Amid the doom and gloom over climate change, environment advocates hold out hope for better future

NAVENE ELANGOVAN Today Online 9 Jun 19;

SINGAPORE — After a week of sitting through discussions about climate change, participants at an environmental conference here walked away feeling a slight sense of optimism despite the challenges ahead for the world.

Around 2,000 global business leaders, policymakers, entrepreneurs and academics converged at the Sands Expo and Convention Centre for the inaugural Ecosperity Week from June 4 to 7 to discuss matters ranging from how to build sustainable businesses to threats facing the ocean.

Some conference participants whom TODAY spoke to acknowledged that these are dire times.

Marine ecologist Alex Rogers likens climate change to a train that is “coming down the tunnel to hit us very, very hard”.

The world will become “increasingly chaotic because of extreme weather events”, he said, as he called for people to start adopting more sustainable lifestyles.

Dr Will Steffen, a scientist who studies climate change, said that unlike wars which are immediate threats, climate change is “slow moving” and this results in people not realising the urgency of the situation.

Nevertheless, Mr Gareth Phillips, a division manager at the African Development Bank Group, said that the mood at the conference was “optimistic” as it attracted like-minded people who are keen to push forward solutions to address climate change.

Agreeing, polar explorer Barney Swan said: “I think it's hopeful that this sort of conference allows that echo chamber to be created for us to learn from each other. We just need more of that and more collaboration instead of competition, because we've only got one planet.”


Participants shared that they, too, were playing their part to slow down the effects of climate change by altering their habits.

Dr Steffen said that he is cutting down on his meat consumption and is aiming to become vegetarian by the end of the year.

Reports have suggested that rearing livestock massively damages the environment by generating greenhouse gases, and contributes to water shortages as a result of farming.

Mr Swan said that people should stop pursuing the latest fashion trends and gadgets, as this will mean using up less resources.

“We have this idea that if we have more, we're going to be happier,” he said.

“But that's not the case. I've seen some people living in basic conditions in Africa and in Asia, and they are happy because they appreciate what they have.

“And I think that's a really important shift that people need to understand.”

Dr Marcus Gover, chief executive of United Kingdom-based non-profit organisation WRAP, agrees. He buys items that can last long; for instance, he still uses a Hewlett Packard calculator from the 1980s.

“As consumers, we can actively choose things that are designed to last and reduce our consumption, but not reduce the value we get,” he said.

Dr Gover also debunked the notion that adopting environmentally-conscious habits would compromise one’s quality of life.

“I travel an hour to work on the train. It’s an hour where I can spend time reading,” he said.

“It’s more productive than if I were to drive... My life doesn’t get any worse because I try to make it better for the environment.”


Despite the doom and gloom, at least one expert is upbeat about the future.

Mr Jaikumar Gaurav, the technical advisor of climate change at German Development Agency, said that he had noticed an increase in up-take of energy-efficient technology.

He expects the world to be running on 80 per cent of renewable energy by 2050.

Explaining his optimism, he said: “When I was working on solar panel projects 10 years ago, they were so expensive, you would struggle to put up a one megawatt solar project.

“But now when I’m in India, I see thousands of megawatts (of solar projects) being put up every year.”

Mr Gaurav, who is a father to a three-year-old, also believes that future generations will be entering a better world.

“I think (my daughter) will have a better life than what I or my parents had,” he said.

“Those in her generation will be more conscious about the environment than we are, and they will be more responsible.”