Best of our wild blogs: 26 Aug 13

Latest Green Jobs in Singapore [19 - 25 Aug 2013]
from Green Business Times

Fish farms and trash at Pulau Ubin
from wild shores of singapore

First step on the land of FROG
from Peiyan.Photography

UNEP Environmental Alert: Global Mangrove Forest Cover Fading Fast from Mangrove Action Squad

Face-banded Crab
from Monday Morgue

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Majority want slower pace of life

Also a less competitive education scene and fewer foreigners
Rachel Chang Straits Times 26 Aug 13;

WHILE generally optimistic about the future, the majority of Singaporeans want a slower-paced life, a less competitive education system and fewer foreigners - and they are willing to trade off economic growth for that.

This was the picture that emerged from a survey of 4,000 citizens conducted in January as part of the Our Singapore Conversation (OSC) exercise.

The full findings, released last week, had 65 per cent of respondents saying that they were optimistic about the future five years ahead, and 78 per cent saying that the Government was managing Singapore well.

Respondents were picked randomly in proportion to the demographics of Singapore society, and the interviews were conducted face to face. The survey was a separate process from the OSC's over 660 citizen dialogues, and was designed to take the pulse of the "silent majority" who may not have turned up for the sessions.

When asked to pick among competing national priorities, respondents showed more consensus than observers expected. That consensus pointed to a desire for an easing of Singapore's pace of growth and development.

Over 60 per cent said they preferred the preservation of green spaces over infrastructural development, compared to the 19 per cent who picked infrastructural development; 53 per cent wanted the preservation of heritage spaces over infrastructural development, while only 27 per cent went the other way.

Asked to choose between career advancement and a comfortable pace of life, 59 per cent chose the latter. This number swelled to 62 per cent among those married with children.

Half of the respondents said they wanted to reduce the intake of foreign workers even if it translated to slower growth and fewer jobs, while just 28 per cent picked the other trade-off.

National University of Singapore (NUS) sociologist Tan Ern Ser, one of the researchers involved, said that the questions were specifically designed "for people to realise that you can't always have your cake and eat it".

Hence, the options were put to them in black-and-white terms: one section asked them to pick between "keeping taxes low even if it limits support to the needy" and "higher taxes for greater support for the needy".

Some 42 per cent chose to keep taxes low, 33 per cent chose to raise them, with the rest neutral.

Where respondents stood on these trade-offs overall sent a "blunt message of vulnerability and socio-economic insecurity", said Institute of Policy Studies senior research fellow Leong Chan Hoong, who was also involved in the survey.

But he did not think that what they evinced should be labelled complacency: "Singaporeans just want a balance between economic dynamism and social cohesion."

NUS sociologist and former Nominated MP Paulin Straughan said Singaporeans want a "more balanced approach from the Government to ensure that in terms of quality of life, we are not always obsessing about saving for the future. They want everyday life to be rewarding too".

But she noted that where they stood on these compromises were a reaction to what they felt was already "in place" now.

"Because all the hard factors like infrastructure, a high employment rate and a competitive education system are already in place, they are yearning for more," she said. "People can ask for more work-life balance only if you have work."

Holland-Bukit Timah GRC MP Liang Eng Hwa argued that the trade-offs Singapore faces at this point in time may not be as stark as the survey put it, as flexible work arrangements can ease stress without sacrificing competitiveness.

"Let's see if we can work smarter, and so both maintain competitiveness and have time for the family. Hopefully, we may not have to make the trade-off."

More remain socially conservative
But poll shows that the younger generations are increasingly liberal
Rachel Chang Straits Times 26 Aug 13;

MORE Singaporeans remain socially conservative - preferring some censorship in the public interest and rejecting gay lifestyles - although the younger generations are increasingly liberal.

In the survey of 4,000 citizens commissioned by the Our Singapore Conversation (OSC) exercise, a section on social values asked respondents to pick between opposing goals.

For example, they were asked if they preferred "limits on freedom of expression to prevent social tensions" or "complete freedom of expression even at risk of social tensions". Some 40 per cent went for limits, while 37 per cent went for complete freedom. The rest had no preference.

Asked if they preferred to "censor media content to protect public interest" or "do not censor media content at all", 39 per cent picked censorship while 36 per cent went the other way.

On alternative lifestyles, more respondents rejected gay lifestyles and marriage than accepted them. Around 47 per cent said they rejected gay lifestyles, while 26 per cent said they accepted them; 55 per cent rejected gay marriage, while 21 per cent accepted it. The rest were neutral.

What jumped out to researchers was the generational disparity in respondents' picks. On gay lifestyles especially, the younger the respondent, the more likely he was to signal acceptance.

Among those aged 50 to 69 years old, for example, the scales were tipped 56 per cent to 20 per cent with the majority rejecting gay lifestyles. This balanced out among those aged 20 to 34: the proportion of those who accepted and rejected gay lifestyles was even at 35 per cent each.

A similar trend was observed in respondents' picks on censorship and freedom of expression.

But National University of Singapore sociologist Tan Ern Ser said that the trend did not mean Singapore will inevitably liberalise over time. "There are two theories among researchers on social values... One is the life-cycle theory, that people change from being liberal to conservative as they grow older."

For instance, one's answer to whether those below age 21 should be allowed to watch R(A) films would likely change from when one is 18, to when one is the parent of an 18-year-old, he said.

But the other theory is that social values tend to conform to the era where one is born, and then remain more or less fixed throughout one's life. To tell which theory pans out in Singapore, these questions would have to be repeated in surveys in the future.

Chua Chu Kang GRC MP Zaqy Mohamad said the Internet has been a game-changer in exposing the younger generation to broader influences than their parents.

But signalling acceptance of gay lifestyles on an abstract level when one is young does not rule out a different reaction should, for example, one's children in the future come out as gay. "Society is changing, but we are not quite sure how much and how far."

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Bukit Timah trail always been for cyclists only

Straits Times 26 Aug 13;

WE REFER to Mr Ng Eng Juan's letter ("Don't exclude hikers from Bukit Timah reserve trail"; last Monday).

Opened in 1997, the Bukit Timah mountain biking trail has always been designated for cyclists. We are currently upgrading the trail to improve rider safety and experience as it has suffered erosion over the years.

Bukit Timah Nature Reserve and abutting areas like Kampong Chantek, Dairy Farm Nature Park and Singapore Quarry have trails for hikers to use.

We seek Mr Ng's understanding that the Bukit Timah mountain biking trail will continue to be designated for cyclists when the upgrading works are completed, for the safety of riders and other users of the nature reserve.

Wong Tuan Wah
Director, Conservation
National Parks Board

Why hikers should not share bike trail
Straits Times 26 Aug 13;

MR NG Eng Juan laments that a trail being upgraded at Bukit Timah Nature Reserve will thereafter be closed to hikers, and reserved for the exclusive use of cyclists ("Don't exclude hikers from Bukit Timah reserve trail"; last Monday).

The trail which Mr Ng is referring to is indeed a mountain biking-only trail, and has been so for a long time.

There are clear signs at all its entry points advising this.

The revamp of the trail has nothing to do with its closure to hikers and other recreational users.

As we understand, the ongoing works are aimed at preventing trail degradation and soil erosion, issues which have affected the mountain biking trail for a while.

We believe that trail sharing as advocated by Mr Ng can be explored as it will allow mountain bikers, hikers, trail runners, nature photographers and other recreational users to maximise the use of nature trails in land scarce Singapore.

However, issues such as safety, potential user conflicts, right of way and so on need to be worked out and this will ensure that everyone enjoys using the limited trails we have.

In our assessment, the Bukit Timah mountain bike trail is not a good candidate for trail sharing for the following reasons:

Most sections are of single-track width, which allow for only one party to pass; this means that the other party has to give way and wait;
It has many dangerous blind corners;
There are "technically challenging" sections (rocky and steep drop-offs, for example) where accidents between a mountain biker and a hiker can happen;
It is not easy for a mountain biker travelling at a higher speed to anticipate the movement (or intention) of a hiker in his path.

There are only a few trails designated for mountain biking in Singapore, while there are many other trails for hikers and runners.

It may interest Mr Ng to know that the lovely MacRitchie trails, as well as many other nature trails around the island, are open to all recreational users except mountain bikers.

Calvin Chin
Mountain Bike Association (Singapore)

Don't exclude hikers from Bukit Timah reserve trail
Straits Times Forum 19 Aug 13;

THE National Parks Board (NParks) is in the process of upgrading the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve trail surrounding the foot of Bukit Timah Hill.

But it has been announced that once the work is done, the trail will be for the exclusive use of cyclists.

This is a pity because the trail can easily allow both cyclists and hikers to enjoy the scenic path.

Currently, both cyclists and hikers use the trail without any problems.

The hikers are mainly people in their 50s and 60s, who probably find climbing up the hill too much of a challenge.

If the trail is closed to them, these health-conscious folk would probably have to stop their hikes.

A large portion of the 5km-long trail is about 2m wide, which can easily accommodate both a cyclist and a hiker at the same time.

If the possibility of collision is a concern, signs may be put up to ask hikers to use one side of the trail, and cyclists to use the other side.

For those portions of the trail that are narrower, parallel paths can easily be built so that hikers can use one path, and cyclists the other.

Alternatively, the use of the trail can be time-managed.

For example, it can be opened to cyclists from, say, 7am to 10am, and to hikers from 10am to 1pm, and then to cyclists again from 1pm to 4pm, and to hikers from 4pm to 7pm.

Having spent so much time, effort and money in upgrading the trail, NParks should aim to increase, not decrease, the number of users.

Ng Eng Juan

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More food, scenic rivers for Pasir Ris residents

Straits Times 26 Aug 13;

PASIR Ris residents can look forward to more pleasant waterways and a new hawker centre at the heart of their town in the next few years.

Nearly 1km of the town's two waterways, Sungei Api Api and Sungei Tampines, will be spruced up by 2015.

Current mangroves will be preserved, and more greenery will be planted along the canal walls.

Gardens which filter rainwater through soil and plants will also be installed.

The $7 million makeover is the latest in PUB's ABC Waters programme, which aims to provide "active, beautiful and clean" waterways.

As of last month, 44 waterways out of the more than 100 on the list, have already been upgraded. These include Bishan Park and Kallang River.

Pasir Ris residents will also be getting their first hawker centre soon, at the Pasir Ris Town Park next to the sports complex and the Sungei Api Api canal. It is one of 10 new hawker centres to be built across the island by 2017.

Nurse and long-time Pasir Ris resident Jamiah Jantan, 50, said: "In Pasir Ris, it's very hard to find food stalls. It's good that there will be a food centre here. Working mothers like myself can save time not cooking."


Upgraded waterfront for Pasir Ris residents by 2015
Sara Grosse Channel NewsAsia 25 Aug 13;

SINGAPORE: Come 2015, Pasir Ris residents will have an upgraded waterfront right at their doorstep when nearly one kilometre of the town's two waterways, Sungei Api Api and Sungei Tampines, will be spruced up.

Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean officiated the groundbreaking ceremony for the water project on Sunday evening.

Located between Tampines Expressway and Pasir Ris Drive 3, the new waterway will have rain gardens as well as additional plantings.

Visitors can also expect signage about the flora and fauna which will be installed along the waterfront.

The upgrading is part of water agency PUB's Active, Beautiful, Clean Waters Programme to transform Singapore's water bodies.

Over 100 potential locations have been identified for implementation over the next 20 to 30 years.

- CNA/ir

Pasir Ris residents to enjoy waterfront experience
Today Online 26 Aug 13;

SINGAPORE — Come 2015, Pasir Ris residents will have an enhanced waterfront right at their doorstep when Sungei Api Api and Sungei Tampines undergo a makeover.

As part of PUB’s Active, Beautiful, Clean Waters (ABC Waters) Programme, Sungei Api Api, located between Tampines Expressway and Pasir Ris Drive 3, will see its existing mangroves preserved, while additional plants and creepers along the canal walls will enhance the greenery.

Cleansing biotopes and rain gardens will be incorporated to cleanse stormwater run-off before it is discharged into the waterway. Educational signage to inform visitors about the flora and fauna that can be found along mangroves will also be installed along the waterway.

In addition, residents can look forward to more communal spaces, including shelters and seats in this area.

At Sungei Tampines, residents will see additional greenery along the river banks and new footpaths that take the community nearer to the river banks.

New seats and shelters will be installed and existing ones refurbished.

Mr Tan Nguan Sen, PUB’s Director of Catchment and Waterways, said: “ABC Waters at Sungei Api Api and Sungei Tampines will enhance the natural mangrove environment that residents have grown to love, while creating a transformed urban waterfront experience for city dwellers, nature lovers and residents alike. By introducing more seating and shelters, we aim to improve the riverside experience for the users, who will at the same time enjoy cleaner water in these two rivers.”

The ABC Waters Programme was launched in 2006 to transform canals and reservoirs into recreational spots.

Three more projects will be completed this year at Sungei Pandan, Sungei Ulu Pandan and Geylang River, while new projects will be started this year at the Kallang River (next to St Andrews School) and Siglap Canal.

Between next year and 2017, other new projects will commence at Kallang Riverside and Jurong Lake.

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Community farmers reaping fruits of their labour

Walter Sim Straits Times 26 Aug 13;

RETIREE Wansi Dahri spends seven hours a day toiling under the hot sun.

The 79-year-old former fireman and paramedic diligently ploughs the soil and waters his crops, such as okra and sweet potato, so long as the weather is good.

"It keeps me fit and gives me something to do in the day," he said, adding that he used to help out on his parents' farm when he was a teenager.

This picture may hark back to the kampung days, but it is a daily occurrence deep in the heart of a Housing Board estate.

The community farm was launched six months ago. It comprises 30 plots measuring 8m by 4m each, located behind Block 305, Clementi Avenue 4. Farmers pay $60 a year to lease a plot.

Before this, more than 20 people had been illegally farming at the site, which was once shrouded by thick overgrowth. Others gathered to chat near a small shrine, while ponds had also been dug.

Lawyer Michael Chia, vice-chairman of Bukit Timah Citizens Consultative Committee (CCC), said this lasted for more than a decade, until the strip of land, which borders a railway track and was then owned by Malaysia, was returned to Singapore in a land swop agreement.

In 2011, residents complained to the Singapore Land Authority about burning leaves and mosquito breeding, prompting eviction notices.

The CCC stepped in to find a middle ground among the authorities, residents and farmers. It rented the land from the state on a yearly basis, converting it into an open community farm. Other benefits followed, including a footpath leading to the Sungei Ulu Pandan park connector, water points and a tool shed.

The cost of about $60,000 was borne partly by the North West Community Development Council and partly by private donors.

Interest was overwhelming and the 30 plots had to be balloted, said Mr Chia. Farmers now range from working professionals in their 20s to retirees in their 80s. The fruits of their labour are commonly distributed among the community of farmers, as well as to neighbours and friends.

"We don't need to buy vegetables so often any more," said retiree Toh Beng Choon, 68. He helps to tend the farm for his IT professional son Boon Chew, 42, on weekdays.

Members of the community chip in to share costs for equipment such as hoses and fertiliser, and also dish out advice to one another. The younger Mr Toh said: "Initially it was quite tough because it was just a blank plot and I did not know what to do with it, but people help each other out here."

But farmers say the site could still be improved, wishing for better-quality soil, and amenities such as toilets. Ms Naprang Suk, 46, said: "Because of the poor soil, we had to buy fertiliser, which can be quite expensive."

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Rising levels of acids in seas may endanger marine life, says study

Experts claim current rate of change is likely to be more than 10 times faster than it has ever been in Earth's history
Fiona Harvey The Guardian 25 Aug 13;

Rapidly rising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere are causing a potential catastrophe in our oceans as they become more acidic, scientists have warned.

Hans Poertner, professor of marine biology at the Alfred Wegener Institute in Germany, and co-author of a new study of the phenomenon, told the Guardian: "The current rate of change is likely to be more than 10 times faster than it has been in any of the evolutionary crises in the earth's history."

Seawater is naturally slightly alkaline, but as oceans absorb CO2 from the air, their pH level falls gradually. Under the rapid escalation of greenhouse gas emissions, ocean acidification is gathering pace and many forms of marine life – especially species that build calcium-based shells – are under threat.

Poertner said that if emissions continue to rise at "business as usual" rates, this would be potentially catastrophic for some species. Acidification is just one of a broader range of the problems facing the oceans and the combination of different effects is increasing the threat. Poertner said: "We are already seeing warm water coral reefs on a downslide due to a combination of various stressors, including [rising] temperature. Ocean acidification is still early in the process [but] it will exacerbate these effects as it develops and we will see more calcifying species suffering."

However, the process of acidification takes decades and the worst effects on some species could still be avoided if emissions are urgently reduced. "The ocean is changing already, mostly due to temperature – acidification will exacerbate those effects," Poertner said.

Evidence from prehistoric ocean life provides a comparison. "The [effects observed] among invertebrates resembles those seen during the Permian Triassic extinctions 250m years ago, when carbon dioxide was also involved. The carbon dioxide range at which we see this sensitivity [to acidification] kicking in are the ones expected for the later part of this century and beyond."

Oceans are one of the biggest areas of focus for current climate change research. The gradual warming of the deep oceans, as warmer water from the surface circulates gradually to lower depths, is thought to be a significant factor in the earth's climate. New science suggests that the absorption of heat by the oceans is probably one of the reasons that the observed warming in the last 15 years has been at a slightly slower pace than previously, and this is likely to form an important part of next month's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report.

The IPCC report, the first since 2007, will provide a comprehensive picture of our knowledge of climate change. It is expected to show that scientists are at least 95% certain that global warming is happening and caused by human activity, but that some uncertainties remain over the exact degree of the planet's sensitivity to greenhouse gas increases.

The new study, entitled Inhospitable Oceans, published on Monday in the peer-review journal Nature Climate Change, was based on examinations of five key components of ocean eco-systems: corals, echinoderms, molluscs, crustaceans and fish. All were found to be adversely affected by acidification: crustaceans were more resilient, while corals, molluscs and echinoderms were worst affected. The direct effects on fish were less clear.

Astrid Wittmann, co-author of the paper, said species with low resilience could be outcompeted by those that were more vulnerable to acidification, and that further studies were needed, particularly on plants and plankton, which were left out of this research.

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