I had a very well-spent Saturday last week, 24 September 2011, at my first Biodiversity of Singapore Symposium III (BoSS3)! It was jointly organised by NUS and NParks. There were two held previously, in 2003 and 2007, but I was too young to be aware of the first (still in primary school!) and was ignorant of the second.
Nonetheless, I was pleased to be at NUS yesterday, listening to the talks, chatting with people and especially given the opportunity to talk to the Guest of Honour, Minister of State for National Development Tan Chuan-Jin!
As a volunteer/intern of RMBR, my day started particularly early, 7am at NUS. Thanks to Andy Dinesh for giving me a ride (: We set the place up and did whatever preparations were needed, and I was assigned to collect early bird coffee from Spinelli’s.
Participants and poster registrants started streaming in, and by 8am, we were all abuzz! We started ushering people in to be seated, and the GOH came soon after.
Siva gave his opening address about addressing certain issues as a community, and this symposium being a platform for connecting people in the community. Then came the MOS speech. Some key things he mentioned that I thought was worth noting: Our responsibility as a community, not always relying on the government but doing what we can as individuals and groups to enhance and improve. He talked a lot about active citizenship and making use of social media, and how our natural heritage is part of what makes us Singaporeans. I guess when most people think about what makes Singapore unique, most people dont think of our natural heritage/natural history. He also mentioned how we should look at the positive instead of always being negative and critical, which is another Singaporean thing – to always complain. He ended off talking about how we live in increasingly small houses (due to space constraints), but we shouldn’t let that constrain us. Instead, we should go out more often and create our own living space. (:
I shan’t go into a narration of everything that happened during the symposium, since videos of the symposium can be found here. The poster presentation to the MOS section isn’t captured in the videos though, but I appeared on TV cos I was presenting to the MOS on TeamSeagrass and the marine life found on Cyrene Reef! Apparently it was filmed, unknown to me. And unknown to me as well, shown on national TV. I only knew because my grandmothers (one paternal, one maternal), told my parents about seeing me on TV on Saturday and Sunday evening news. I didn’t get to see myself on TV…
Anyway, I shall delve a bit deeper into certain issues that are still bugging me.
Firstly, education. It seemed to be a pretty hot issue during the symposium. How our students are lacking exposure to biodiversity and ecology, especially in secondary school and junior college. It’s as though biodiversity is like “playing”, something which kids can do, and parents encourage their kids to do when they’re younger, but as they grow older they’re expected to outgrow it. Like how your parents only brought you to the Zoo when you were younger. As a kid, you’re allowed to go outdoors and play, but you slowly get deprived of playtime as the workload increases. And it doesn’t help that ecology doesn’t feature much (if at all) in secondary school syllabus. And only minimally in junior college, under evolution. I gave my 2-cents worth of opinion during the Q&A session where biodiversity education was brought up, but forgot to give my example of a classmate asking me during evolution tutorial if the shells found on the beach were once alive. Very seriously and sincerely. I was so shocked and appalled, I couldn’t answer her. But it was good to know that even kindergartens are now having more environment education in their syllabus, and biodiversity education (or the like) will be featured more in secondary school syllabus in a few years’ time.
Secondly, was the lack of certain groups in the audience, such as outdoor educators, representatives from AVA, URA etc. Probably, a lot more people should have been there to hear us talk about certain issues, but weren’t. Which is quite sad, because such a symposium doesn’t come by often, and issues raised are probably relevant to many. Perhaps it’s insufficient publicity. But in any case, issues like poaching, release, pet trade, impact from outdoor activities were brought up, but the people who can do something about it aren’t there to listen. I took particular interest in the impact from outdoor activities, having started out from ODAC (outdoor activities club). Having a few friends who are outdoor educators, I tried mentioning this to them, but that shall be topic for another post later.
An unintentional though recurring theme was “Singapore got (insert animal/habitat), meh?” I guess this just highlights the lack of education/awareness among Singaporeans, that they know not what their own country (as small as it is), has. But it must be said that the situation is improving (in my opinion). There are lots more people visiting our nature parks and nature reserve, though whether they truly appreciate what’s there is debatable. But some awareness is better than none! I’ll talk more about this in my post on outdoor education later.
So perhaps, hopefully over the next few years, awareness and outreach to the general public have improved to the point where people no longer question our amazing collection of biodiversity, but ask what they can do to protect and conserve what we have.