Thursday, 30 July 2015

The Central Business District

The Thinker in the OUE building

Yesterday i attended a talk which was organised by some environmentalists here. It was held in the NTUC building which was in the middle of the business district. It has been years since i have been here, so i set out early to walk about the place.

Everything is very very large
 I arrived during rush hour and people were simply pouring out of the MRT. The crowds were swarming down escalators and out of offices - but they were not overground. No, they were underground, at the MRT. In fact thee was no one above ground. For the business district at rush hour, above ground was eerily quiet!

There must be dozen of buildings which look like these
To think that hundreds of thousands of people work in places like this. I used to work in a place like this. Admittedly these buildings are far more swishy and very sleek. It was like being in some espionage film set in the future. There were rehearsals for the National Day Parade and Sarah Brightman was belting out Time to Say Goodbye at the top of her voice - really, the ENTIRE place was filled with her warbling, followed by Sting's It's Probably Me. It was really surreal.

The old customs house - it has now been converted into several fancy
bars and watering holes

The view from these fancy bars and watering holes...

It is really impossible not to be impressed with this if it is your sort of thing

The panorama

Yes, unfortunately for me, i find it all too much 

What is the point, i ask

My mother said to me, you really don't like Singapore, do you? Why?
That is very sad, she said.

In a place like this, poverty feels very far away

The torn up world feels very far away

The destruction of the rainforests and the pollution
of everything that sustains us feels very far away
I was at a uniquely Singaporean campaign yesterday. It was a discussion about the haze in which people did not want to ask the hard questions. If ever there was a demonstration about how human beings just want to take the blue pill and just keep on sleeping, that was it. Perhaps the problem is just so fucking big that to contemplate any real action is pointless. So just tell ourselves that we are doing something about it - that is ok. We can just pat each other on the back and go to bed feeling very happy that we have all 'done something'. The thing though is that the solutions which we posed were as bad as, if not worse, than doing nothing. The green movement can be very naive and really, there is no way to buy ourselves out of this one. Suggesting that we buy responsibly sourced palm oil instead of conflict based palm oil is a nonsense. Labeling and provenance is a joke in this part of the world. People don't really care what they put on a label as long as it sells something. So having the RSPO certification, even if it does work, is no guaruntee that it was responsibly source. Secondly, there is no such thing as RSPO, unless it is very expensive - prohibitively expensive - BUT this ironically, would then encourage people to plant even more palm oil and get to certified. There really is no solution to this terrible problem and i do not see a future for the rainforest in this part of the world.

It is really bleak. Unless my Indonesian friends know better.

But i would trust nothing unless i saw it with my own eyes. It is such a desperate situation in many of these plantations that there is very very little law and order. And a lot of intimidation.

Singaporeans also do not like disagreeing with each other in public. I had forgotten this. Asking pointed questions is not seen as part of a healthy debate. It is seen as rude.

I don't mind people asking pointed questions, this means that you need to defend the defensible and not defend the indefensible. It is called accountability. We all keep each other accountable, that is what being part of the human race is all about, however, Singaporeans don't really do accountability. They do, keep your head down and walk or, or passive aggressive or they do hysteria. There is very little in between. You could say that much of the human race can behave this way, but i think that by and large, if you grow up in an environment where debating and open discussions were part of the culture, there is a lot more respectful discussion.

The only way to use your power as a consumer is to STOP buying palm oil altogether. This nonsense about RSPO is a load of bollocks. When the cash flow stops then companies will have to do something serious. The problem of course is that to not buy palm oil is very deeply inconviniencing for the consumer. So if we just keep buying palm oil, but RESPONSIBLY sourced, well that's win-win isn't it?


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