Every year on Earth Day, we are reminded of the need to take individual actions for our environment. This year, besides taking small individual actions, let us also start thinking about how we can work towards systemic changes with more impact.
While it is important for each of us to take action, it is even more important to focus on systemic changes. We need systemic changes such as building sustainable urban infrastructure and green buildings; increasing the resilience of our energy, water and food security; redesigning and developing new ways of making, reusing and recycling products and materials; and conserving our biodiversity.
These large systemic changes are likely to be achieved mostly through the efforts of the government, but it can happen faster with individuals pushing for these actions to be discussed and implemented.
Our local environment has been taken good care of by the government, so good that we do not see the need to care or be responsible for our environment. Most Singaporeans tend to depend on the government and not take responsibility for the environment. This indifferent attitude needs to be changed if we are to ensure a sustainable environment, which requires the efforts of both the government and the people.
Instead of relying or expecting the government to take care of our environment, it is time for Singaporeans to do our part and take responsibility. We should start using our rights as citizens and participate actively and positively in nudging the government towards systemic changes.
We can participate in the formulation of government policies on the environment. This could be through government dialogues or feedback channels, and also through the media. For example, the REACH platform by the government allows feedback and discussion on various green issues and policies. The government agencies are also having more public consultations on environmental policies and strategies.
We can also play a more active role in advocating for systemic changes in government policies and programmes. This could be through starting or joining groups to advocate for systemic changes in development plans, such as Chek Jawa in the past or the current Cross Island Line cutting across the Central Catchment Nature Reserve, and in government policies, such as having more clean energy, introducing green procurement, or minimising waste through redesign and reuse.
There are opportunities for us to voice our concerns about the environment and the need for systemic changes through several channels and we should make use of them constructively. As we state our stand on environmental issues, it is important to base it not only on our convictions but also based on facts and adopting a positive win-win mentality.
For this year’s Earth Day, remember that everyone can play a part for our environment, through our own individual actions and through encouraging more systemic changes in government policies and programmes.