Where were you and what were you doing on Sep 21, 2019? Were you amongst the 1,700 people who turned up for Singapore’s very first climate rally at Hong Lim Park? The attendees even staged a die-in.
The movement was organised by 15 Singapore youths, a majority of whom were students aged between 19 and 24. You can read their formal Calls to Action here.
The rally called for the extreme regulation of the manufacturing industry. The claim that this industry is producing the most carbon emission and Singapore is not doing enough is true. Singapore, while being small, is accused to be purifying a lions share of the global petroleum products.
However, here are three reasons on why we should not kill these industries in Singapore.
1. Climate Change is a transnational issue
Killing the manufacturing and petroleum industries in Singapore would not solve the problem. Sure, we are the top five oil refineries in the world. However, killing these industries does not end our climate problems. It will worsen it.
By killing these industries here, MNCs will simply move them to a cheaper location with less regulation which will highly likely increase the speed of environmental destruction. Hence, keeping them here in Singapore enables us to regulate and promote green innovation.
2. Economy is still important
One of the arguments presented during the rally is “economy is not important without the earth”. I agree with this but it doesn’t mean that the economy is not important.
Economy is important for Singapore to sit at the same table with other giants to negotiate a sustainable future for ourselves. Only with political-economic might, can we talk about these issues and compel others to take us seriously. Ultimately, no one is going to listen to a flowery speech by the ambassador of a weak state.
3. Individual action is also important
“Straws is a distraction”.
Individual action cannot do enough to move the needle. The centre of gravity lies with the heavy industries producing loads of carbon. This, is no further than the truth. However, individual action still matters.
Consumption drives industries. With the interconnectivity of our world, consumption in Singapore increases the demand for industry. Ultimately, we must not ignore our role in creating industrial demand.
Are there solutions?
Taking actions to tackle the challenge of climate change is not as simple as the speakers of the rally claimed it to be. It requires a deeper understanding of the geopolitics and economics of the green movement. This clearly cannot be measured by the number of participants at the SG Climate Change Rally.
Nevertheless, individuals like you and I can cause ripples across the world. Yes, just like how Greta Thunberg did.
1. Be Educated
Knowing that climate change is happening is not enough. We must begin re-creating solutions that are economically feasible. Systemic solutions such as the “Circular Economy” is one way forward. More research could be done to improve the technology and processes of the system.
2. Consume Less
Individual action correlates with industrial demand. We consume less, industries must react to cut losses. I think the logic behind this is simple, but the execution is tough. To do this, environmental groups must begin to create a “Green Identity” to provide a social reason to go green.
3. Raise Awareness
Raising awareness means that we do not preach to the converted. We must have tough conversations with naysayers and bring them to our side. Ultimately, the tougher the conversation, the more the conversion.
Essentially, Singapore is able to negotiate and bargain at the global stage because we are politically and economically sound and stable. To throw these away for environmental conservation would only backfire. We must move beyond rhetoric and work towards solutions.
I am by no means against the SG Climate Change movement. We should engage and educate them in a non-defense manner. They can potentially be our allies and partners.