Best of our wild blogs: 2 Jul 12

from The annotated budak

fishing great-billed heron @ chek jawa - June 2012
from sgbeachbum

Libellago aurantiaca (Fiery Gem)
from Everyday Nature

I Found A Baby Bird, What Do I Do?
from The Mighty Jungle

Thoughts on Roadkill, Part 1: A video collection
from Monday Morgue and Thoughts on Roadkill, Part 2: Invasives & Non-natives

from Monday Morgue

Blank map of Singapore for download
from Urban Forest

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Turn Singapore into tropical jewel? 'Work never ends'

Cities everywhere face challenges in ensuring high quality of living: PM
Phua Mei Pin and Cheong Suk-Wai Straits Times 2 Jul 12;

PRIME Minister Lee Hsien Loong spoke of the shared challenges that cities worldwide face in ensuring a high quality of life for residents, as Singapore welcomed 15,000 experts from around the world to three summits on cities, water and the environment.

Addressing some 3,000 city leaders and experts at the joint opening, Mr Lee said: 'Cities share similar broad objectives. To generate a vibrant economy, create good jobs. To provide a safe, secure environment for residents. To deliver good public services... And, to make all these pieces work, to have effective governance.'

He said proper planning and efficient administration are vital to make a city work. 'Otherwise, the cities will strain their resources and degrade the environment.'

He also shared Singapore's own experience as a small city with no resources.

Even though it has gained some recognition for its achievements, faring well in liveability and sustainability indices, Mr Lee stressed that the work of improving Singapore 'never ends'.

'We may be a densely populated city but we're determined to continue improving Singapore, so that our people live comfortably and pleasantly, and this becomes one of the jewels in the tropics,' he said.

There are ongoing efforts to build new housing estates and upgrade older ones, improve the public transport network and integrate more green spaces and blue waters into the landscape, with the newly-opened Gardens by the Bay a prime example.

Mr Lee also noted the challenge of meeting rising expectations. 'We have a population which is growing and we're now more exposed to beautiful cities elsewhere. Expectations are higher and there are more interests to balance one against the other.'

Beyond infrastructure, he said Singapore is also strengthening its social capital. That means 'integrating Singaporeans, newly-arrived immigrants and foreign workers, preserving ethnic harmony and building a more compassionate society'.

'This is what we have to do to make Singapore the best home for us all,' he added.

The increasing complexities of urbanisation are why the summit organisers decided to bring the World Cities Summit, CleanEnviro Summit and the Singapore International Water Week together this year. The aim is to facilitate an integrated approach to urban planning.

There are also three exhibitions taking place, to showcase the technologies and best practices of more than 900 companies across a range of sectors such as water, energy, waste and environment.

Yesterday, on the first day of the summits, delegates were busy picking up tips from one another.

What impressed Copenhagen's deputy mayor Pia Allerslev about Singapore is how green it is. 'You have the planning of a city where you can always see something green... In Copenhagen, we have beautiful architecture but we don't have the green thinking.'

World Bank vice-president Pamela Cox said: 'Singapore put quality of life as an important goal. Some of the other countries have not necessarily done that with urbanisation - they focus a lot on the economic side, a lot on the physical side but maybe not so much on the quality of life.'

The three summits continue today, when the Lee Kuan Yew World City Prize and Lee Kuan Water Prize will be awarded.

Singapore will continue to improve itself, says PM Lee
Joanne Chan Channel NewsAsia 1 Jul 12;

SINGAPORE: Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said Singapore will continue to improve, so that its people can live comfortably and pleasantly.

And more than just having better physical infrastructure, it's also about strengthening social capital.

Mr Lee said this at Sunday's official opening of three global events held in Singapore.

The World Cities Summit, the Singapore International Water Week and the CleanEnviro Summit are being held together for the first time - all with the common goal to promote sustainable cities of the future.

Building new housing estates and upgrading old ones, improving public transport with more train lines and buses, and introducing more green spaces in the city.

These are just some of the efforts made over the years to make Singapore a more liveable city.

But more than just infrastructure, a liveable city is also about its people.

"Integrating Singaporeans and newly-arrived immigrants and foreign workers, preserving ethnic harmony, building a more compassionate society... This is what we have to do to make Singapore the best home for us all, and this is what we will do year after year, continuing to improve as we raise our standards step by step," said Mr Lee.

Mr Lee said such efforts to make Singapore better will not end, as the country will need to meet the public's growing expectations.

He also noted that this transformation is not easy.

"Because it's easy to sacrifice long-term objectives, environmental objectives or urban planning objectives, for short-term advantage. And it's difficult to rally political support for the right choices. Enforcing planning norms is not easy, acting against polluters is equally hard, and pricing resources like water and electricity which affect the lives of millions of people is even harder," said Mr Lee.

Singapore's commitment to sustainable development makes it the ideal location to exchange best practices.

Some 15,000 people are expected to attend the five-day convention. What's on offer - the latest in water technology, high-level meetings to discuss sustainable urban development, and the sharing of best green practices from around the world.

- CNA/cc

'Making S'pore our best home'
More green spaces and blue waters have been integrated into our surroundings: PM Lee
Sumita Sreedharan Today Online 2 Jul 12;

SINGAPORE - It would have been easy for the Republic to "sacrifice long-term environmental objectives for short-term development", as Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong put it. But as he highlighted the challenges that Singapore faced in transforming itself into a liveable and sustainable city, Mr Lee reiterated yesterday that "efforts to make Singapore our best home will never end".

Speaking at the joint opening ceremony of the Singapore International Water Week (SIWW), World Cities Summit and CleanEnviro Summit, Mr Lee cited having the "right policies" as well as pricing resources such as electricity and water correctly as some of the challenges.

Mr Lee said: "It is not easy to transform a city and it requires long-term planning and careful execution."

He noted that as Singaporeans are exposed to cities abroad, they would have high expectations of what they want Singapore to be. At the same time, more interests would have to be balanced, Mr Lee said.

Over the years, policymakers have risen to the task of ensuring Singaporeans live "comfortably and pleasantly" in a densely populated city: Apart from new and upgraded housing estates, more MRT lines and buses to improve public transport, "more green spaces and blue waters" have been integrated in the surroundings.

He noted that these efforts strengthen the "social capital" by integrating Singaporeans and new immigrants, as well as preserving ethnic harmony and building a compassionate society.

Mr Lee added that Singapore's efforts to improve liveability have been recognised. The country was ranked 25th in Mercer's 2011 Quality of Living worldwide survey and ranked the highest in environmental sustainability in Siemens' Asian Green City Index 2011. "Rankings aside, Singaporeans and visitors can feel and enjoy this high-quality living for themselves."

Nevertheless, "we have much to learn from others who show how strong leadership and community participation can transform mature cities", he added, citing the example of New York, which won the 2012 World City Prize. The conferences being held here are "valuable platforms" for Singapore to learn and exchange views, Mr Lee noted.

Centre of Liveable Cities Deputy Executive Director Cheng Hsing Yao said yesterday that Singapore is a good place for such conferences - given that the country is an example of one that has been "forced by circumstance to innovate" and is a "living laboratory" for firms to develop, test and demonstrate solutions.

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Champion of nature and nurture: NMP Faizah Jamal

Environment NMP Faizah Jamal's challenge is to bring the fringe ideals of tree-huggers into the mainstream
Clarissa Oon Straits Times 2 Jul 12;

One of Parliament's newest faces, Ms Faizah Jamal is also one of the very few Singaporeans over 50 who still lives in the house they were born in.

The petite Nominated Member of Parliament for the environment - one of nine NMPs sworn in this February - is waiting for you at the top of the stairs on the second floor of a Kampong Glam shophouse. It has been in her family for three generations.

Her late grandfather and father were diamond traders who came here from Banjar in south Kalimantan, now part of Indonesia. The family used to occupy both floors of the shophouse, but a few years ago, Ms Faizah and her two teenage daughters rented out the ground floor to an art gallery.

'It's just the three of us and we don't need so much space,' explains the single mother, a former corporate lawyer-turned-polytechnic lecturer.

Their light-filled, L-shaped home consists of just two rooms and a kitchenette, but opens out onto a rooftop garden where they can gaze over the roofs of neighbouring shophouses and watch the sun set. The apartment has no air-conditioning, in keeping with her climate-friendly beliefs.

A newcomer to civil society leadership, the 52-year-old hopes to harness her diverse interests in nature, heritage and education to champion the importance of being more connected to the land.

She is the first female Malay NMP since the scheme started in 1990 to bring more alternative voices into Parliament.

An adjunct lecturer in environment education at the Republic Polytechnic, she was nominated for the NMP position by the Nature Society. She has been a member since 1984 and edited the society's quarterly magazine from 2008 to 2009.

Outspoken yet oozing hospitality and graciousness, Ms Faizah has made a career out of following her heart and not fitting into any mould.

Back in the late 1980s, as a young intellectual property lawyer with top law firm Drew & Napier, she was an avid trekker and mountain-climber, scaling volcanoes in Lombok, Sumatra and Java.

'I would take off for three weeks to climb mountains, to the horror of everyone. They said: 'Nobody takes three weeks off from a law firm, what are you doing?',' she recalls with a breezy laugh.

'That was how this interest in nature came up, when you are confronted with nature at its rawest,' says the Raffles Girls' School alumna and National University of Singapore (NUS) law graduate.

Through some of her treks in the Malaysian jungles, she befriended many indigenous orang asli villagers and became inspired by the simple life they led in harmony with nature.

This led to her pursuing a master's in environment law at Kings College, London in the early 1990s, on a European Community-Asean scholarship given out by the British Council.

In 2003, after ending her marriage to her consultant husband, she gave up law altogether to become an environment educator and holistic consultant. She is a certified practitioner of Breathwork, a form of breathing therapy to deal with stress and life crises, and still conducts occasional classes at outdoor nature retreats and for charitable organisations.

While most of her work today centres on teaching polytechnic students how to appreciate nature, as well as preparing for parliamentary sittings once a month, she conducts the occasional heritage tour around her Kampong Glam neighbourhood, which she knows like the back of her hand. A former volunteer museum guide, she does these tours at the request of the Asian Civilisations Museum for its docent trainees.

The third of four siblings who grew up in Kampong Glam in the 1960s and 1970s, she misses the community spirit of the past. The shophouses in the area - historically an Malay and Arab settlement - are now occupied mainly by shops and restaurants, unlike before when people lived and worked there.

'We used to know every single neighbour, and this particular street where I live had not just Malay but also Chinese and Indian residents. There used to be an Indian tailor down the road as well as a Chinese provision shop.

'All the kids would play together. I could hear Hokkien and Teochew all around me - even now I can understand a bit - and there was always a Rediffusion set blaring from one of the shophouses,' she recalls, a nostalgic look in her eyes.

'If you talk to any Singaporean from my generation, I think it's that spirit which we are lacking now. We are creating it but it's a bit artificial somehow. Back then, it was organic and there was no feeling of 'I'm Chinese' or 'you're Malay' or whatever,' she adds.

From the 1980s, many of her neighbours began moving out and their children did not take over their businesses.

Neither Ms Faizah nor her siblings - who went into different professions such as medicine and teaching - carried on her late father Ahmad Jamal's diamond business, and she is the only one who still occupies the shophouse. Her 75-year-old mother, Madam Hajjah Fatimah, lives with her youngest sister in the east.

She says her passion for Kampong Glam is 'not just because I'm Malay, but also because of my family history. And it's Singapore's history as well'.

In a similar vein, she says she was floored when asked by Malay journalists earlier this year what Malay-Muslim issues she was going to raise in Parliament. This is because to her, the environmental issues she represents cut across race and affects all Singaporeans.

'It's not that I'm not concerned about Malay issues, but surely the time has come for us to move away from the idea of 'Malay issues' or 'women's issues' and to see them as issues that affect society at large,' she says.

One issue she hopes to champion is of nature and the outdoors as a space where values such as national identity and character-building can be taught. It was the subject of her maiden parliamentary speech in February, and she will continue to push for students to get a more hands-on experience of nature.

As an environment education lecturer for the past four years, she has noticed that her polytechnic students have had little previous exposure to nature and wildlife reserves such as Bukit Timah or Sungei Buloh.

'Often, at the end of a walk that I facilitate, the words that come out of their mouths are 'I've never been so awed in my life' or 'I never knew Singapore had such things'.

'And here we keep on saying Singapore has no natural resources, Singapore's not exciting. When the word 'awe' comes up from these 20-year-olds, to me, that means something and can be built on,' she says with conviction.

Another issue she hopes to address is what she calls the 'myth' that there can be 'economic growth at all costs at the expense of the environment'.

Over-consumption, she thinks, is rampant in today's affluent, use-and-throw culture. As long as society is untroubled by this, 'how is recycling ever going to be successful', she wonders.

To her, the challenge of being an environment NMP with only a 2 1/2-year term is to bring the fringe ideals of tree-huggers into the mainstream. As she puts it: 'People know intellectually that the environment is a good thing, but how can I make it speak to their hearts?'

Nature Society president Shawn Lum has known her for 15 years, as fellow members of one of the country's oldest non-governmental organisations. He says he was impressed with her 'extensive first-hand experience with nature, incredibly wide range of intellectual and interpersonal skills, and an approach to life that is equal parts curiosity, celebration and reverence'.

He says the group nominated her as an NMP 'because we felt that she would be able to demonstrate just how powerful and meaningful a role nature and the environment can have in the lives of people'.

Few people have such a multi-faceted approach to green issues from a legal, holistic as well as educational perspective, says another society member, NUS environmental law professor Lye Lin Heng. But she believes Ms Faizah will also be able to speak about 'issues that relate to the common man'. In this respect, she cites the NMP's past volunteer experiences working with ex-drug addicts and kidney and cancer patients and their families, and being a devoted mother to two well-rounded daughters.

Azura, 18, and Almira, 16 - two slim, long-haired teenagers who love music and the arts and have a perceptiveness beyond their years - are their mother's pride and joy. Azura is in her second year of junior college at Raffles Institution, while her sister is a fourth-year student at the School of the Arts.

The threesome are close, as the girls have lived with their mother ever since their parents' divorce more than 10 years ago. 'Among the three of us, everything is a shared decision. If the girls didn't think I should take up the NMP position, I wouldn't have,' says Ms Faizah.

Azura says her mother tends to always speak her mind, and 'not just in terms of the big issues, but if something is not right, like when someone is being dishonest'. And yet, 'she'll speak up in a way that doesn't offend people - which is probably why you got the NMP job', says the 18-year-old with a cheeky sideways glance at Ms Faizah.

Almira has a different take on what her mother's defining trait is. 'I've always seen her as very spiritual, in touch with her feelings and with nature. It's all over the house, it's how we've been brought up,' she says. Books on nature and New Age spirituality are piled on the desk of her mother's bedroom, which also doubles as the family lounge.

Ms Faizah says the family is Muslim, 'but I've learnt from a lot of religions, including the orang asli'. She believes that 'there is a higher force in the natural world that we are all connected to', and has taken her daughters on jungle treks and visits to orang asli villages from the time they were in preschool.

The inter-connectedness of everything in life 'behooves us to be careful of what we think and say, because it has an effect. If you're negative, pessimistic, then what you get is more negativity'.

Her guiding mantra can be summed up in a road sign she spotted a few years ago while on holiday in London, which read: 'You are not stuck in traffic, you ARE traffic.' She liked it so much, she took a photograph of it and it is now on her Facebook profile page.

Ultimately, whether the issues are social, environmental or personal, she believes in taking responsibility rather than blaming others. 'It's about seeing life from a perspective that is abundant and from there, other things flow,' she says.

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Malaysia: Ensuring sharks no longer in the soup

Natalie Heng The Star 2 Jul 12;

PULAU TIOMAN: Sharks have earned themselves another ally in the fight for their fins.

Berjaya Hotels & Resorts has joined in the efforts to protect the world's rapidly declining shark population from rampant overfishing. Shark fin soup is a popular Chinese dish, often served at weddings and corporate functions.

Berjaya Land Berhad executive director Leong Wy Joon signed a corporate pledge to come on board the “I'm FINished With FINS” (Save The Shark) Campaign.

The blitz is carried out by the Singaporean chapter of Shark Savers, a non-profit marine conservation organisation dedicated to saving sharks through awareness, education and grassroots action.

Leong's announcement that the corporation would no longer serve the soup in any of its 18 hotels and resorts around the world comes hot on the heels of Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts, and the Peninsula Hotels Groups that did the same. Both the hotel chains made similar pledges before Chinese New Year this year.

“I believe a trend is emerging, and applaud the Shangri-La and Peninsula which have already initiated this, because at the end of the day, it's not too much of a bottom line,” Leong said during the Tioman World Ocean Day celebrations at Berjaya Tioman Resort on Saturday. “And, if we all wait for each other (to stop eating shark fin soup), by the time peer pressure gets going, it might be too late,” he said.

It is estimated that 73 million sharks are killed every year to fuel a billion dollar shark fin industry that has in recent decades, reached unsustainable levels.

At the same time, the Sabah government is contemplating whether to ban shark fishing in its waters, citing concerns for its tourism and diving industries.

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Rise in sea level can't be stopped: scientists

Nina Chestney Reuters Yahoo News 1 Jul 12;

LONDON (Reuters) - Rising sea levels cannot be stopped over the next several hundred years, even if deep emissions cuts lower global average temperatures, but they can be slowed down, climate scientists said in a study on Sunday.

A lot of climate research shows that rising greenhouse gas emissions are responsible for increasing global average surface temperatures by about 0.17 degrees Celsius a decade from 1980-2010 and for a sea level rise of about 2.3mm a year from 2005-2010 as ice caps and glaciers melt.

Rising sea levels threaten about a tenth of the world's population who live in low-lying areas and islands which are at risk of flooding, including the Caribbean, Maldives and Asia-Pacific island groups.

More than 180 countries are negotiating a new global climate pact which will come into force by 2020 and force all nations to cut emissions to limit warming to below 2 degrees Celsius this century - a level scientists say is the minimum required to avert catastrophic effects.

But even if the most ambitious emissions cuts are made, it might not be enough to stop sea levels rising due to the thermal expansion of sea water, said scientists at the United States' National Centre for Atmospheric Research, U.S. research organization Climate Central and Centre for Australian Weather and Climate Research in Melbourne.

"Even with aggressive mitigation measures that limit global warming to less than 2 degrees above pre-industrial values by 2100, and with decreases of global temperature in the 22nd and 23rd centuries ... sea level continues to rise after 2100," they said in the journal Nature Climate Change.

This is because as warmer temperatures penetrate deep into the sea, the water warms and expands as the heat mixes through different ocean regions.

Even if global average temperatures fall and the surface layer of the sea cools, heat would still be mixed down into the deeper layers of the ocean, causing continued rises in sea levels.

If global average temperatures continue to rise, the melting of ice sheets and glaciers would only add to the problem.

The scientists calculated that if the deepest emissions cuts were made and global temperatures cooled to 0.83 degrees in 2100 - forecast based on the 1986-2005 average - and 0.55 degrees by 2300, the sea level rise due to thermal expansion would continue to increase - from 14.2cm in 2100 to 24.2cm in 2300.

If the weakest emissions cuts were made, temperatures could rise to 3.91 degrees Celsius in 2100 and the sea level rise could increase to 32.3cm, increasing to 139.4cm by 2300.

"Though sea-level rise cannot be stopped for at least the next several hundred years, with aggressive mitigation it can be slowed down, and this would buy time for adaptation measures to be adopted," the scientists added.

The study is available at (Reporting by Nina Chestney; Editing by Pravin Char)

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