Welcome to Unique Passions! A segment where we interview various individuals who choose to pursue their niche interests, even if it means taking on the path less-traveled. Take a deeper look into their personal thoughts, opinions, and feelings towards life…
Name: Suchii Yap
When it comes to the topic of Environmentalism, everyone talks about the importance of enacting change, but very few actually walk the talk. Suchii is a spirited girl – who is determined to be the change she hopes to see in the world 🙂
Human race, Global warming, and the Natural World
Q: Do you think our world is overpopulated?
Yes! 7 billion and counting is ridiculous, considering the depleting resources on Earth. In 1798, Thomas Malthus wrote: “Famine seems to be the last, the most dreadful resource of nature. The power of population is so superior to the power of the earth to produce subsistence for man, that premature death must in some shape or other visit the human race.”
As the Malthusian catastrophe predicts, the world population will grow faster than the amount of food it produces. To have famine as the result of over-population, and eventually the extinction of our human race, sustainability has to be the way to go!
Q: What are your thoughts on global warming?
I attended the National Youth Climate Change Conference 2016 in May this year and learnt a lot. Climate change is real, the world is not just getting warmer, but also experiencing heat waves. Since the dawn of industrialization and urbanization, our consumption of energy has increased exponentially not because we have to, but because we can. That’s just messed up! The sea level is continuing to rise, and we are all in danger.
*Climate Change SG is a Facebook page for readers who hope to gain a regular dose of climate change news and insights.
Q: How do you view the current relation between humans and the natural world?
Being at the top of the food chain, we have comfortably controlled and monopolized everything from food to land, became wasteful, complacent, and are driven by the wrong things e.g. greed – where we see materialism and consumerism as an entitlement to us.
“Being at the top of the food chain, we..controlled and monopolized everything from food to land, became wasteful, complacent..(and view) materialism and consumerism as an entitlement to us.”
As the Native American saying goes – “Only when the last tree is cut, the last fish is eaten, and the last stream is poisoned, you will realize you cannot eat money.”
Who gave us the right to own the earth and it’s beings, to abuse them, or to play god? No one, but we did anyway. And sometimes, I myself also feel shameful to be a human being.
Nature has no voice against us, nor asks for anything in return. We need to understand that Nature gave us these resources, and they can very well take it away from us! We all contribute to the environmental problem, some more than the other. This mindset of waiting for someone else to take action has to change. We are all aware of its consequences, and it’s time to put that awareness into plans!
“Nature has no voice against us, nor asks for anything in return. Nature gave us these resources, and they can very well take it away from us!..We are all aware of (the environmental) consequences, and it’s time to put that awareness into plans!”
Frank thoughts of a Flexitarian
Q: How do you view the ethics of meat consumption?
Honestly, I do love to eat meat. But as humans, we have been indulging unnecessarily in it’s consumption. The real problem begin when we started producing livestock for consumption. Supply and demand is a powerful thing, which highlights again the issue of overpopulation.
“..as humans, we have been indulging unnecessarily in (meat) consumption. The real problem begin when we started producing livestock for consumption.”
We are capable of, and responsible for making more conscientious decisions in our daily lives e.g. knowing more about the source and processes of our food, it’s sustainability and and ethical considerations.
I have always been conscious about the cruelty involved in meat consumption. By starting to choose more non-meat options, I hope to do my part in reducing the demand for meat, which also reduces my carbon footprint. (*Animal Allies Carbon Footprint Calculator)
Q: What is the difference between a vegetarian and a vegan?
A vegetarian’s diet consists of only vegetables. Vegans do not eat animals, or their by-products – eggs, milk, and cheese. The latter may also refrain from buying items that uses animal leather or fur.
Q: What is your diet like?
I’m a flexitarian – I eat meat at home, but will choose non-meat options when outside. During my weekly grocery shopping, I stock up on vegetables and fruits (no meat). When I am outside, I will look for items on the menu, or request for food without meat. Most places do accommodate to such requests.
Q: What are some challenges of being a vegetarian, vegan, flexitarian?
It is still a “non-conventional” diet in the Asian context, and we may be questioned on the significance of our actions, or be negatively judged.
Personally, the difference I see between a meat eater and us (vegetarian, vegan, flexitarian) – is the heightened sense of conscience. I see myself equal to an animal, and they deserve the right to live as much as we do. We should never take them for granted. Aren’t we humans all afraid to be seen as a food sources ourselves?
“I see myself equal to an animal, and they deserve the right to live as much as we do. We should never take them for granted. Aren’t we humans all afraid to be seen as a food sources ourselves?”
Once at a supermarket with my good friends, we passed by the live fish and crab section and I sighed “poor thing”. My friend commented, “It’s okay, they are food. Do you like chilli crab?”. I replied “Yes”, and she responded “Then, they have served their purpose.”
That particular conversation worried me, and made me question – what makes a human humane? How is it normal and natural to produce animals as food, and view them as mere commodities? I wished more people would think about our morals and compassion towards other species, and from there, improve as a human race.
“(It) made me question – what makes a human humane?..(if we can find it)..normal and natural to produce animals as food, and view them as mere commodities. I wished more people would think about our morals and compassion towards other species..”
Can a change in one’s diet or action really impact the environment?
Q: How does one’s diet impact the environment?
Reducing the amount of meat we eat, will reduce the amount of livestock being produced. The resources used to produce livestock such as e.g. water, space, money, corn and grains – can also be put to greater use as such. Alongside humans, livestock also produce a lot of waste and pollution. Everything in life has a ripple effect.
Q: What eco-habits do you undertake in your daily life?
I use recycle bags when I go to the market. Turning the lights off when I’m not in the room, using the fan instead of air-conditioner, which are all cost-efficient, and barely takes any extra effort. I have waste sorting bins in my kitchen to recycle items e.g. plastics, glass and cans, as well as collecting food scraps along with with paper, grass and leaves.
When I go to work at a cafe, I would bring a bag with me to collect all the fruits, vegetable scraps, and coffee grounds. I put them into compost bins where they decompose and become fertilizers, instead of taking up space in landfills as rubbish (where it requires thousands of years to decompose).
Q: Do these actions really benefit the environment?
Every single day, I see countless food, man-made items being wasted and thrown away when they could have been saved or repurposed. Every single piece of plastic ever created still exists today. They DO NOT decompose. So much bio-degradable things become useless when they are thrown away, which is why the more we should recycle what we already have!
“Every single day, I see countless food, man-made items being wasted and thrown away when they could have been saved or repurposed. Every single piece of plastic ever created still exists today. They DO NOT decompose. So much bio-degradable things become useless when they are thrown away, which is why the more we should recycle what we already have!”
Or make fertilizers out of the composted materials, which I currently use to feed my plants and homegrown veggies. This leads to organic and nutritious food to eat, which is a beautiful cycle! Doing all these makes me feel good, is something I take pride in, and motivates me to continue doing what I can for my environment 🙂
*A video showing Man’s relationship with the natural world
On personal challenges and possible changes
Q: What are some challenges faced in your environmental efforts?
A few months ago, I would have been able to harvest my first batch of compost, but my parents threw away my 6 months’ worth of compost, because they felt it was smelly, attracted unwanted pests, and made the house a dumping ground.
In my defense, the compost was outdoors, it hardly smelled, and attracted good garden helpers like snails and earthworms. I was actually creating an eco-system in our back yard. Their constant questioning of my actions e.g. asking what’s the point of recycling when it will end up in the same place any way – made me feel like giving up at times.
However, I would think of the bigger picture of what I was trying to achieve. I will not give up, but work hard for what I believe in! My second batch of compost is going to be ready in 2 weeks and I am very happy about it.
At times, seeing people around me blatantly wasting resources upsets me too, but I am not going to dictate what they should or shouldn’t do because I do not believe in imposing on others. I just hope that they respect my actions, and come to realize the benefits of changing our way of life because nature really needs us to.
Q: What beneficial changes in laws, societal attitudes, media, or educational landscape would you like to see?
- More environmental efforts by the government.
– The recent signing of the Paris agreement at the Paris 2016 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP21) was a step in the right direction. We need to care about the environment, as much as our economic growth.
*Click HERE to read the Climate Action Plan proposal by Singapore (July 2016) after signing the Paris Agreement on climate change.
– More recycling bins everywhere. And also educating the public about how to recycle properly.
– Composting and recycling to be a part of our culture and identity. Households can be encouraged to do so in exchange for tax rebates.
– Alongside the existing rebates granted for cars in Singapore with low carbon emissions, COE can also be made cheaper for green cars. More charging stations for convenience, and to also promote the use of green cars.
– Shops, and restaurants can use bio-degradable takeaways bags and containers. *NUS’s researchers recently created a new biodegradable packing material.
– Stop the rampant use of plastic bags at supermarkets. *A ST’s forum letter asking for a levy to be imposed on the use of plastic bags.
- In schools, environmental studies should be a part of the curriculum.
It is an important part of character development to be compassionate and conscience. Children should be taught at a young age about pollution, paper and food wastage. They can do activities such as the waste experiment where they carry the waste they produce with them everywhere they go for a day or more. This will foster and instill a sense of responsibility into them towards the environment.
“It is an important part of character development to be compassionate and conscience. Children should be taught at a young age about pollution, paper and food wastage..This will foster and instill a sense of responsibility into them towards the environment.”
- I think a change in mindset is of the utmost importance.
Our generation today are more aware of environmental issues but for the older generations, they may not see the importance, nor are opened to cultivating eco-friendly habits.
- Small modifications in everyday life.
Bringing your own water bottle when you are out instead of buying mineral water. Using less of disposable items like plastic utensils, toilet paper, wet tissue, takeaway cups. Opt for reusable items, or eco-friendly tissue and toilet paper.
Fun facts on the recycling situation in Singapore:
- Singapore has a mere 19 per cent household recycling rate (2015), despite more than 15 years of the National Recycling Programme. This recycling rate is below other developed economies like the UK and Taiwan, where their household recycling rates in 2013 were twice that of our 2015’s rate.
- 30 to 50 per cent of materials deposited into our recycling bins are not suitable for recycling (*government has mentioned for an increase in public education).
- Right now, only 51 per cent of paper, 7 per cent of plastic, and 13 per cent of food waste are recycled even though these items were part of the top five types of waste generated last year.
- The country’s only landfill site in Pulau Semakau will run out of space by 2035.
Facts credits: Why is Singapore’s household recycling rate stagnant? (CNA, 27 June 2016), Sorting out the recycling blues of Singapore (CNA, 30 June 2016), and Food waste raises a stink for recycling (ST, 20 May 2016) – 3 articles sharing on the current barriers faced in Singapore’s community-level recycling efforts, as well as what can be done to tackle the issue! Do give these 3 important articles a read if you’re keen 🙂
We thank the ever-friendly Ms Suchii for the interview opportunity! She is currently looking for volunteering / internship experiences for both animal and environmental causes. If anyone is currently involved in projects of this nature, feel free to contact this passionate gal at firstname.lastname@example.org 🙂
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3 recent/relevant Offbeat Perspective’s articles:
Interview with Tay Lai Hock (Founder of the Ground-Up Initiative (GUI), a local non-profit group that aims to reconnect city dwellers with the earth) (* Tay Lai Hock’s interview article taken from CNA, 9 July 2016)