The Biggest Challenge

I was asked these questions recently: What are some of Singapore’s environmental challenges? How can we solve these challenges?

I’m tempted to just say that our challenges are climate change, dengue, littering, etc, and the way to solve these challenges is through the public, private and people sectors working together. Not wrong but I think that is not right too.

Rather than list our environmental challenges, I think the “environmental” challenges are really just symptoms of our behaviour and culture. We see ourselves as separate and not connected to nature. We leave it to the government to take care of our environment and refuse to take ownership. We don’t see how our actions cause unintended environmental consequences. We leave businesses to maximise profits at the expense of our environment and society. We enjoy the present and are unable to think for the long term and to envision our green future. There is only one frame of thinking – study, work, enjoy life, retire, and leave the responsibility of the environment to the government, NGOs and activists.

To solve “environmental” challenges, we have to understand nature and embrace responsibility. We are part of nature. The economy is a subset of society which is a subset of the environment. Without nature to provide us with free ecosystem services, we can’t survive. To live then means to consider the limitations and consequences of our actions. We take resources while considering regeneration. We discharge “waste” while considering biodegradability and recycling. We are part of nature, and it is our responsibility to ensure that biodiversity and our future generation can co-exist and live. What we do to the environment ends up affecting us. We are all interconnected.

The biggest challenge is that we think the challenges are external and forget that they are really just manifestations of our internal thinking.

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