I refer to the article "Make Singapore a coral haven" by Mr Marcel Lee Pereira (my paper 10 Sep).
While it is encouraging to see the efforts of marine conservationists reflected in the print media, I feel that a crucial aspect of the issue of conservation has been neglected.
That would be: Why should Singaporeans care whether our country becomes a "coral haven" or not?
Too often, conservation projects are portrayed as the lofty concerns of a small group of scientists or idiosyncratic environmentalists.
The layperson is excluded from these efforts.
We do not see an issue like marine biodiversity as being relevant to our everyday lives, nor do we see how our individual actions could possibly make an impact on things like the welfare of coral reefs in our waters; and honestly, we would be hard-pressed to say we really give a hoot.
An article like Mr Pereira's does not exactly inspire passion for protecting our environmental reserves.
The only justification given for the implementation of measures under the Blue Plan is that "after all, corals may be a valuable source of biomedical products and serve as educational and tourist draws".
This sounds unconvincing to me, especially seeing as how it following a line calling for "the cost of such measures (to) be borne by the Government.:
At a time of poor economic forecasts and inflation, it is unlikely that increased government spending on environmental-impact studies would receive popular support.
Although it is important for readers to be informed of the proposals and plans that conservationists have in mind for our nation, what should be given greatest emphasis is the relevance of these efforts to individuals in our society.
In this case, it would be helpful to go back to the basic question: "Why is marine biodiversity even important?"
I was taught the importance of preserving Earth's biodiversity in a module on the topic.
Even after having gone through the module, I find myself at a loss when trying to explain the link between saving a community of coral reefs and its importance to Singapore tomorrow, or even in the next 10 years.
This is where an expert could and should step in to fill the gap.
People are more likely to be engaged with the cause if empowered with knowledge and, even in Singapore, the public does have an impact on policy.
Chek Jawa is an excellent, heartwarming case in point.
More public awareness of the relevance of environmental issues would also do well in improving Singaporeans' attitude to green initiatives.
In the long run, there has to be social recognition of the urgency of environmental conservation.
See the FAQs on this blog that cover these issues:
- Does Singapore have reefs?
- Can an ordinary person see Singapore’s marine heritage?
- What’s so special about Singapore’s reefs?
- Why should we save our reefs?
- Do Singaporeans care about our reefs and shores?
- What are some of the challenges in conserving Singapore’s reefs and shores?
- Is co-existence/a balanced approach to development and conservation possible?
- How can one person make a difference for our reefs and shores?