An email comes from the Office of Environmental Sustainability, with a large picture in it (0.4Mb, in every inbox around the uni?!?):
So what’s it all about?
Save That Pen is a project initiated by 3 NUS students who wish to do something about the pervasive pen wastage culture observed in Singapore’s society. The project aims to reduce pen‐waste by collecting and refilling used pens.
My inner environmentalist thinks: Well done those students! But my inner scientist wonders: exactly how much damage to the environment is caused by the pervasive pen wastage deeply embedded in Singapore society? (Or for that matter, by those little paper thingies that go on the inside cover of library books upon which the return day is stamped, or used to be stamped until the libraries decided to do their bit for the environment by banning them.) A lot? A little? Surely we could just bury them all in the ground and it would have less impact than, say, upgrading our computers every few years? Or leaving the doors on the ground floor of S16 open, with the aircon struggling furiously to bring the equator down to the regulation 25 degrees?
This chimes with a thought I had yesterday after Prof Lubek’s talk over in EPH: he discussed public health measures targeting Cambodian “beer girls” who double up as prostitutes and have high HIV rates. But then he presented a graph at the end showing that “men” and “married women” have higher HIV rates in Cambodia! So, why focus on a (relatively) low risk group at the expense of high risk ones, unless it’s much cheaper? (It might be, he didn’t say.)
It’s good to do good, but could resources be put to better use than targeting low risk groups. Or saving pens rather than shutting doors?