Three research ships break through Arctic ice near the North Pole [Photo courtesy of The Telegraph]

Reports like these surface: 

It appears that the dire consequences of global warming are bearing down fast on our generation, in spite of the numerous efforts which have been set in place to step up action against practices which are bound to destruct the Earth.

The signs are there. The possibility of the complete melting of the Arctic ice cap as early as this year has compounded with the earlier reported issues of rice shortage / oil shortage / quirky weather patterns (floods in India during a dry season and vice versa; extremely hot summers in the US, just to name a few).

On the individual level, perhaps it is really time for us to listen, to leave our complacency and procrastination aside, and to get out of our comfort zones. And actually ‘go green’. The rising sea levels the melting Arctic ice is bound to result in will certainly cause catastrophic damages to the world, so what next?

At the rate things are going, perhaps it will not be so surprising after all if Nostradamus’ end-of-the-world prophecy in 2012 actually comes true.

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We start to ponder what the Singapore government can do to ameliorate the situation for all locals alike.

China recently joined in the fray to jack up its oil prices, while global oil prices press near USD140 per barrel even as Saudi Arabia has promised to increase output. With all these recent happenings, the prospect of oil prices actually taking a dip looks bleak at the moment.

On the downside, the elevated oil prices have also translated into rising food prices and electricity bills. This is especially evident should one decide to take a walk down the aisles of supermarkets and food courts (especially the latter, with the new prices, under makeshift signage, taking precedence over the old. Some nasi padang stores have also gone so far as to charging $2.00 for a portion of assam fish)

The resounding calls for a cut in petrol taxes are growing louder as an interim measure, but the government has stood firm in its resolution that cutting petrol duties and giving out subsidies are not the answer to soaring global oil prices.

But are subsidies the way to go to ease the situation? Minister Mah Bow Tan has mentioned that even countries such as China and Malaysia have started to re-think their policies on this. In the meantime, nations such as Indonesia and the Philippines are now in trouble due to subsidies.

In any case, not everyone can be pleased. One thing is for sure, though, that Singaporeans, unlike its neighbouring counterparts in Malaysia and Indonesia, are not renowned for being loud-mouthed in protests or demonstrations against government policies. Worst come to worst, bad policies will rankle throughout the state at first, before local citizens come to terms with them. Hence, in my humble opinion, such rationalizing against giving subsidies is in a sense, rather flawed.

Instead of subsidies, one interim measure, I suppose, the local government could possibly consider an increase in the GST Offset Package and Growth Dividends payments which was introduced during its 2007 Budget in subsequent years, to ameliorate the situation for citizens. This will leave the onus with local citizens to find ways and means to adapt to the rising cost of living themselves.

Saving Gaia

Also, it remains true that cutting the duty of about 40 cents for every litre of petrol will definitely send wrong signals to consumers about the real prices of oil. In any case, lifestyle habits have to be changed to increase the sustainability of our natural resources and to prevent oil prices for surging through the roof any further. For instance, turning off lights and air-conditioning at home when not in use, or by using public transport more frequently, are some plausible courses of action to take, for the good of the future. To promote environmental conversation, MediaCorp’s “Saving Gaia” is back for its second year as well.

It will certainly take a collective effort of not only the Government, but individuals themselves to tide over this pressing crisis.

Global Mayhem

February 8, 2008

Call me a cynic if you want, but I believe that the disastrous snowstorms which have plagued China for the past three weeks or so is a sign of worst things to come (of course, in addition to the floods in Indonesia, the droughts and famines and unusually dry weather in countries around the world as well). Such incidents, while setting records of the worst “snowstorm in history” should act as a grave reminder to people how much, and how quickly, they have been tapping the resources from the Earth without making much of an effort to contribute back.

The ‘Live! Earth’ concert last year, as well as Anya Hindmarch‘s “I Am Not A Plastic Bag” bag becoming a fashion statement of some sorts, do little to remind people of the potential trouble the environment is in. Not when political leaders are jetting off to environmental conferences through environmentally-unfriendly functions such as private jets. Not when the impact of the message will never really sink in on many myopic people around the world until the effects are really felt. Though at the end of the day, there will be sceptics around proclaiming that all those environmentalists are trying to brew up a storm of their own by creating a lot of hoohaa out of nothing in particular.

The concert and the bag remains nothing more than entertainment. Have they really changed the world?

In the midst of all the trouble the Chinese are going through, and amidst all my sympathy I have for the Chinese workers stranded in the city, unable to rush back to their rural homes to rejoin their families for the Chinese tradition of reunion dinner as well as Chinese New Year, I urge everyone to take a step back to rethink how every minute action everyone has taken may have led to the above crises.

It may not be major things like air pollution, or The Three Gorges Dam Project (which incidentally is an environmental disaster and is a project the Chinese government has championed for so strongly). Every little thing counts – every piece of paper unrecycled, every bit of electricity wastefully depleted.

The globe does not protest out of nothing. If we don’t watch our backs, “The Day After Tomorrow” will creep up on us unknowingly.

*Written by aR