Dr. Jane’s visit to Singapore 2017 was kicked off with a public talk on August 6th for which Dr. Jane shared her stories and thoughts on conservation at the MES Theatre, Mediacorp.
The theme of the event ‘One Nature, Together’, based on Singapore’s National Day theme of ‘One Nation Together’, emphasised the need for different stakeholders, including members of the public, governmental institutions and non-profit organisations, to come together to push for an increase in environmental awareness and action in Singapore. Indeed, people did come together for the day’s event and the auditorium was packed, with approximately 1,500 people present.
The day’s events were kick started with an address by Kae Fong Tay, President of JGIS, who emphasised the growth JGIS has seen over the past ten years, since its founding in 2007.
Ten years ago, following a visit from Dr. Jane, a small group of volunteers got together and decided to form the Singapore chapter of the Jane Goodall Institute. Since then we have seen an immense growth in our community. Today JGIS runs a wide variety of activities including Monkey Walks and public lectures on Dr. Goodall’s life and philosophy. We also encourage environmental stewardship in young people with our Roots and Shoots program.
– Kae Fong Tay, President, JGIS
Following this, Desmond Lee took to the stage to highlight the importance of Dr. Jane’s message of conservation to Singapore as well as provide perspectives and insights into the environmental issues faced in Singapore and the unique steps that that country must take towards conservation. He also announced a third location for JGIS’s Monkey Walks at the Lower Peirce Reservoir. Mr. Lee emphasised in his speech that Singapore is a city garden that we should be proud of and treasure. A few of the key messages from his speech are given below.
Singapore needs to proactively be a ‘biophilic city’ and implement a unique approach to conservation compared with bigger countries – Singapore is a small and densely populated country, our green spaces are integrated within in the urban landscape and we are constantly in close proximity to nature. Given this, we need to protect, co-exist and live in harmony with nature and this will involve the participation of a number of stakeholders including the Government, corporations, environmental organisations and members of the public.
Given our close proximity to nature and the many species of flora and fauna that Singapore has (˜4,673), human-wildlife interaction and conflict is inevitable. However, we need to tackle this issue holistically by gathering data and using science. We want to ensure that humans and wildlife can co-exist peacefully in Singapore to avoid destruction to the environment. We want to make sure that our country does not become a soulless jungle of concrete, glass, and steel.
Next up was the moment everyone was waiting for – Dr. Jane’s speech. Although many of us at JGIS were already familiar with and inspired by her story, it was a thrill to be able to listen to her speak in person. Dr. Jane began her speech with the sounds of a chimpanzee greeting that meant ‘This is me. This is Jane chimpanzee’, which immediately transported us all to Gombe National Park in Tanzania with her. Dr. Jane’s innate ability of storytelling became apparent as she took us on the captivating journey of her life and many inspiring experiences.
Everywhere Dr. Jane travels, she learns more about the problems that people face as a result of environmental issues such as the destruction of habitats and rainforests, plastic pollution in the oceans, soil erosion, desertification, unsustainable lifestyles, fossil fuel usage and many others. However, Dr. Jane’s speech was filled with much needed, hope and positivity. We need to remind ourselves that it is never too late to initiate and effect change. Below are a few quotes from Dr. Jane’s speech, for the times when you are in need of a little motivation!
I can’t agree when young people say that there is nothing we can do about the future. Although some scientists might say otherwise, I believe that there is still a timeframe to turn things around. I prefer to live with hope.
Since I have lived in the rainforest, I believe in the interconnectedness of life – every individual matters and makes a difference
It is the young people I meet as I travel around the world who give me the most hope. Social media has enabled like-minded people from all across the world to come together to create change and we should use this to our advantage.
Following Dr. Jane’s address was an extremely lively panel discussion moderated by Kae Fong Tay with panelists Dr. Jane Goodall, Desmond Lee, Dr. Andie Ang and Dr. Shawn Lum. Various subjects were brought up by the audience during the panel discussion, from Dr. Jane’s opinion on the Planet of the Apes franchise to the use of plastic bags in Singapore and opinions on eco-tourism. Here are some memorable quotes from the panel discussion!
Knowledge is only part of what gets people to change their behaviour. If we want people to truly change, we need to get them to feel it. Only when knowledge and inspiration go hand-in-hand can we effect real change.
-Kae Fong Tay
It is critical for the next generation to be active participants in conservation. They also need to understand the unique situation Singapore is in, in terms of maintaining our biodiversity along with the current population density and urban development. They need to implement sustainability into the concept of development.
When talking about involving children in wildlife conservation, one of Dr. Jane’s quotes comes to mind “Only if we understand, can we care. Only if we care, we will help. Only if we help, we shall be saved”. So a good way to get kids to care about conservation is to inculcate a love for animals in them. Taking them out on the Monkey Walks and nature trails in Singapore will enable them to be comfortable interacting with nature and develop curiosity. Once they develop a fascination with the natural world, it becomes easy for them to contribute to conservation efforts.
-Dr. Andie Ang
We aren’t all Jane Goodalls, however, we can aspire to be like Dr. Jane and who knows what we are capable of when we work together and put our minds together.
-Dr. Shawn Lum
The best thing we can do for the environment is realise that each day each one of us has the choice to make a difference. Preaching is the wrong way to engage with people and you’ve got to get into people’s hearts if you want them to change, not argue with them and tell them they’re bad people
-Dr. Jane Goodall
Plastic bag usage in Singapore
At the end of the panel discussion, a member of the audience brought up the use of plastic bags in Singapore. The routine use of plastic bags in Singapore is a key concern, particularly considering our proximity to several water bodies. The problem has worsened with the launch of several online delivery services.
While Desmond Lee acknowledged that policy change is coercive, and can be done, he also stressed the importance of everyone playing a part in reducing the use of plastic bags at an individual level and that actively advocating for this change in lifestyle to loved ones and friends can make a huge difference.
Dr. Shawn Lum echoed this sentiment, highlighting that policy changes need to come from the ground up and not the other way around.
So, let’s all play a part in reducing the use of plastic bags in Singapore!
The panel discussion ended on a high note to lots of applause. To quote Dr. Shawn Lum’s concluding statement, “The feeling and desire to affect change, inspired by Dr. Jane, needs to be bottled up and taken with us so we actually do something for the environment and inspire others. Along with the National pledge, let us all pledge to actually go out there and be active advocators for the environment.”
Written by Priya Shreedhar.