Today was a busy day for our shores; not only did Team Seagrass head down to Pulau Semakau, but there was a Kusu Island ReefWALK and a Chek Jawa intertidal walk taking place today as well. I on the other hand went down to attend this year's National Youth Environment Forum (NYEF), hosted by Environmental Challenge Organisation (Singapore) (ECO Singapore), as a representative of the Naked Hermit Crabs.
As stated on ECO Singapore's website, the NYEF
is a public discussion format that that allows youths to voice their opinion about environmental issues in front of an audience. Participants will share their comments and opinions with one another lead by a facilitator whose job is to provide the necessary background information, set the ground rules of participation and generally control the discussions.
Aside from the forum providing an educational and interactive platform for youth to voice their environmental concerns, participants are expected to come up with an action plan to carry out proposed solutions to be carried with the support and partnership with a relevant NGO, special interest group or educational institution.
The objectives of the forum are to:
1. Provide a platform for interactive discussions between the youth, experts, activists and NGOs on topics that have been identified by the youth themselves as being critical to the environment.
2. Enable the participants to deliver an action/development plan to tackle issues.
3. Facilitate collaboration between participant action plans and relevant NGOs/Special interest groups.
The theme for this year's forum is "Beyond Awareness", which is essentially all about moving beyond merely raising awareness about environmental issues, and taking concrete steps to actually address these issues.
Most of the pictures of the event are from the official NYEF Album, which can be accessed at this link.
Dr. Amy Khor, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources, graced the occasion as Guest of Honour, and presented tokens of appreciation to the various participating groups and organisations.
Here's the one presented to the Naked Hermit Crabs.
All the attendees also received a complimentary notebook.
And a copy of the March issue of ASIAN Geographic.
Dr. Geh Min said a few words, before various speakers presented on five of the key fundamental concepts affecting environmental issues:
Dr. Wang Jing-Yuan
Assistant Professor Gunawansa Asanga
Update: The Powerpoint slides from the various speakers are now available at this link.
There were many youths from a variety of educational institutions, bright and eager to take part in the discussions, and full of passion. It's encouraging to see how a new generation of individuals are rising to the challenge to speak up and take action for the environment, even if the task may seem overwhelmingly insurmountable at times.
I met representatives from many other local organisations, including fellow members from the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research (RMBR) Toddycats!, as well as Nature Trekker Singapore, Singapore Zoo Docents, Singapore Environment Council (SEC), Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), and the Vegetarian Society (Singapore), to name a few.
Besides the topic presentations, there were also booths set up by some of the supporting partners, helping to educate the guests and participants about the work they do, and the causes that they are fighting for.
After lunch, there were several caucus group discussions running concurrently, based on the following topics:
- Reducing our Carbon Footprint
- Rethinking our Waste
- Sustainable Food and Water Resources
- Conserving Biodiversity
Driftnets and fishing lines left by fishermen, which unnecessarily trap and kill a lot of marine life. Overcollection of marine creatures (including threatened species), both for consumption and for aquariums. Coastal development, which sometimes does not take into account the rich marine ecosystems which are impacted. I also shared quite a bit about the various activities I've done as a member of the Naked Hermit Crabs. Here's a picture of me in action. It turned out that Ben Lee from Nature Trekker Singapore was also there as a Guest Specialist for this discussion, so both the terrestrial and marine aspects of Singapore's biodiversity were well-represented. Among the threats to Singapore's terrestrial biodiversity that he raised included roadkill, poaching, and development that results in the loss of valuable habitats. Other issues that we discussed included Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) and legislation, education, and a general lack of awareness among Singaporeans about our biodiversity. After throwing some ideas back and forth, there was a general consensus that something ought to be done for the forests in Mandai, which are under threat of being cleared to make way for nature-themed attractions (which, if you ask me, is a huge affront to the concept of 'ecotourism'). I helped contribute ideas on outreach, using the recent examples of how many of us trying to raise awareness about Cyrene Reef, such as the I want to go Cyrene Reef! Facebook Group, the Cyrene Blogging Carnival, the "Let's go to Cyrene Reef" blogging contest, plus the recent discovery of a new record for Singapore's sea star biodiversity - Pentaceraster mammillatus. We finally compiled some ideas for our presentation, and 2 young chaps from Hwa Chong Institution gamely stepped up to the plate to give the presentation when all the forum participants reconvened after the caucus discussions. The presentations on the various caucus discussion topics generated a lot of further questions and discussions among members of the audience, and it was heartening to see so many people standing up to speak and share about matters dear to them. Pity that we did not have enough time for everyone to get an opportunity to express their views. Update: The Powerpoint slides done by the caucus discussion groups are now available at this link. The closing plenary session was about the Earth Charter, and while I personally feel that it's still going to take some time before we as a global community are able to effectively adhere to the principles of the Earth Charter, at least it's something that we can all work towards.
All in all, it was a long but worthwhile session, and I'm sure many of the youths who attended got a glimpse of the many ways they can take action. I'm interested in seeing what is going to happen next year, when the projects that were formulated by the caucus discussion groups are supposed to be executed, especially for the group that is going to work to campaign for the Mandai forests.
I'm tired out. And I still have to wake up early tomorrow for a recce walk at Sentosa...