Biggest environment challenge is "improving social responsibility"

Sara Grosse Channel NewsAsia 29 May 12;

SINGAPORE: Key contributors to Singapore's environment said the biggest challenge the country faces is improving its social responsibility. This was raised as part of a discussion between a panel of environment pioneers held by the Centre for Liveable Cities.

Over the years Singapore has built up a reputation as having a clean environment. But Singapore's environment pioneers said that more can be done on the individual level.

Daniel Wang, a former Director-General for Public Health with the National Environment Agency, said: "I have not been successful in getting people to clear up the tables after a meal at hawker centres.

"The reason why people are still reluctant is because they feel there are cleaners around, so there's no need for them to clear up, which I say is a sign of not being self reliant. You want to see people clear up tables in hawker centres today, then unfortunately you need to have a law."

These environment pioneers are hoping that won't be the case, and that eventually Singaporeans will inculcate a sense of social responsibility when it comes to protecting the environment. This means more public education.

Joseph Hui, Deputy CEO of the National Environment Agency, said: "We will have to continue to do this until the day when Singaporeans are like a first world nation, where they are able to take ownership of the environment and do what is right, not because there is a law but because they believe that is the right thing to do."

Besides developing social responsibility further, panellists also raised other factors that contribute to environmental sustainability. These include inter-agency cooperation, technology, infrastructure, and a strong political will.


Etiquette 'not on pace with progress'
Singaporeans need to work on social responsibility, say environmental pioneers
Woo Sian Boon Today Online 30 May 12;

SINGAPORE - Despite Singapore's state-of-the-art skyscrapers and reputation as a clean city-state, it appears social etiquette has not kept pace with the country's rapid advancement.

This was the consensus reached by a panel of environmental pioneers during a dialogue session yesterday, in response to a question by a member of the audience, Mr Eugene Heng, who heads the Waterways Watch Society.

Addressing the three panellists - former National Environment Agency (NEA) director general for public health Daniel Wang, former NEA deputy chief executive officer Loh Ah Tuan and NEA deputy chief executive Joseph Hui - Mr Heng wanted their views on his observation that Singaporeans are littering and foreigners, hired by cleaning services, are tidying up after them.

Mr Loh said Singaporeans' "social responsibility is not there yet" despite the Government's efforts to educate people.

"We also engaged and empowered them. We tell them that Singapore is yours, and you should not be littering and dirtying the environment ...

"This is an issue about heart-ware, and not hardware," he said.

Added Mr Wang: "Singaporeans are very compliant, but only when there is a law in place ... It's very difficult for Singaporeans to do things from the heart, to think about community and not of self."

The panellists said it would take time for Singapore to reach the standards of Korea and Japan, where social responsibility has been successfully inculcated into the people.

During the session, organised by the Centre for Liveable Cities, a member of the audience asked how sustainable it is to throw rubbish inside plastic bags.

In response, Mr Wang said: "There's nothing wrong with plastic bags, so long as we reuse them.

"Any proposals to ban plastic bags irks me. In Singapore, we burn our rubbish, so whether it's bio-degradable or not, it doesn't make a difference; and secondly, because we encourage residents to bag their rubbish, so sanitation is maintained."

Speaking to reporters after the event, Mr Wang lashed out against supermarkets that charge extra for plastic bags.

"I don't think (they should do that), because the cost is already built into their overheads," he said.

"The question is: Do you need these bags at home? I need the plastic bags at home because I need to bag my food waste. If you don't give it to me, I have to go and buy them, right? Do I need the bags? Can I use them at home? If your answer is yes, then, by all means, take it."

Small acts of kindness do add up; they could even have national impact
from William Wan General Secretary, Singapore Kindness Movement
Today Online 2 Jun 12;

I refer to the comments about Singapore's progress towards social responsibility, made during the Centre for Liveable Cities' dialogue session and reported in "Etiquette 'not on pace with progress'" (May 30).

The panel of environmental pioneers made salient points about the need for Singaporeans to progress in social etiquette, even as our society progresses in material success.

This can come about only when the vision of a liveable society encompasses the element of practical social graces, which includes consideration for others. Leaving a space cleaner than when we found it is one such example, in the use of common spaces.

We all have a responsibility to one another, the community and the environment to ensure that our streets are litter-free. Many of us are house-proud, and we do not rely on our guests to clean up our home.

Singapore is our home, where we grow up, live and work. In the same manner, we should be city-proud and make it a personal responsibility to help clean up our city by not littering.

It is important for us all to be aware that it takes effort from everyone to inculcate values pertaining to social responsibility.

The Singapore Kindness Movement has been reaching out constantly to remind fellow citizens and residents that the road to a more gracious society begins with small acts of kindness. Collectively, gracious acts performed by a critical mass of concerned individuals would have a national impact.