“The time to act was yesterday, get it done!” Youth @ COP21 (2015 Paris Climate Conference)

Singapore’s Nor Lastrina Hamid was honoured to speak at COP21 on behalf on world youth (UNFCCC observer constituency of youth organizations (YOUNGO)[watch video]:

“My name is Lastrina. I am from Singapore, and I have the honour of speaking on behalf of the youth constituency.

As young people, we would like to voice grave concerns that this process is becoming more and more exclusive as we speak. Monsieur Fabius has said that to achieve a strong agreement we need a transparent and inclusive process, not only among the Parties to the Convention, but also with members of Civil Society.

However, in the past week we have seen the opposite. Negotiations have once again been closed to observers, interventions have been limited, and our voices have been silenced. Now that you have finally given us a space to express ourselves, listen to what we have to say:

Last Monday, at the heads of state event, there were numerous calls for climate justice and action. Leaders expressed that “Never have the stakes been so high,” “the fate of humanity is on the table” and that “we are the first generation to feel the impact of climate change, and the last generation that can do something about it.” They were right. The stakes have never been so high. But if the fate of humanity is on the table, then where is the action you so boldly discuss?

Action, not empty promises, will save our populations from starving, dying of thirst, and perishing in floods. You are responsible for the emissions in the past. We don’t want history to repeat itself, stop the carbon colonialism.

We, the youth, demand that parties [reach] an agreement that closes the ambition gap and keeps the temperature increase below 1.5 degrees. Developed countries must take the lead based on their historical responsibility and their respective capabilities. We call for a legally binding agreement that is no longer mitigation-centric, but acknowledges the need for strong adaptation measures, a bold loss and damage mechanism, technology transfer, capacity building, as well as finance flowing from North to South. These elements are crucial to help vulnerable communities cope with the enduring effects of climate change in a way that is both just and equitable.

From now onward, youth from all over the world will rise up to hold you to your promises. The time to act was yesterday. 21 years of inaction have passed. We have told you what you need to do.

Get it done.”

UNFCCC Webcast  Paris COP 21 | CMP 11  On Demand  Conference of the Parties  COP 9th meeting Cerence of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol  CMP 7th meeting

What are the UN’s Global Goals for sustainable development?

World’s Largest Lesson – ‘Global Goals for Sustainable Development are 17 goals to achieve three extraordinary things in the next 15 years – End extreme poverty. Fight inequality and injustice. Fix climate change. If every school in the world teaches children about these goals, we will help them become the generation that changed the world.’

UN News Centre, 25 Sep 2015 – UN adopts new Global Goals, charting sustainable development for people and planet by 2030 [link]

“The 193-Member United Nations General Assembly today formally adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, along with a set of bold new Global Goals, which Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon hailed as a universal, integrated and transformative vision for a better world.

“The new agenda is a promise by leaders to all people everywhere. It is an agenda for people, to end poverty in all its forms – an agenda for the planet, our common home,” declared Mr. Ban as he opened the UN Sustainable Development Summit which kicked off today and wraps up Sunday.

The UN chief’s address came ahead of the Assembly’s formal adoption of the new framework, Transforming Our World: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which is composed of 17 goals and 169 targets to wipe out poverty, fight inequality and tackle climate change over the next 15 years.

The Goals aim to build on the work of the historic Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which in September 2000, rallied the world around a common 15-year agenda to tackle the indignity of poverty.”

Singapore’s Sustainable Development Programme was announced by Minister of the Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan at this summit:

“Singapore will partner UN agencies, such as the UN Development Programme (UNDP), to provide technical assistance and capacity building to developing countries in the areas of leadership and governance, sustainable cities, and water and sanitation solutions.”

The MOH Haze Health Advisory poster and conservative advise for coastal cleanup Organisers

Here is the MOH Haze Health Advisory poster which summarises their guidelines. Various other ministries and institutions adopt these, as does NUS, and might provide specifics or precise advise relevant to their situation.

The fundamentals are all here.

But do read the language carefully. For example, in conditions greater than 100psi, the recommendation for healthy people is to “reduce prolonged or strenuous outdoor physical exertion”. To me, the word prolonged is enough to rule out the typical coastal cleanup activity which lasts at least three hours from departure to site. Strenuous covers any mangrove cleanup.

Furthermore, the MOH guidelines comes with this caveat: “While the health advisory provides general precautionary advice, each individual’s reaction to pollutants may vary. The amount of physical activity or exertion that can be performed also differs according to an individual’s health status or capacity. ”

Yes individual response varies, and this is a critical to realise.

Allergic rhinitis is known to be common enough amongst children in Singapore and may persist amongst undergraduates. Keeping them out of the haze even in low psi values (50-100) seem like common sense. Teachers in schools are prepared and in really bad conditions, some have plans to hem students into air-conditioned halls and somehow continue with school! Amazing!

Many stressed adults also suffer from allergic rhinitis, and have a tough time of it when haze values are persistently maintained at 50-100 psi for days.

As coordinator of the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore, I mulled over this at the first sign of the haze three weeks ago. Read, consulted, observed and decided to adopt a conservative approach when I emailed some 70 Organisers of varying capability and site difficulty who organise some 3,700 volunteers.

Our practise all these 24 years of the ICCS has been to rank safety above all else,so the ICCS Haze Advisory for Organisers was entitled, “At air quality readings above 100psi, please consider cancelling your event!” And if we were dealing with levels below 100psi, despite the MOH recommendation to continue with normal activities, volunteers already experiencing discomfort, however mild, should be advised to rest instead.

I informed the international coordinator at Ocean Conservancy to say Singapore might not be sending them a bundle of data this year due to the haze. We did not experience a haze-out in 1997 or any other year, but we did experience a wash-out in 1998 – Organisers then sensibly cleared the beach due to a massive storm and we cheered them when they wrote to explain.

Similarly, this was a no brainer.

Now all we can do is hope for clear skies like the rest of Singapore. And perhaps a little more: this local campaign hopes to rectify the problem of the haze at the source, through consumer action, a very powerful tool indeed: webreathewhatwebuy.com – take a look and play a part.

Stay healthy everyone!

No sign of Bukit Timah hill, all swallowed
by the rain-enhanced haze of Mon 14 Sep 2015: ~1800h

Bukit TImah in rain enhanced haze

Dispose of e-Waste in NUS any day – or during the “e-Waste, we-Recycle” festival in September (there’s ice-cream!)

Update – date change to Mon 14 Sep 2015 due to national elections in Singapore on 11 Sep 2015.

Recycling e-waste was not convenient a decade ago and schemes were episodic, often in response to something like Earth Day. Then in 2012, Starhub provided a dedicated e-waste recycling (RENEW) and I was finally able to recycle my laptops from the 1990’s!

Funan chipped in two years later so we have even more locations around Singapore. The NEA page on e-waste recycling has a longer list.

Well, it’s time to make a trip to an e-waste recycling bin again, as I have accumulated a hefty pile of small e-waste items like cables, unused plugs and spoilt bicycle lights which have not recovered despite years of hope (happily some did).

This time though, I needn’t travel far – NUS’ Office of Environment Sustainability has an informative and well organised webpage reflecting the initiatives that have cropped up on campus in recent years. And this includes e-waste recycling bins which are located at:

  • Kent Ridge Campus: Central Library, Hon Sui Sen Memorial Library, Medical Library, Science Library and Ventus Building
  • UTown: Stephen Riady Centre (inside Office of Admissions)
  • Bukit Timah Campus: C J Koh Law Library

How convenient!

Skitched 20150729 224208

If you want a festive air with ice-cream rewards, there is an annual e-waste collection drive – “e-Waste | we-Recycle,” which will be held on Friday 11 Sep 2015. I will support this excellent cappingcampaign by reminding my department staff (Department of Biological Sciences) and some 500 undergraduates in the modules I handle – LSM1103 Biodiversity, LSM2251 Ecology and the Environment and GEM1917 Understanding and Critiquing Sustainability.

The NUS OES page also has information on paper recycling in offices and recycling for glass, ink & toner cartridges, light bulbs, banners, clothes, name card boxes, pens and canteen waste reduction – and that’s just the section on waste!

Grace & Joys Tan agree – everything is better with ice-cream! 2014 E Waste recycling

Want to reduce smoking? John Oliver lets rip about what tobacco companies did in Australia, Honduras, Uruguay, Togo, Namibia, Solomon Islands

“The host of ‘Last Week Tonight’ led an 18-minute segment to expose tobacco companies’ use of litigation and bullying tactics to stop countries from removing their brands on tobacco products.” – Joe Landau, NY Daily News (Feb 2015) link.

The Australian plain packaging case isn’t over, however, and hearings are happening right here in Singapore!

“Australia’s legal bill for defending its cigarette plain packaging legislation is set to hit $50 million as it battles to contain a case brought by tobacco giant Philip Morris before a tribunal in Singapore.

And that is just for the first stage. If in September the three-person extraterritorial tribunal decides Australia has a case to answer, the hearing will move on to substantive matters and the bills will become far bigger.”

See: “Australia faces $50m legal bill in cigarette plain packaging fight with Philip Morris,” by Peter Martin. Sydney Morning Herald, 28 Jul 2015.

From Singapore with Love: Wildlife protection and an alternative to the desperate poisoning of dogs in the Himalaya

Poisoning dogs with rat poison and drowning puppies? The desperate action by Himalayan communities to protect their livestock from dog attacks speaks of another tragedy – attacks on wildlife by dogs and secondary poisoning of wildlife from poisoned dog carcasses.

Sterilisation is a sustainable, and ecologically-sensitive plan of action

So we’re sending some love from Singapore once again via the Himalayan Mutt Project to offer a kinder and and more effective alternative – sterilisation. Chip in to help Debby with her fund-raising efforts at Pozible.

Debby Ng has a been a passionate environmentalist all her life and even as a young teen, took action by writing to the forum page of the Straits Times. After her first dive at Pulau Hantu in 2003, she determinedly chipped away at a keyboard to start blogging, and today The Hantu Blog has matured into a community which has contributed significantly to awareness about marine life in our shores.

So it is not a case of half measures with this lady. Learning about the miserable situation for wildlife, dogs and the community in Nepal’s Himalaya during a visit in 2013, and with local partnership, they initiated a humane, ecologically-positive partnership with existing animal welfare organisations in Nepal. Funding from Singapore and elsewhere and dedicated work by a committed group brought sterilisation to an uncontrolled situation.

Find out more at the Himalayan Mutt Project’s Pozible site where Debby has provided a comprehensive explanation about the project, its sustainable methods and the success of last year’s exercise.

It IS enticing – just S$10 provides bright red little collars for small, sterilised dogs preventing accidental culling of neutered dogs (in combination with with marked ears) – and provides for five rabies vaccinations.

CNVR camp in Ilam East Nepal hill region tea growing district
CNVR (Catch-Neuter-Vaccinate-Release ) camp in Ilam East Nepal hill region, tea growing district; photo from the Himalayan Mutt Project

Recycle Your E-Waste @ Funan DigitaLife Mall

Great news about e-waste recycling from NEA:

“Funan DigitaLife Mall has just launched the Recycle Your E-Waste @ Funan DigitaLife Mall programme in partnership with NEA & Cimelia Resource Recovery. Members of the public can drop off waste electrical and electronic equipment (e-waste) for recycling during the mall’s open hours at Funan’s Customer Service Counter on Level 1.

Funan’s recycling partner Cimelia will collect and transport the e-waste items to its facility in Tuas for recycling. All electrical and electronic items (i.e., “anything with an electrical cord”) are accepted, such as:

  • Infocomm technology (ICT) equipment, such as desktop, laptop and tablet computers, mobile phones, computer and mobile phone batteries, peripherals and accessories such as keyboards, modems, monitors, computer mice, docking stations, hard disk drives, printed circuit boards, battery chargers, etc.
  • Home appliances, such as TVs, rice cookers, microwave and toaster ovens, electric kettles, food processors and blenders, electric fans, DVD/VCR/CD/video/audio players, radios, hi-fis, small vacuum cleaners, etc.

Click for the pdf poster:


There always is trash, on every shoreline around the world

On Friday we walked a new rainforest trail created by The Andaman at Datai Bay, Langkawi, for their guests. Sadly, east of the bay, amidst some lovely waters off the trail, we found a fisherman’s cove littered with plastic bottles, slippers, wrappers and styrofoam (i.e. expanded polystyrene (EPS) or polystyrene foam). It wasn’t the fishermen alone, some items would have floated in from the sea.

So the next day (Sat), we walked to the cove and filled the five large trash bags with mainly plastic rubbish in two hours. While very little macro-trash remains but we hardly made a dent with the micro-trash from EPS fragments. The resort helpfully provided the trash bags and waste disposal.

I just learnt that the New York City Council passed a ban on polystyrene foam food containers and loose polystyrene foam packing “peanuts” w.e.f 01 Jul 2015; well done! We need to follow suit. We can’t recycle it and in the wild, EPS fragments into smaller pieces and become omnipresent, and even enters the food chain.

At Pantai Cenang later that evening, I saw a hopeful sign to reduce plastic bag use at a provision store. I think we will get to the point where the amount of plastic trash dumped into the sea will be less than the amounts cleared out during cleanups. I can’t wait!

Education has helped, awareness about this obvious problem is increasing. We need to be less tolerant about marine trash and other pollutants which make their way into the life-giving waters of our oceans. I hope this happens in my lifetime.