Return-Manage (TNRM) program through a surprise presentation by Veron Lau. Despite calls to “make the cat auntie’s dream come true”, AVA plead helplessness. However they reveal that funds for TNRM are readily available as long as town councils are willing to participate. On the subject of cats in HDB flats, there was unfortunately a lack of representation by HDB at the symposium. The organizers promise that HDB will be invited for dialogue at next year’s symposium.

Read full article here

Raffles Community Leaders Forum

Giving a short 10 minutes talk at the Raffles Community Leaders Forum along with Howard Shaw (SEC) and Wilson Ang (ECO) tomorrow at RI(JC). The organizers have invited me to just share a bit about what I do which was a tad vague. Since the talk is meant for youths wanting to make a difference, I thought I'll throw in some free lessons I picked up from 6 years of trial and error. Hopefully it'll help them get a nice firm head start. But at the end of the day, this is just a sharing of ideas and experiences.

Read full article here

Monday, May 25, 2009

Get Web with Singapore Spiders, 5 Jun, Fri, 7pm

A webslinging workshop next Friday on the spiders of Singapore by the Leafmonkey Workshop. Our guest speaker is The Annotated Budak who has wowed many with his photos on spiders. In addition to the ecology, web, food and sex of spider, he will also be talking about how to photograph spiders. Personally am rather excited about this workshop since I know nothing about spiders except that it has 8 legs. I stop at being able to differentiate a St Andrew Cross from a Golden Orb spider! Of course this is also an opportunity for experienced guides and photographers to exchange ideas, tips and stories.

Date: 5 June 2009, Friday
Time: 7.00pm - 9.30pm
Venue: Civil Service College, 31 North Buona Vista Road Singapore 275983 (Map)
Workshop Fees: By Donation
Read our FAQ

Click here for more information about the workshop

Register NOW!
Registration is strongly advised as it allows us to better customize the workshop to suit YOUR needs!

The workshop is limited to 30 participants so please register early.
Closing date: Sunday, 1 June 2009.

Read full article here

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Want to find Treasures in our "Wastelands"?

This is the last week to register for the upcoming workshop by Bian Tan on the Treasures of our "Wastelands". If you are interested to learn more about the pioneer plants in Singapore, their ecological roles and how to share more information about them with others, sign up for the workshop now at

Experienced guides are most welcome to attend as well to share your stories about these treasures with other workshop participants.

Date: 8 May 2009, Friday
Time: 7.00pm - 9.30pm
Venue: Civil Service College, 31 North Buona Vista Road Singapore 275983 Map
Workshop Fees: By Donation
Read our FAQ

This workshop is an introduction to pioneer plants and the basic principles of succession ecology. Learn about some common species, and how our “wastelands” are actually important pioneering plant species.

Bian Tan
Bian graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Ornamental Horticulture and Master’s in Plant Taxonomy. He is the SEA Programme Coordinator for the Botanical Gardens Conservation International (BGCI), and assists botanical institutions with plant conservation, environmental education and the SEABG network. Prior to this, he spent almost 20 years in the USA studying and working at the San Francisco Botanical Gardens, where he pioneered the establishment of their South East Asian Cloud Forest.


Registration is strongly advised as it allows us to better customize the workshop to suit YOUR needs!

The workshop is limited to 30 participants so please register early.
Closing date: Sunday, 3 May 2009.

The Leafmonkey Workshop hopes to provide a platform for new and experienced guides to come together to Learn, Share and Do. Our workshops comprise of a short presentation on the topic of the month by our Guest Speakers, followed by activities that aim to facilitate sharing and participation. Activities provide a platform to learn how to communicate scientific facts with everyday language and stories to share with our friends, families and visitors we guide. Also, participants gain opportunities to share guiding techniques, tips and experiences with others. Our workshops are non-denominational and open to all nature groups in Singapore. This is an opportunity to get to know other volunteers, make new friends and share your experiences with one another.

Read full article here

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Doing something "special" for Earth Day

This morning, a certain duck asked me, "what are you doing for Earth Day?"

To be honest, I hadn't planned on doing anything "special" since I honestly feel that every day should be Earth Day. "Special" actions shouldn't be reserved for just one day in a year.

However, if you are too busy on the other 364 days of the year and are looking for something really meaningful to do on Earth Day, then here's the monkey's recommendation for you this Earth Day!

International Year of the Reef 2008 Singapore is seeking public feedback for its Draft Blue Plan. This blue plan is for Singapore by Singapore. They are now calling upon the public to contribute their comments and feedback - an opportunity for all of us to make the blue plan "our own". At the end of May 2009, the final compiled version of the blue plan will then be submitted as a proposal to the Singapore government. So do your part for the Earth today, start by caring for the environment in our very own "backyard". Download the draft Blue Plan and send in your feedback today! Read on to hear what the IYOR08Singapore Blue Plan team has to say.

"The Draft Blue Plan is a proposal to the Government and people of Singapore from the members and organizations that form “International Year of the Reef (IYOR) 2008 Singapore” – interested members of civil society concerned about the conservation and management of Singapore’s coral reef heritage. Contributions and advice from the leading marine biologists in Singapore have been incorporated. It was released on 23 April 2009. Members of the Public can download a copy of the Draft Blue Plan here.

Comments and suggestions from members of public are invited. You may email us at before the closing date, 14 May 2009. The Blue Plan will presented to the Government with the collated and edited comments in late May 2009.

Please note that is designed to receive emails only. While we will give every opinion/comment due consideration, due to human resource constraints, we are unable to respond to queries and may not be able to include every comment into the final Blue Plan due to editorial considerations. Please contact the Marine Conservation Organisations Listed in Annexes B & C of the Draft Blue Plan if you are keen to find out more about the wide range of activites and programmes that are being organised. We apologize for this inconvenience."

Read full article here

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Upcoming seminars by ISEAS

There are two upcoming seminars at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies that may be of interest to some of you. The first is for those of you interested in the impact of climate change on food production. The second is more immediate to home - a tour and seminar on the marina barrage.

1) Rice in Southeast Asia: What Future with Climate Change?
Speaker: Duncan I. Macintosh, Development Director, International Rice Research Institute (IRRI)
Date: Monday 27 April 2009
Time: 2:30 TO 4:00 PM
Venue: ISEAS Seminar Room 2
Free Seminar, First Come First Served.
Organised by the Environment and Climate Change Programme, Institute of Southeast Asian Studies.
Seminar Flyer:
RSVP Response Form:
Contact Person: Ms May Wong,

2) The Marina Barrage: Seminar and Tour
Date: Wednesday 29 April 2009
Time: 3:00 pm to 5:30 pm
Venue: Marina Barrage
Organised by PUB; the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies; the Singapore-Delft Water Alliance, National University of Singapore.
Mr Yap Kheng Guan, Director, 3P Network, PUB, Singapore's Water Management Strategy and the Marina Barrage
"Appreciating Science Behind Water Quality of Marina Lake"
Professor Vladan Babovic, Director, Singapore-Delft Water Alliance, National University of Singapore
Free Seminar; First Come, First Served
Seminar Flyer:
RSVP Response Form:
Contact Person: Ms May Wong,

Read full article here

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Meeting with Resorts World

A continuation of my engagement encounters with Resorts World.

Yesterday, a group of people who were interested in developments at Resorts World was invited for a closed-door meeting at RWS headquarters on Sentosa. Naturally, the first thing I had to do was make sure that I could at the very least blog the above statement.

In the event that I would make any further faux pas, I checked with Krist Boo (Vice-President, Head of Communications, Resorts World at Sentosa) who called the meeting, if I could at the very least mention that such a meeting occurred. Alas she paused for a while but monkey eventually got the green light to let it be known that this meeting took place. I hope that writing this doesn't get anybody in trouble! *fingers crossed*

To quote Krist at the beginning of the meeting, "We believe in doing what is right" and "we are committed to engage you". And that's why were all sitting there at 10am on a Saturday morning (18 Apr 2009).

At the end of the meeting, we were also asked to actively engage RWS instead of waiting for them to engage us. Moral of the story is, don't hesitate, start emailing RWS if you have questions and don't wait till information falls on your lap.

I truly hope to believe that RWS is really sincere in engaging stakeholders and are trying to do so, to the best of their limited abilities. So kudos for trying. I want to believe it when they say that they have to do it first in order to prove to us that they are doing it right. Hopefully it would not be too late by the time things are cast in stone.

Again, I must say that my intentions of blogging this is purely, and somewhat optimistically or naively, to share the fact that RWS is doing some form of engagement. In the field of environmental management and in my personal opinion, engagement is an important and wonderful thing. I like sharing wonderful things with my readers.

I can only hope that this is the beginning of more engagement and collaboration with Resorts World and other corporate entities in the future. If so, that would be a good progressive step in Singapore's business environment and civil society.

Why is engagement a wonderful thing?
Here's a document by The Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management that explains briefly why "public, private and voluntary organisations preparing policies, plans, programmes, and projects relating to the environment should develop and implement policies for stakeholder engagement". [Read the document here]

Previous posts on Resorts World:
I signed the No Whaleshark petition, have you?, 12 Mar 2009
A chat with Resorts World, 2 Apr 2008
EIA of Sentosa Integrated Resort, 30 Jan 2008

Read full article here

Friday, April 17, 2009

Desperate for Nature

It seems that a neighbor of mine is so desperate for nature that they are attempting to grow cow grass on the concrete stairs landing. I hope they know that soil is needed to retain water which will then be absorbed by the plant roots. But then again, a lot of the grass patches in Singapore are grown on equally thin layer of soil. A quick probe by the soil auger will hit concrete without much effort. I'll be really curious to see how long this grass patch survive in its concrete home.

Read full article here

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Eating "Trash"

A few days ago, a friend sent me this video. It reminds me of slumdog millionaire except more poignant without the hollywood ending. I was reminded again of this video when my colleague and I were talking about how we don't blink an eye at how much food is wasted in affluent societies. Singapore being one of them. But while there are those scavenging the trash for food, there are also those who purposefully dive into dumpsters looking for food and not because they cannot afford buying! But they were doing it because they are "freegans"

Although dumpster diving is often associated with the poor, a new movement (freeganism) concerned with environment, anti-consumerism and all the conspicuous consumption (and waste) as well as urban poverty issues have begin to emerge in recent times. There is also an anti-hunger organization called Food Not Bombs gets a significant amount of its food from dumpster diving from the dumpsters at small markets and corporate grocery stores in the US and UK. Food Not Bombs have also taken off in Singapore and there have been attempts to collect some of the food that are regularly being drawn out by wholesalers and supermarkets in Singapore. Even though these food are being throw away, they are not always inedible. They then use these materials to provide food for the homeless in Singapore. Yes, we have homeless people!

The first time I heard of dumpster diving is from 2 young Australians who were part of a team going to Poznan, Poland for UNFCCC-COP14 by land last year (2008). They were well educated university students who were definitely capable of paying for their food. But one of them told me that he is a "freegan". I was simply amazed that he would eat food picked out from dumpsters and he told me that it is amazing how much good stuff you can find in the dumpsters of supermarkets. Surely the singaporeans amongst us who loves a good deal will know of how bakeries offer food for cheap at the end of the day before they close. Those food if not sold, will have to be dumped. And as long as they are not dumped, they are perfectly good to it! And if dumped, they can still be eaten if you pick them up straight away! Apparently the usual practice is to negotiate with the owners so that they will give the freegans these food that's meant for the bin. Likewise, a lot of vegetables are thrown away if they have blemishes or do not meet certain aesthetic demand from hotel restaurants or fast food chains or even supermarkets consumers who wouldn't buy vegetables with holes or fruits that are bruised.

Speaking for myself, I find that being an urban Singaporean living in an affluent country, I find such affront at considering the possibility of eating food from the dumpster.
Honestly, freeganism is pretty extreme even to me and my mind is still reeling from it now as I write.

Yet at the same time, there are people like those children in the video who have no choice but eat food from the dumpster, if there's even scraps left. Look at the face of the little boy who cheered at the sight of spaghetti served from the rubbish bin. It wrenched my heart.

Somebody mistakenly thought the video is about globalization and poverty but I think showing the fast food restaurants is merely commenting about how much food we usually waste in our daily meals. Fast food restaurants are pretty much frequented only by the middle class and above in many developing countries, such as Manila which was featured in the video. Do you think about the food that you can't finish at lunch or dinner? We try to console ourselves that there is now food recycling where food waste is used to generate fuel and energy. But how about going one step back? Buy what you need and finish everything you can. What is trash to you is food to many. As long as we don't get food poisoning from eating it, why are we not eating it?

Read full article here

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Giving a Guest Lecture on Environmental Groups

I have been invited to give a guest lecture in the GE3239 Environmental Sustainability class in NUS Geography Department on "Community Groups and Environmental Leadership". The lecturers would like me to share my personal experiences and so for the first half, I share my own journey. Along the way, I introduce to the students the various environmental leaders I met along the way. As I have to rush off for an interview, the second half will be presented by one of the lecturers. The latter half will be an overview of all the interest, types and actions of the groups in Singapore. This may be of interest to some as it provides a brief introduction to the community.

There is a mistake on the date of the lecture. Oops!

I'm somewhat hesitant in putting these slides online and sharing it on the blog originally as I felt that this is not totally comprehensive. However, I do not profess to know it all! Far from it. Always hoping to learn more. If I missed out anything or made any mistake, please feel free to leave a comment!

Read full article here

Thursday, March 12, 2009

I signed the No Whaleshark petition, have you?

Today I signed a "no whaleshark in Singapore" petition that is supported by many major organizations locally and internationally such as PETA, Sea Shepherds, ACRES, Cicada Tree Eco-Place and the Green Volunteers.

The good thing about this petition is that once I put my name down to the form, it will email the pre-written letter (which you can also edit to customize) to the 1) Minister of National Development, 2) the Singapore Tourism Board and 3) Resorts World at Sentosa.

Shortly after I click sign, I got an automated reply from Resorts World with the following:

Corporate Social Responsibility "" to "" 5:23pm

Thank you for taking the time to write to us.

We will be compiling your comments and addressing the points raised. Do visit our website ( for updates.

We look forward to welcoming you at the Marine Life Park.

The Marine Life Park Team
All I can say is, I will not be visiting the Marine Life Park.

And that is precisely why I signed the petition isn't it? How could they be asking me to visit the marine life park? I will not use my consumer dollars to support the captivity of large marine mammals. It's interesting that the whaleshark petition website quotes Jacques Cousteau. When I was in US, I was the news intern for Jacques' son, Jean Michael Cousteau's Ocean Futures Society who actually led the campaign to free the star of Free Willy, Keiko. Since then, I have never visited a single "marine life park" or "sea world".

Whale flute sighted in the wild. Photo taken in 2005.

Definitely not after I had the pleasure of going on a whale kayaking trip and seeing these large animals free in the wild. A whale shark is not a whale but there is no difference. Besides, first a whale shark, next a whale? No animal of that size should be kept in a tank. No fish tank would ever be big enough to replace the ocean. This is not a gold fish we can flush down the toilet bowl after it dies. Are we willing to take responsibility for that?

Have you signed the petition yet?

Read full article here

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Horseshoe Crab Survey needs your help!

The NSS Horseshoe Crab survey team is hoping to engage the help of nature guides and volunteers who visits our shores and mangroves regularly. Have you seen horseshoe crabs on our shores, beaches and mangroves? If yes, please help the NSS HSC team by filling in their survey questionaire.

You can either print out the questionnaire and post to: Nature Society (Singapore), 510 Geylang Road #02-05 The Sunflower, S 389466, Attention: HSC P&D Survey, or save the questionnaire as a word document and e-mail the completed questionnaire to: by Wed. 18 March.

"In conjunction with Nature Society (Singapore) Horseshoe Crab Population & Distribution Survey today, 8 March, besides our teams searching the shores and surveying professional and recreational fisherman, we would like to survey our local network of Guides/Nature lovers regarding the 2 types of Horseshoe Crabs found on our shores.

Attached is a Questionnaire and photos of the 2 types of Horseshoe Crabs [above].

We would be very greatful for your help in spending a few minutes of your time to answer a few questions.

Our thanks to all respondents, in advance, for the help."

Read full article here

Volunteers needed to promote Earth Hour at IT Fair

Earth Hour was started in Sydney in 2006. 'One Hour, No Power' was the original tagline. For one hour, the Sydney Opera House turned off its lights to show its commitment and spread awareness for climate change. It was an event to reduce their carbon footprint, in bid to reduce global warming. Today, it is no longer a Sydney event, but a global movement. This year 2009, Singapore has made a stand and will be officially committed to Earth Hour. Even the DPM's office made a pledge to do so! This year, it will be lights out Esplanade!

In Singapore, Earth Hour is organized and managed by the Singapore office of WWF (World Wide Fund for Nature) and recently they were informed that they would be able to promote Earth Hour at the upcoming IT Fair at Suntec this week. Knowing the turn out at these IT fairs, this will reach out to a huge number of people. Thus they are urgently looking for volunteers. Below is the email request from them.

Dear Volunteers,

I have received last minute information that we WWF can promote Earth Hour during the IT fair at Suntec this Thursday till Sunday (12-15th March).

We will be sharing a booth with SingTel (an Earth Hour sponsor!), to promote e-billing as well as Earth Hour! It will be a wonderful opportunity to meet people and raise awareness of Earth Hour as, we all know the crowd during the IT fair will be humongous!

I understand that it is extremely last minute, but if you are able to make it and would like to volunteer, please let me know.

12th (Thurs): 12pm - 4:30pm / 4:30pm - 9pm
13th (Friday): 12pm - 4:30pm / 4:30pm - 9pm
14th (Saturday): 12pm - 4:30pm / 4:30pm - 9pm
15th (Sunday): 12pm - 4:30pm / 4:30pm - 9pm

As usual, please let me know which time slots you are available. If you are able to volunteer for the whole day, you're more than welcomed!

Thank you very much once again for all your support. 17 days to Earth Hour!
Warmest regards,
If you are not free this weekend, they are also looking for volunteers for the following:

* roadshows/exhibition (21st to 27th March)
o to coordinate with WWF Singapore
o you need not commit everyday - even a single shift or two (two shifts a day) will be great.

* on site for CBD area on 28th March.
o to coordinate the 'Black-out' of the buildings

* on ground at Esplanade Park on 28th March.
o to faciliate and manage the crowd and event at the park.

To help out with these activities, contact Tan Sijie Ivan (
There will be a training session this Sat, 14th March, 2pm at Botany Centre, Singapore Botanic Gardens with WWF (Map attached). It will be a simple training session lasting no longer than 2 hours.

Read full article here

Monday, March 09, 2009

Who cut off my crown?

One could not help but wonder the intention behind the almost complete trim. Short of actually cutting down the tree, the arborist has done a good job of eliminating all the plant's photosynthesis capacity. Is this death?

Interestingly, the many resident epiphytes have been left intact. I wonder if this reveal a certain understanding of how important these plants are, not just in terms of providing shade for humans but also home for other plants and animals.

Still it's a sad and curious sight to see these extreme trimmings. I am often reminded by Angie of NSS who laments these extreme "haircuts" by the arborists employed in Singapore. Was there an infestation in this tree? Is it half dead? Was it about to fall and hurt someone?

These big trees can sometime also serve as homes for predatory raptors. For one, there is a couple of owls that lives in the area that have been observed to stand watch on these big raintrees on campus. I wonder where will they go now if all the raintrees are decapitated.

Read full article here

Saturday, February 28, 2009

One World One Moment

The MSc librarian and PhD biologist music duo is back with a new album! The band known as StarfishStories has a new album for the new year titled One World One Moment.

The entire album is free for download, licensed under the creative commons license! Nothing less to be expected from the social media friendly rambling librarian. After their first album that was inspired by our wonderful marine life, the duo is back with a second album. This time, they have developed more complex musicality with many more guitar solos, displaying their skills. Definitely enjoyed listening to this album very much! Great soothing songs, free for download at the StarfishStories band blog ( The blog also offers behind the scenes insights, great for other musicians to exchange experiences as well.

The band also has a facebook group - join now to show your support for our local talent.

Read full article here

Help needed for Horseshoe Crab Population & Distribution Survey

The Nature Society (Singapore) Horseshoe Crab Rescue team is looking for help for a Population & Distribution Survey on 8 March 2009 from 2 pm to 6.30 pm. If interested, please contact Dr Hsu Chia Chi.

This island-wide survey aims to establish an estimate of the population and distribution of the two species of Horseshoe Crabs (HSCs) found in Singapore, namely the Mangrove Horseshoe Crab (Carcinscorpius rotundicauda) and Coastal Horseshoe Crab (Tachypleus gigas).

Sectors & Teams
Singapore will be divided into four sectors namely: 1. North-West, 2. North-East, 3. South-East and 4. South-West. Each sector will have a Sector Leader. Survey areas within each sector have been identified and each will have an Area Leader. Depending on the size of the survey area, one or more teams might be assigned. Each survey team comprises four to six volunteers led by a Qualified HSC R&Rer (Team Leader), with an assigned recorder while participants become searchers-cum-measurers.

Survey Areas
The areas we will like to conduct HSC P&D Survey are:

1. Mandai mudflats
2. Lim Chu Kang Jetty- mudflat east of jetty.
3. Sarimbun- beach/mudflat near MOE Jln. Bahtera Adventure Centre.
4. Sembawang Park
5. Lower Seletar Reservoir Dam- mudflat eastern side of estuary.
6. Pasir Ris Park- mudflat east of S. Tampines.
7. Changi Point Ferry terminal- estuary.
8. S. Pandan- estuary beyond dam.

Please state your preference, if any, in your response.

Survey Methods & Search Techniques
Two methods will be employed 1) Transect search to depletion in areas where HSC density is expected to be high and/or 2) Exploratory search in all possible HSC habitats. Search technique is based on HSC sighting and the gentle probing (NOT ploughing) of substrate with gardening forks as well as the careful digging up of buried HSC. Area/Team Leaders will conduct on-site briefing on details such as the exact protocol, instructions and data recording.

Survey of Fishermen
In addition, there will be a survey-cum-conservation education of fishermen by younger members/primary school students. Using a survey-cum-conservation education questionnaire as well as photos of both HSC species, free and entrapped, they will approach local and recreational fishermen at boat mooring sites and popular fishing areas around Singapore.

Attire & Equipment
Recommended: Comfortable outdoor clothes (short or long sleeved tops; shorts or trousers), hat, sun block, old sports shoes/boots/booties that can get wet (NO exposed footwear such as sandals, crocs or slippers), drinking water, plastic bag (for collecting litter from survey sites), small gardening fork/rake (to probe for buried HSC) and 12-inch ruler.

Optional: Insect repellent, gloves or plastic bread wrappers to protect your hands, poncho (survey will be adjourned if there is bad weather), a change of clothes and extra foot wear (washing facilities may not be available at all sites), gardening cutters (to rescue Horseshoe Crabs entrapped in nets), binoculars, camera, note book and pen.

Meet at 2 pm at your assigned meeting point. You may have to walk some distance to your actual survey area. The search proper will be from 4 pm to 6 pm, with the lowest tide at 5 pm.

Read full article here

Friday, February 27, 2009

Job Vacancy for Director, NUS Office of Environmental Sustainability

Reporting to the Deputy President (Administration), the Director will lead the Office of Environmental Sustainability (OES) to relating to campus sustainability strategies and initiatives, with a view to broadening its role to include environmental performance auditing. The incumbent will be responsible in the following:

- Strategize the integration of sustainability in all aspects possible,
establish NUS sustainability goals and develop a campus sustainability
- Identification and facilitate adoption of applicable best practices in
campus development and operations.
- Establish communications strategies with campus stakeholders to
promote awareness of initiatives as well as to educate them.
- Lead, guide and monitor sustainability initiatives and performance to
achieve sustainability targets.
- Build partnerships and collaborate with other organizations and leading
universities with matters related to campus sustainability.
- Build partnerships and collaborate with other organizations and leading
universities with matters related to campus sustainability.
- Management reporting


* Bachelor’s Degree in architecture, urban or environmental planning, environmental science, environmental engineering or equivalent in an appropriate field, with an advanced degree preferred
* Minimum of 5 years experience in leadership position, implementing sustainability programs, or programs in a related field such as planning, environmental or environmental technology or resource management, facilities, or architecture.
* Good understanding of sustainability theories as well as local, national and global sustainability initiatives and best practices. Ability to apply theories and initiatives in practical setting.
* Good EQ, excellent oral and written communications skills

Download Application Form (.doc).
For application or enquiries

More information here

Read full article here

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Facebook and Beyond

On Day 3 of the National Sustainability Conference, I will be involved in the youth declaration as well as giving a short 10 minute presentation on environmental "cyber-advocacy" in Singapore. I've included the synopsis and slides here for those of you who will not be there on the day. Enjoy! Comments are most welcome. I do not profess to be entirely comprehensive. It's more a sharing of my own experience. I'm hardly an expert on the subject and there are definitely better ways to do this. Feel free to share your own experiences!

The popularization of the Internet has changed the face and form of environmental outreach and activism in Singapore. The compression of time and space has led to fast dissemination of information and the rapid rallying of grassroot support became increasingly effortless. In the last 5 years, with the rise of popular social networking tools such as Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Flickr, etc., it has further changed the dimension of environmental activism. Social media tools such as blogs and wikis allow for user-generated content which allow greater dissemination of information, reaching out to people who may otherwise not have the opportunity to do so. The current challenge is now to come up with more creative ways of using the social media platform, to maximize its network and potential. Just as traditional media practitioners have tried to come up with the latest attention grabbing ad campaign, social media practitioners are constantly thinking of ways to creatively and effectively reach out to a greater network, to gather support, fund raise, encourage action or simply to spread the word. This presentation hopes to highlight some of the environmental social media projects that have been done in Singapore and some of the lessons learnt through the process.


November Tan is a research scholar in the NUS Department of Geography as well as an active nature volunteer with various volunteer groups. She is the author of the Midnight Monkey Monitor blog ( which was listed as Blogger’s Blog of Note in 2007. A self-confessed social media addict, she spends her off days testing new social media platforms and cooking up new projects. She currently coordinates workshops for nature volunteers under the initiative known as The Leafmonkey Workshop.

Read full article here

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Day 2 of National Sustainability Conference

The day started off with the Ambassador Chew Tai Soo informing the audience of Singapore's official international position on climate change. A reuters reporter present was rather efficient and an article on the morning's speech is already published and picked up by Straits Times by 2pm!

If you were following my twitter updates, you'd have gotten a frenzy of live reporting (140 char at a time!). Hurray for social media *grin* But I must acknowledged my admiration for the traditional media efficiency too! But they were using online medium (posting on ST Online) for the purpose too. Interestingly, I was tipped off by @sgnews on twitter who picks up RSS feed from major news agencies in Singapore.

Below is a compilation of day 2 happenings as updated on twitter.

Ambassador chew tai soo who is the chief negotiator on climate change at copehagen this year is speaking now on singapore's position about 12 hours ago

The chief negotiator states that singapore has negligible impact on climate change, and alt energy disadvantged, can't move away from fossil He considers singapore a small island DEVELOPING state. An alternative energy disadvantaged country. Sigh 'we will contribute what we can' means you can't force them to do what they refuse to acknowledge, much less do One of the ways to offset our emission is apparently to have singapore 'covered in greenery' but gardening is not the same as forests! When asked why we present ourselves as a developing country, he says coz we are member of G77 developing states. 'matter of history' When do we move from 'history' to the present or the future? Where is the progress we speak of in our national pledge? The ambassador seems to hint at the audience in the room that they can't speak of reductions when they sit comf in brightly kit aircon room The gist of singapore's stand it seems is that the world needs to reduce emissions but it's other people's responsibility The director of climate change, mewr highlights clean energy as one of the strategy but what about the potential coal plant in sg? Energy efficiency seems like the key or only strategy in addressing climate change. How disappointing The deputy director of strategic policy appears to be merely reading off the standard pr propaganda. I feel like i'm at an info centre Are the mewr ppl not allowed to present anything apart from official content that i can just read from the website? Wildsingapore poster of semakau is used to highlight the success of the landfill in conserving biodiversity

Dr michael quah is really a good speaker, talking about electronic versus liquid diet. More dimension to alternative energies Dr quah talks about including food in the equation along with water and energy! I can't agree more! 'through internal discussion, they probably tink 6.5 million population is probably sustainable' orly? Upon monkey asking about news of coal power plant in singapore, mewr informed that the plan is off due to financial crisis But coal is still acceptable as a form of 'clean energy' in singapore! *grimace* Reuters is really efficient. Just 4 hours after the ambassador's speech this morn, they alr put up an article & straits times picked it up! Prof wong poh poh is talking about sea level rise in singapore. IPCC predicts a 59cm sea level rise but they didn't consider data after 2005. Since then, theres dramatic increase Singapores coastal areas were reclaimed and raised by 1.25m above the highest recorded tide of 3.9m. Sea level rise must consider tides too! How long term is our planning? IPCC is planning for 300 years. Prof natasha hamilton nicely sum up that sg cc strategy is aimed at making sg look good in the 'fiction of being a developing country' Sg reports that they emit 41522 kilo tonnes of co2 in 2006 but the usa dept of energy reports it as 141,100kilo tonnes 48% of singapore's emissions is from electricity generation. Air transport is one of the controversial footprint that's not addressed.

Read full article here

Friday, February 20, 2009

Live from Day 1 of National Sustainability Conference

Will be reporting from the National Sustainability Conference held at the NUSS Guild House from 20 to 22 Feb. I will be putting up my observations via twitter. Unfortunately I will not be able to provide indepth reports via the blog but will be reposting my twitter updates on this blog.

  • Interesting attendance at the national sustainability conference. Lily kong is giving the opening speech now about 3 hours ago
  • It's quite bizarre that there is a tea break after 30minute of welcome about 2 hours ago
  • Andrew Tan, the Ceo of nea is speaking now about the interconnectedness of the different global crises. They are 1 crises, not separate about 2 hours ago
  • The british high commissioner paul madden is speaking about climate change now. Shobie the dir of climate change is of cos here about 2 hours ago
  • Spoke with amy of wwf about earth hour singapore. This year a major singapore icon will be switching off during prime time! Awesome about 1 hour ago
  • How do we encourage businesses to be carbon neutral if our consumers are not interested or concerned if they are? about 1 hour ago
  • Prof jeff obbard is talking about the anthropocene and the 'other' (climate) credit crunch. about 1 hour ago
  • IPCC predicts 7.4% reduction in glacial cover but in reality it's 23% eek about 1 hour ago
  • The other credit crunch he's talking about turns out to be the global ecological footprint exceeding planet capacity and carbon budget about 1 hour ago
  • Einstein and the stern review gets quoted very often at this conference. 41 minutes ago
  • Jeff is talking about his research on using fast growing marine algae as a carbon neutral biofuel. Is this possible for mass production? 38 minutes ago
  • Dr geh is the first to the mic again during the q&a asking andrew Tan about the centre for livable cities 35 minutes ago
  • At every environmental conference, people must always ask why are we sitting in an aircon room freezing our butt off 29 minutes ago
  • There's a lady from india from the office of environmental education that asked all the questions i wanted to ask. 12 minutes ago
  • I'm glad Lena chan from nparks is highlighting the fact that all tis talk of sustainability is lacking mention of biod conservation 5 minutes ago
  • Stern review drew attention to climate change thru dollars. But no such report for biod? But both related! Why pit against each other? 2 minutes ago

Read full article here

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

National Sustainability Conference

The National University of Singapore (NUS) would be organizing the National Sustainability Conference on the 20-22 February 2009 which would be held in the NUS Kent Ridge Guild House.

This conference will discuss critical global sustainability crises in the Singaporean context and our response to these challenges. This conference would also achieve to be the first net zero carbon emissions conference in Singapore. The end-product of this conference would be a Singapore Youth Declaration on Sustainable Development.

In addition to chairing one of the subcommittees in the Youth Declaration, this leafmonkey will also be speaking on 22 Feb, the 3rd day of the conference. The topic will be on "Facebook and Beyond: Environmental Cyber-Advocacy in Singapore".

Around 250 renowned experts, academicians, administrations, business, civil society and youths are expected to participate in this 3-day conference.

Some of the highlights of our conference would be:

Copenhagen Global Deal on Climate Change, What it Means for Singapore
Ambassador Chew Tai Soo, Chief Negotiator on Climate Change for Singapore

The Promise of Technological Solutions to the Climate Crisis
Mr Lee Tzu Yang, Chairman, Shell Companies in Singapore

Singapore's Coastal Vulnerability to Climate Change Impacts
Associate Professor Wong Poh Poh, Department of Geography, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, NUS, and Coordinating Lead Author in IPCC Fourth Assessment Report

National Identity, Sustainability and Nature
Dr Geh Min, Past President, Nature Society, and winner of prestigious inaugural President's Award for Environment 2006

To register, please visit: Currently there are limited seats left, so please register soon to reserve your tickets.

Read full article here

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Virgin adventures at the great reef

Terembu Raya means the Great Reef in bahasa melayu and great it was! Not so much in land area but the coral diversity and life there is quite amazing. It's no seagrass wonderland like cyrene reef but around the perimeter where Eric and I were exploring, the corals, fish and other animals were just keeping us excited with every step we take! I admit I don't go out as often as many others but I've never seen so many different type of corals in one place before so it's an exciting time for me!

One of my favourite moments was definitely stalking this squid (amongst the many encountered). It tried its different strategy at me, from pretending to be invisible to becoming angry and wagging its "horns" at me! Its use of tentacles fascinates me. When it wants to speed away, it puts them together to form a torpedo like bodyshape but when it wants to intimidate, it keeps the tentacles together like horns and sometimes it forms a sucker like shape. It's so fascinating!

I've also seen things I've only seen before on photos like this sponge. Could this be the famous neptune's cup? I have no idea! Could somebody enlighten this ignorant monkey?

Giant corals like this are also rather common! In fact this one is about 1.5m across!

Tis also the first time I spotted a nudi all on my own! Eric says this is a T-bar nudibranch which is a hard nudibranch. Not sure what that means. Have to read up!

It was quite a hairy crab haven at Terumbu Raya as I probably saw at least a few dozen of them in just the small corner I covered. I even found this one which was dragging along a piece of seagrass back to its home to savour before I waylaid it for a moment. Luckily it didn't abandon its food for cover.

This fascinating lil snapping shrimp also held my attention for a while when I saw it actually cut off a piece of tape seagrass and proceeded to drag it back into its hole!

Eric also found this seahorse. In fact he found 2 but I didn't backtrack to find the yellow one he saw. It still amazes me that seahorses are actually fish with modified scales! Interesting that he didn't see any seahorse on semakau but here we were, stones throw from pulau semakau, divided only by a channel, facing the island, we found 2. hurray!

At the end of the day, you know its an adventure when you hesitate jumping off the lil dingy into the water despite assurance of "no problem" because you couldn't tell if your next step is land or 13m below on the reef crest! But a chair on board comes in handy. Doubles up as steps and anchor! Comes in a pretty shade of brown. While stock last!

More photos of the trip can be found on my flickr photos.

Read full article here

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Job opening at the new NUS Office of Environmental Sustainability

The Office of Environmental Sustainability was recently set up to help NUS monitor and improve its environmental performance. The office is now looking for a resourceful Sustainability Executive with a passion and relevant skill sets to join the young dynamic team.

The position shall maintain close liaison with NUS stakeholders to achieve NUS sustainability goals. Reporting to the department head, the Sustainability Executive is responsible for developing physical implementation programs related to energy management and sustainable development. This includes monitoring and evaluating program effectiveness, documenting environmental performance trends, and recommending/implementing modifications to improve program effectiveness. Through interactions with the NUS community, the position shall foster and coordinate new ideas and concepts for sustainability programming themes and identify materials and resources to supplement, expand or replace existing sustainability programming. Part of the work scope requires coordinating and implementing activities including, but not limited to, seminars, workshops, and campaigns at NUS.

The manner in which these programs and activities are organized and the nature of their content should be geared towards achieving buy-in and habit transformation from student, faculty and staff community members. The Sustainability Executive shall also be responsible for representing NUS’ sustainability programs to the public; attend professional meetings as appropriate; and interface with external organizations to ensure cooperative efforts are enhanced and available resources are utilized.


  • Bachelor degree, preferably in environmental, facilities management or related discipline
  • Highly motivated, adaptable, flexible and resourceful
  • Cheerful disposition
  • Team player
  • Excellent spoken and written English
  • Excellent CCA record
Monkey says, "The position is available immediately as they are looking for people to start work urgently. Interested applicants can contact Mr Loo Deliang at oesld at nus dot edu dot sg, Tel: 6516 1983"

Read full article here

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Food for All 2008 Report

The local food activist group, Food for All, has released with 2008 Report on "Critical Food Issues in Singapore" [pdf].The pdf version is now available for download and distribution.

The report covers issues on local hunger, local agriculture, food security, food safety, nutrition, overseas food program and other food related environmental issues. They even cover issues like eating disorders. Quite a myraid of topics. Do check it out.

Read full article here

Friday, January 02, 2009

Welcoming 2009 at Sisters Island

There is no better way to welcome in the new year than to spend it with friends, in the middle of the dark, with water up to your knees, enjoying the sea breeze, playing "finding nemo" and listening to pulsating beats from the nearby resort island. And this you can only get by spending new years eve on sisters island with a group of dedicated beachfleas. Personally it was from missing the opportunity to spend the last few new years eve in Singapore that I was really looking forward to performing the traditional new years eve toast on the shores with friends! This year, we also made a new friend who joined us for the first time at Sisters.

I also saw many animal friends that I have not seen in the flesh before!
My favourite has got to be this land hermit crab. This is the first time I saw them for myself. The last time I tried to find them was at the NHC sentosa recce in November 08 but unfortunately I left too early and didn't see the one hairen found amongst the rubbish on the backshore. This time at sisters, when we ended our trip as the tide came in, we encountered an army of them on land, climbing on coconut trees and checking out the benches that litter the island. They were quite cute and I even found one that refused to come out.

Also a first for me is the ghost crab, or more accurately, the horn-eyed ghost crab. (check out the horny eyes!) I always thought that ghost crabs were very small but I was pleasantly surprised to find them almost the size of my feet! Here's a photo of the ghost crab with a coconut husk and bits of trash for scale! But I must admit, my feet is not very big!

Perhaps it's the time of the year but out on the shores, very many things are seasonal. For one, it seems to be sargassum season as half the lagoon was covered with them. Many of the corals, anemones and what not were covered with these large masses of floating macro-algae. Macro-algae just means really large seaweed. Even in the dark, I couldn't resist taking a picture of the obstacles ahead.

You can see the huge boulder corals covered beneath sargassum and those corals are by no means small! Trapped amongst the cover of sargassum were also drift nets. It was bad enough to be tangled up with the sargassum but throw in drift nets and it's a deathtrap formula for many of the marine animals.

This is a real hazard to our marine life, especially since Sisters Island is one of the only areas designated as a potential marine protected area in the last Singapore Green Plan. The rest of the other areas were dropped in this second revision.

Sisters Island is really special to me as in my first visit in January 2007, I saw my first sea krait, a venomous but generally docile snake. The juvenile pictured below even swam over to Jun's leg and rested there for a while, probably thinking it was a rock. But of course we made sure to pretend to be a rock! There's no such thing as being too cautious after all :) This banded sea krait actually lives in the sea but lays its eggs on land! This means that not only must its marine home be healthy but it also requires a good terrestrial habitat to reproduce. In this visit again, I not only saw 1 but 2 banded sea kraits!

This first sighting is a juvenile but the second I saw further out, near the sea wall, was an adult. Unfortunately it was well disguised by the sargassum and I didn't get a good photo of it.

The sargassum also resulted in a little hide and seek with a pair of nemos (false clown fish) and their "anemone that was stuck to a piece of rock". But fortunately, Andy, who spotted the clown fish took a video of them! Meanwhile, Jun and I who had liken the search to an imaginary computer game we aptly named "finding nemo", had to give up our search amongst the sargassum as we could just imagine the words "game over, you failed, try again?" appearing on our imaginary computer game screen. Even Andy couldn't relocate the elusive but charismatic creatures hiding amongst the algal bloom a second time!

As my torchlight wasn't working well I had to content myself with spotting any little creature that swims past me, including this little sotong that tried to sneak pass me inconspicuously.

I am also happy that my first find of the day was a flatworm that met me when the day light was still ample.

The crabs and cnidarians were also aplenty at every step of the way. Ria also saw plenty of amazing creatures that I wasn't able to spot out on the shore.

But at the end of the day, nothing beats spending new years eve with friends on the shores we love.

Here's wishing a wonderful 2009 for our shores! May it prosper in health and love!

Read full article here