Best of our wild blogs: 1 Jun 13

Sunday 2 June Tour with Raymond Goh
from a.t.Bukit Brown. Heritage. Habitat. History.

Jobs in freshwater ecology (vacation job) – FOUR positions available, sorting/identifying freshwater invertebrates from The Biodiversity crew @ NUS

Save MacRitchie Forest: 1. Introduction
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Awesome Amphipods
from Mega Marine Survey of Singapore

Pea crab on Day 12 of the Southern Expedition
from Mega Marine Survey of Singapore

Random Gallery - Common Tiger
from Butterflies of Singapore

World Ocean’s Day beach cleanup (Sat 08 Jun 2013) w/Lush Cosmetics & Shark Saver’s from News from the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore

The 2013 Trash Free Seas Report has arrived!
from News from the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore and Pandan Mangrove revisited – back mangrove cut, less trash but still a sensitive site! and Site Allocation Exercise III – now there are 3,107 volunteers from 61 organisations signed upv

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Children welcome at My Tree House to learn about nature

Design of library and books are based on green theme
Kash Cheong Straits Times 1 Jun 13;

DEEP in an "enchanted forest" is a mock tree house where children can read or play.

It is part of a new "green" library that was opened yesterday to teach youngsters about nature.

With more than 45,000 books and interactive installations, the 500 sq m facility aims to bring environmental issues to life.

Its centrepiece is an artificial trunk with a tree house-like platform where children can sit and read their books. It also has eco-friendly fixtures such as LED lights and recycled shelves.

Ms Esther An, head of corporate responsbility at City Developments, which is co-sponsoring the project with the National Library Board, said the aim is to spread environmental consciousness among the young. "We find it important to educate children about the environment, so that they will grow up to be green champions," she said.

Called My Tree House, the library bases its design, book collection and programming on green principles. More than 30 per cent of its books are non-fiction about ecological topics.

Located in the basement of the Central Library, it also features tree-like structures made of recycled wood and interactive components such as the weather stump - a visual installation that shows real-time weather patterns. Children can answer questions on conservation using a "knowledge tree wall".

The new facility was opened yesterday by Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim, who noted that one out of every five library members is aged under 12.

Raffles Girls' Primary School (RGPS) pupil Ananya Ray, 12, said: "You can move around in this library so it doesn't get boring."

Mr Derek Tan, a 39-year-old engineer with one child, said: "Besides the usual parks and outdoors, there's now one more place I can bring my kids to educate them about nature."

Anata Wazir, 11, also from RGPS, said she was most inspired by light fixtures in the library that are made out of plastic water bottles. "It makes me want to recycle too," she said.

"This place spurs my imagination. I feel like I could write a story about it some day."

"Green" library for children to learn all about caring for the environment
Hetty Musfirah Abdul Khamid Channel NewAsia 31 May 13;

SINGAPORE: There's now a "green" library for children to learn all about caring for the environment.

Known as "My Tree House", it opened its doors on Friday at the Central Public Library.

Communications and Information Minister Yaacob Ibrahim joined in the festivities.

The library is a collaboration between the National Library Board and City Developments Limited.

At "My Tree House", children can learn about the environment through a multi-sensory experience.

The library also boasts a collection of 45,000 books, with 30 per cent focusing on green topics.

Soh Lin Li, manager of Central Public Library and National Library Board, said: "We curate the collection in terms of having more non-fiction books on the weather, animal, plants, also global warming, and all these climate change materials. These will help them know about the services and also the issues around in the world. So this differentiates us very much from the other libraries."

Besides books, children can also visit the library to take part in activities such as story-telling sessions, reading programmes, and art and craft workshops.

- CNA/de

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Inclusive, cooler cities: A different take on liveability

Gerhard Schmitt Today Online 30 May 13;

In a discussion following the announcement here of the Green City Index Asia two years ago, it was suggested that Singapore could possibly top the list because it is very wealthy.

The response by Mr Khoo Teng Chye, Executive Director of the Centre for Liveable Cities (CLC), impressed me greatly — after a slight pause, he answered: “I think it is the other way around. Singapore is wealthy because it is environmentally conscious.” In this regard, I think Singapore has solved the chicken and egg conundrum in a rather convincing manner.

Planners have successfully ensured that Singapore is one of the world’s most liveable cities. Still, apart from achieving liveability, it is equally important to ensure that this liveability is sustainable.


I teach a course on Future Cities by the Singapore-ETH Centre for Global Environmental Sustainability; students who attend this open online course are from several countries. For one of the assignments, they had to identify three cities they felt were most liveable — independent of the existing rankings. They also had to provide their definitions of liveability.

The result was astounding: Safety, mobility, openness and quality educational institutes were at the top of the list. More than 80 per cent of the cities students chose happened to be in countries with a low Gini coefficient.

The CLC recently partnered the Urban Land Institute to introduce 10 principles for liveable, high-density cities. A lot of the factors listed coincide with the criteria stated by the students of the Future Cities course.

However, there is more than one way to look at some of these criteria.


All reports point to the importance of good governance for the liveability of the city. The interaction between the citizens and the individuals that work for the progress of the urban community is decisive in the success of an urban system as a liveable city. Good governance must also be inclusive.

In their book Why Nations Fail, Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson describe Venice during the 13th century as perhaps the richest and most attractive city in the world. However, they also state that the switch from an inclusive to an extractive system marked the start of decline for the city.

They go on to show, with various examples such as London, New York and Vienna, that the opening up of the system to include citizens in decision-making processes has led to an increase in wealth, liveability and attractiveness of the cities. It is good to see that Singapore is taking this approach to involve its citizens in the planning of the city.


Awareness of best practices is another important precondition for a liveable city. The city’s governing bodies have to be aware of what works and what does not work in cities around the world.

However, it is also important to understand the contextual differences that affect policies — what functions well in one city may not perform the same way in another.

While cities are studying from one another to deal with certain challenges, there is no “one size fits all” solution. Solutions have to be custom-developed for cities, taking into consideration the local context and the behaviour of its people.

In Zurich, for example, one of the top-ranked cities for liveability, it is vital for the population to be aware of what is being planned for the city, so that citizens are able to take part actively in its transformation and in developing solutions that work well for their city.


Almost all of the top most liveable cities in the world have excellent universities. However, the role that the university plays is more than merely to attract people to the city in pursuit of educational opportunities.

Often, the relationship between the university and the city is a historic and fruitful one. Geneva, Zurich, Vancouver and Vienna are good examples where the universities play an important role in the development of the city. These universities contribute in providing solutions for its intellectual and material growth, and where most of the value creation originates.

In Switzerland, I had the privilege to lead the participatory development process of the Science City ETH Zurich, in collaboration with the City and the Canton of Zurich. ETH Zurich, or known as the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, is the leading university in Continental Europe.

Working on the Science City design process, I witnessed first-hand how the university was valued by the population and, more importantly, the people were well aware of the long-term investment required in the quality of the educational system. Similarly, in western Switzerland, near Lausanne, ETH Lausanne is contributing greatly to the development and well-being of surrounding cities.

In Singapore, the universities are taking on the same role; the highly-ranked National University of Singapore and Nanyang Technological University, and new institutions like the Singapore University of Technology and Design have been increasingly involved in plans to develop the city.


Singapore is a vibrant city full of energy — literally. Over the last few years, three topics have emerged repeatedly and have taken over many conversations between residents, citizens, politicians, diplomats, students, public servants and taxi drivers. These topics are, not surprisingly, transportation, the economy, and the growing population.

On the other hand, people are also increasingly concerned about the rising heat in the city. Anecdotally, people feel like Singapore is getting hotter, but no one quite knows the reason why. Some feel that it is due to climate change on a global level.

In fact, cities are traditionally warmer than their surrounding countryside due to the phenomenon known as Urban Heat Island effect, and Singapore is no different. The main cause of this phenomenon is the modification of land surface through urban development using materials that retain heat. As a second contributor, heat is generated by energy usage within the city. Both effects increase its temperature.

Cooling down a city goes beyond merely blasting cold air into warm indoor spaces. Furthermore, in conventional urban design, if we blast cold air into a space to cool it down, we will inevitably meet with a trade-off — not only will more energy be required, the heat will also be channelled into an area which will then be artificially warmer than it is supposed to be.

That is why cities are on the hunt for sustainable ways to mitigate the Urban Heat Island effect. These include enhancing urban infrastructure such as growing greenery on rooftops, planting trees to increase shaded areas, or using bright street surfaces to increase reflection. Some of the above have already been successfully implemented in Singapore.

However, these measures only serve to ease the effects of the phenomenon and do not address the issue at its roots. This is a good time for Singapore to think out of the box in tackling the above-mentioned issues alongside allaying the Urban Heat Island effect.

A study of the largest sources of heat and their interconnections — industry, transportation and buildings — also points to intensifying possible mixed-use solutions based on Singapore’s concept plan and master plans for urban development.

Some approaches that have proven very successful in Switzerland include higher industrial value creation with less energy used, and thus less heat released, or advancing transportation efficiency towards electric vehicles with less heat and noise generated.

If some of these strategies are applied in Singapore, it would automatically reduce the need for air conditioning — and, in turn, start a virtuous cycle that would further improve walkability and air quality, with all its positive effects on health. It might even reduce the intensity of downpours leading to flooding.

Cities like Tokyo are trying to lower the temperature in downtown areas by enhancing natural wind-flow. That, however, might not be feasible for a small island like Singapore. Instead, the country can explore strategies to increase ventilation through enhancing vertical airflow. This reduces ambient temperature as heat is drawn vertically upwards and released into unoccupied space.

Singapore has an advantageous attitude towards innovative measures; this city is one of the boldest in testing new strategies and technology. With the island’s density slated to grow, we must develop convincing solutions which ensure it remains cool and calm.

Singapore could be the first city that improves its climatic conditions with rational and natural means — and this will contribute greatly to its liveability and attractiveness through to 2030 and beyond.


Professor Dr Gerhard Schmitt is Director of the Singapore-ETH Centre, established by ETH Zurich and Singapore’s National Research Foundation and Module Leader of the Simulation Platform research module at the Future Cities Laboratory.

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Battling Deforestation In Indonesia, One Firm At A Time

NPR 31 May 2013;

On the Indonesian island of Sumatra, a backhoe stacks freshly cut trees to be made into pulp and paper. Asia Paper and Pulp, or APP, is Indonesia's largest papermaker, and the company and its suppliers operate vast plantations of acacia trees here that have transformed the local landscape.

APP has sold billions of dollars' worth of paper products to Staples, Disney and other big U.S. corporations. But environmental groups have accused APP of causing deforestation, destroying the habitat of Sumatran tigers and orangutans, and trampling on the rights of forest dwellers.

Asril Amran is the head of a nearby village. He says that the plantations have ruined the local environment.

"In the past we could go into the forest and catch deer. We could look for birds," he recalls. "But now, there is nothing, as you can see. No animal can live in the acacia forest. We cannot shelter in its shade. It's hot. It's a greedy tree — it uses up a lot of water."

The Rainforest Action Network says that APP has turned an area of rain forests the size of Massachusetts into pulpwood plantations. It estimates that by cutting down forests and burning peat land, APP spewed the equivalent of 67 million to 86 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere in 2006. That would rank APP's emissions ahead of 165 countries, as measured by those countries' emissions as measured in 2006.

Two years ago, the environmental group Greenpeace began targetting APP's biggest customers.

They protested at the Los Angeles headquarters of Mattel, makers of the Barbie doll. In this campaign video, Barbie's boyfriend, Ken, learns that Barbie's packaging is causing deforestation.

In response, Ken dumps her. Barbie sits on her couch in a huff, wearing her Day-Glo spandex.

"I'm Barbie," she says. "As long as I look good, who cares about tigers in some distant rain forest? If Mattel wants to use wood from Indonesia's rain forests to make my box, then let them do it."

The campaign and others like it worked. Companies stopped buying APP's products, and APP's profits plummeted.

APP felt the criticism was unfair. After all, they said, they were building schools and conservation programs for local communities.

APP Managing Director for Sustainability Aida Greenbury says her company and the NGOs that were criticizing it were just not talking on the same wavelength.

"We addressed climate change by trying to implement sustainable practice in our forestry, so we have tried our best to address those. But there's always something missing, as if we were talking on two different frequencies."

So the company turned to Scott Poynton, a lanky Australian who runs the Tropical Forest Trust.

Poynton told them bluntly that if they kept cutting down virgin forests, no amount of "greenwashing" was going to help them.

"I was just like: You guys are not listening. Your whole business is going down the drain; you've got customers leaving you every two seconds; you think you're doing a good job; and you've missed the point," he says.

Corporate Targets

Greenpeace and Poynton's good cop/bad cop tactics worked. In February, APP's chairman announced that his company would stop cutting down natural forests.

Poynton says that APP's managers just needed help in seeing that their business model was outdated.

"The context in which they're operating has changed, and with the questions of climate change, cutting down forests is not cool," Poynton says. "And people don't want deforestation in their products."

Environmentalists say the APP case shows the importance of big corporations in driving deforestation, and stopping it.

"Sure, consumers want stuff, they use stuff. But the corporations are the ones that determine often, or try to influence what you perceive that you need, and what you perceive are the things that you want to buy," says Lafcadio Cortesi, an activist with the Rainforest Action Network. "And so that's one of the reasons that we focus on large corporate consumers rather than individuals."

Greenpeace Indonesia activist Yuyun Indradi welcomes APP's new policy. But he says that if APP goes back on its pledge, Greenpeace will restart its campaign. He adds that APP is only the first step in a bigger fight against deforestation.

"Our target is zero deforestation in Indonesia by 2015," Indradi says. "Yes, I think it's quite ambitious. But APP's pledge helps to lighten our burden in reaching that goal."

He says Greenpeace is now trying to persuade other papermakers to follow APP's example.

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Big firms should report environmental impact : UN panel

Michelle Nichols and Alister Doyle PlanetArk 31 May 13;

Big companies should report their impact on the environment in addition to their earnings under a U.N. plan to boost economic growth and ease poverty by 2030, according to recommendations by a panel of world leaders released on Thursday.

Slowing climate change and protecting the environment should be at the core of global development, said the 27-member panel, led by British Prime Minister David Cameron, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

"There is one trend - climate change - which will determine whether or not we can deliver on our ambitions," the report said. "Without environmental sustainability, we cannot end poverty; the poor are too deeply affected by natural disasters and too dependent on deteriorating oceans, forests and soils."

The report - handed over by Yudhoyono to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in New York - recommends 12 so-called illustrative goals to replace eight Millennium Development Goals that were aimed at reducing poverty and hunger. Those goals were agreed to by world leaders in 2000 and expire in 2015.

The goals recommended on Thursday will be the basis for a two-year debate among the 193 U.N. members on a development agenda for 2015 - 2030. Like the Millennium Development Goals, which included a bid to halve extreme poverty, any specific new numeric targets will be non-binding.

Among the recommendations, the 69-page report says large businesses should be obliged to report social and environmental impacts, in addition to their financial accounts. About a quarter of businesses now make environmental reports, it said.

"We suggest that a mandatory 'comply or explain' regime be phased in for all companies with a market capitalization above $100 million equivalent," the report said. "The same principle should apply to governments. National accounting for social and environmental effects should be mainstreamed by 2030."

Last year, Britain became the first country to force major companies to publish their greenhouse gas emissions in corporate earnings reports. The requirement applies to 1,800 companies listed on the London Stock Exchange.


Jim Leape, director general of the World Wide Fund for Nature, said this was a welcome change from the earlier goals which he said had barely addressed the environment.

"Nearly fifteen years on, there is finally recognition that poverty cannot be eradicated and the well-being of people across the globe cannot be secured without addressing the grave pressures on the environment," he said in a statement.

The U.N. panel proposes goals for 2030 such as doubling the share of renewable energy in consumption, phasing out harmful fossil fuel subsidies and doubling the rate of improvement in energy efficiency from buildings to transport.

About 13 percent of the world's primary energy comes from renewables such as hydropower, wood, solar and wind power, according to the International Energy Agency.

The panel said it was not presenting a "prescriptive blueprint ... The suggested targets are ones for humanity to aspire to. They would not be legally binding, but they can be monitored closely," the report said.

The United Nations had hoped to set specific 2030 goals in areas such as water, food security and energy at a summit last year in Rio de Janeiro. But governments fell short, distracted by the global financial crisis and unrest in the Middle East.

"We envision a world in 2030 where extreme poverty and hunger has been ended. We envision a world where no person has been left behind, and where there are schools, clinics, and clean water for all," the panel said.

The report said the Millennium Development Goals had made a lot of progress in reducing poverty. Even so, the 1.2 billion poorest people account for only 1 per cent of world consumption while the billion richest consume 72 per cent, it said.

And it pointed to threats, including climate change. "We must act now to slow the alarming pace of climate change and environmental degradation, which pose unprecedented threats to humanity."

The full report can be seen at:

(Additional reporting by Nina Chestney in London Editing by Mark Heinrich and Vicki Allen)

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EU seals reform deal to replenish fish stocks

Charlie Dunmore and Claire Davenport PlanetArk 31 May 13;

The European Union agreed on Thursday to put an end to decades of over-fishing and rebuild dwindling stocks by 2020, as part of a deal to overhaul the bloc's fisheries policy.

The agreement will put an end to annual haggling over catch quotas by EU ministers in Brussels, widely blamed for putting short-term economic interests above the long-term health of Europe's fish stocks.

Officials said a deal to follow scientific advice more closely when setting quotas in the future could increase EU fish stocks by up to 15 million metric tons (16.5 million tons) by the end of the decade.

The reform will also see a massive reduction in the wasteful practice known as discarding, which sees European fishermen throw almost 2 million metric tons of unwanted fish back into the sea each year - often dead or dying - as they seek to fill strict quotas with the most valuable species.

In a statement after the deal, British liberal MEP and head of the European Parliament's "Fish for the Future" group Chris Davies described it as a major step in promoting sustainable fishing.

"Our treatment of Europe's seas has been a disgrace. But we have learnt lessons. Across Europe there is a strong desire now to listen to the scientists, rebuild fish stocks, cut discards, and give our fishing industry a better future," he said.

The bloc's roughly 1 billion euro-per-year ($1.30 billion) common fisheries policy has been blamed for driving decades of over-fishing, with generous subsidies leading to a massive over capacity in the fishing fleet.

As a result, the Commission estimates that 75 percent of European fish stocks are currently over-fished, compared with 25 percent worldwide.

As part of the deal, EU fishing nations will have to reduce the size of their fleets to reflect their overall quotas or face the loss of some subsidies.

The deal must now be rubber-stamped by EU governments and the full European Parliament before entering force next year, but the details are unlikely to change.

Europe had the third-highest fish catches globally behind China and Indonesia in 2010, the most recent data from the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization showed.

Europe's top fishing nations are Denmark, Spain, Britain and France, which together account for about half of all EU catches. ($1 = 0.7712 euros)

(Reporting by Charlie Dunmore and Claire Davenport; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

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