Youth for Ecology: Not too green to be greenies

Stirred into action by debate over Population White Paper, this group hopes to have a say in environmental issues
Kenneth Low Today Online 9 Aug 13;

SINGAPORE — They may be students with little expertise or experience in environmental science, but being the ones who will live in the future being planned for them now, they want to have more of a say in it.

And for a start, Youth for Ecology, formed by a group of Singaporean students stirred into action by the debate over the White Paper on Population, have engaged their peers in dialogues and are putting together a paper based on the views shared, to be published this month.

Recalling the furore over the White Paper’s projections, Ms Huang Xinyuan, 19, one of the five active core team members of the group, says: “People our age will be middle-aged by the time the (scenario projected) by the White Paper policy kicks in. So it is quite important to find out what people our age think, even if we have no degree, no high position in society ... since we are the ones who are going to live with it.”

Discussing the paper with classmate Eric Bea, 19, the two realised there was little said about the environmental impact of what was outlined in the paper — save for a speech by Nominated Member of Parliament Faizah Jamal in Parliament.

“We found her name and SMSed her. She replied and I was very shocked,” Ms Huang recounts.

Ms Faizah, a consultant and a polytechnic lecturer, says she was “impressed that they wanted to do more than just express their concerns online”. She adds: “I gave them some suggestions as to how to take their concerns further and it is to their credit that they took it upon themselves to formalise Youth for Ecology, made contacts with other youths as well as concerned adults, and started their own dialogue sessions and events in the short time since we met.”

The group hopes to create awareness among Singapore’s decision makers that “youths also have something to say about issues which have an implication to our futures”, says core team member Chen Wenying, 19.

So far, they have been impressed with the youths they have met. Students from some of the schools they have visited “are able to articulate more personal experiences and instances where they related to the environment on a higher level, and show a better, in-depth appreciation on environmental issues we have discussed”, says Ms Chen.

The six-month-old group hopes to continue to engage the public about the environment and, with social media and the Internet at their disposal, they believe they can.

They are currently working with Fyllum — a social enterprise which promotes bio-diversification of the ecology through youth-initiated projects — to launch a publicity campaign featuring a video of prominent local environmentalists such as Nature Society (Singapore) President Shawn Lum and Necessary Stage founder Alvin Tan.

The campaign, aptly named Care for What?, has a “Singaporean tone” that seeks to engage “both the apathetic as well as empathetic Singaporeans”, says Ms Chen.

The tech-savvy teens will promote the video through social media, in hopes it will go viral.

Ms Chen says the group has been active on platforms like Facebook and Twitter, and they hope to make use of more online methods to “spark discourse” and to gather more like-minded people.

Core team member Jonathan Tan, who joined Youth for Ecology after coming across their Facebook page, feels Youth for Ecology can bring ordinary Singaporeans closer to environmental issues.

Having participated in the Our Singapore Conversation dialogue sessions, he feels they are “not a platform to discuss the environment, with most participants more concerned about financial and economic future”.

Meanwhile, avenues like Green Drinks Singapore, which provides opportunities for networking and information-sharing, is where “environmentalists or green people talk to one another”. Youth for Ecology serves as a “bridge” between these two groups of people, he adds.

The group is happy to focus on immediate projects, but will keep an eye out for opportunities “to latch onto” for promote their cause, says Ms Chen.

Mr Bea says the group’s efforts so far have exceeded his expectations six months ago. “Sometimes, we are quite amazed at what we can do. Our ambitions grew from just being focused on the paper to public involvement,” he says.

Ms Faizah adds: “I have met enough of such inspiring young people to know there is much hope in Singapore. It is incumbent on the conscious adults among us to nurture that spirit while giving them the space to pursue that passion.”

Related links
Youth for Ecology blog and on facebook