Panic in the Eco

Climate "Refugee" Crisis

An unexpected takeaway

A weekly reflection on the environment has slowly become a habit of mine. These past 12 weeks of blogging were nothing but wonderful, learning more about the climate “refugee” crisis, its complexity and my perspectives on the dilemmas.

It is climate refugee crisis for me. However, it depends on where one stands in the spectrum ranging from refugee to migrant. It isn’t a fixed definition, I feel.

It became increasingly more challenging as I posted more. Started off with limited knowledge, I had to push myself to explore other people’s knowledge on the issue which led me to the idea of spreading awareness on the impending crisis as many weren’t aware of the issue. Accepting that my survey wasn’t flawless was something I learnt and admitted to, but it was very exhilarating to discover that both my interest in healthcare and the environment can cross paths in this issue and manner. It was definitely an unexpected  marvelous takeaway from blogging.

I feel I had only touched the tip of the issue and there is so much more to share, but sadly this will be the last post for this blog. I may continue blogging after my exams— who knows? However, I may venture into a new area of interest that I have discovered in the past week when I was burning joss papers for my grandma.

The environment or the traditions: What will the conservative Singapore society say?

Even if we can’t tweak our traditions to be eco-friendly, we can still make changes to our daily lives to prevent the climate refugee crisis from happening.

Signing off for the last time,

Gladys

It’s no longer about future-proofing but climate-proofing

Hey friends!!

Welcome back to my blog!!

Having to blog about climate “refugee” crisis and rising sea level for the past few weeks, why not talk about how we should prepare ourselves against them?

Let all become climate-proof with these few steps of our own! (disclaimer: these steps are just my observations of what Singaporeans are over-consuming or using that contribute to global warming)

1. Ditch your air conditioner when sleeping! Or set it to 25 deg and use the timer.

2. Bring your own tumbler/ bottle when buying bubble tea! (Just imagine how many plastic cups of bbt sold in a shop per hour and multiply it by 24 and then multiply again by the no. of bbt shops in sg — and all of these plastics were reduced if everyone brings their own cup)

3. Bring reusable grocery bags to the supermarket! (Fun fact: a person in Singapore uses at least 2 plastic bags per trip to the supermarket)

4. Recycle more ♻️ (but remember to rinse, dry and then sort) — a little note to check out what’s non-recyclable  too to not contaminate the bins  🙂

Those are some steps the general public do to become greener and reduce one’s contribution to global warming. I have taken this chance to reflect and make some changes of my own to challenge myself in becoming greener and climate-proof.

1. Going meatless (I’m currently trying out a 3-day-in-a-week vegetarian plan for a month if it succeed i will try 5 days and eventually converting to vegetarianism)

2. Treating my container to be as essential as my reusable straws and utensils and bring it along everywhere with me ( I still find it a chore and hassle to bring the bulky container out as I have to bring a bigger bag but I guess conscious effort — saving the earth over convenience)

That’s all from me this week! I hope that you find some steps above useful in your transformation to become climate-proof and feel free to comment down below and share your own changes too!!

Till then,

Gladys

My First Symposium on Climate Change

This symposium was held recently on Wednesday, 23 Oct and I had been looking forward to it since the weekends.  It was of great honour and luck to have the IPCC representatives Ms Ko Barrett (Vice-Chair) and Mr Abdalah Molessit (Secretary) on the panel to share their knowledge and expertise on the dire situation we are in. While I did learn more about how the accelerated melting glaciers in the cryosphere can impact Singapore on a far greater scale, my main takeaway was on the workings of IPCC.

Known distantly as a trustable and reliable NGO just by its name, I never knew about its function until the symposium. Providing the most up-to-date scientific information on climate change by extracting information from reports and analysis from experts, IPCC acts as a bridge of communication between the research community and governments, accurately disseminating information to policymakers to have them well-informed on the situation during key decision-making periods. It was truly fascinating to hear how the body has evolved from a conservative and less credible source of information in the past to a top reputable source of information that governments around the world now seek as a basis for international negotiations. The AR6 SYR previously mentioned will serve its very purpose for the first global stocktake under the Paris Agreement in 2023.

However, IPCC’s reports, in my personal opinion, should be viewed as a summary of major environmental issues at the tip of the iceberg. It is almost possible for the IPCC to cover all problems. Usually, the body will scope down on issues pertinent in many regions of the world. There are other environmental issues that are not covered in the reports,.Therefore, since NGOs themselves have limited ability, we, as consumers, environmentalists, scientists and individuals, can do our part in raising awareness on these not-so-pertinent issues. We also can effect changes at the industry level and on a higher level, aim to have the problems assessed by the IPCC in the next AR cycle.

Chatting with like-minded people and professionals after the symposium had made me feel rather heartwarming, that there are so many people fighting along to save the Earth. I guess it was a timely reminder given by God to me to continue fighting for the cause I believe, as earlier in the week, I was so disheartened to find that plastic crockery and straws cannot be recycled even if washed. Looking at the number of buffets that can be held in a week, I felt then that we are of little to no hope to be saved. I was glad that I attended this symposium and found back my passion for saving the planet. I guess I will be going for more similar events? Please hit me up if you need a companion for any of such events 🙂

Till then,

Gladys

 

 

 

Will Singaporeans become Climate Refugees?

In my previous post, I blogged about the government’s perception and my clashing view of Singapore becoming a possible host destination for refugees. For this post, the role will be reversed — instead of worrying whether to take in refugees, I will be discussing the possibility of Singaporeans becoming those refugees worrying about countries rejecting their asylum application.

Will Singapore become a source of climate refugees?

Rather than climate refugees, we are more possible to be climate migrants, but even so, I think it is not likely so. This is because I believe that we will become greater sinners or contributors to climate change and global warming in the future. We do have the financial capacity to afford to maintain our current luxurious lifestyle in light of the changing environment and see less of a need for adaptation, for instance, using more air-conditioners and lowering aircon temperature below the eco-friendly temperature of 25 deg in light of hotter weather in Singapore.

I have based on my thinking on the survey results I have done earlier on. I have surveyed around and asked for their views and reasoning to Singaporeans becoming climate migrants and 73.9% of respondents can foresee people living in Singapore migrating to other countries because of climate change. While rising sea level is a common reason respondents give to why people will escape from Singapore, with the common knowledge that it is surrounded by waters and thus extremely vulnerable to this threat, it is surprising to see that a small portion of respondents (approximately 13%) mentioning about the rising average temperatures in the country (Bastin et al., 2018) as a reason for migration out of Singapore to cooler regions of the world.

I cannot deny that it is possible to a small extent that people, especially the wealthier class who cannot tolerate the hotter weather, to migrate because of that reason; however focusing on the masses, I perceive that we won’t want to give up our prosperous and safe little red dot so easily and move to another country just because of the weather, more so when we have grown up in our home country and forged many memories here. It will be emotionally difficult to put behind so many things and move to an environment with a cooler climate.

Therefore, I believe many of us will still stay put in Singapore and battle the increased frequency of floods and droughts with our aircons. Although rising sea level is a key concern, like some of my respondents, I have faith in the abilities of our government and research teams in engineering solutions to solve the problems. In fact, there has been a recent discovery of a new solution of empoldering to enhance the nation’s coastal defence (Mohan, 2019). This was emulated from the Netherlands who has been a frontrunner in this field (Kimmelman, 2017) and therefore I bare hope that we will be able to find a sustainable solution to fight against rising sea level, rather than our current measures of building higher seawalls and elevating buildings on higher grounds.

Thank you for reading and do feel free to comment down below if you have any other thoughts regarding the topic!!

Till then,

Gladys

References:

  1. Mohan, M. (2019, August 19). Engineering solutions to tackle rising sea levels important but more research vital: Experts. Retrieved October 6, 2019, from https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/climate-change-rising-sea-levels-research-poldering-ndr2019-11822204
  2. Kimmelman, M. (2017, November 22). The Dutch Have Solutions to Rising Seas. The World Is Watching. Retrieved October 6, 2019, from https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/06/15/world/europe/climate-change-rotterdam.html
  3. Bastin, J.-F., Clark, E., Elliott, T., Hart, S., den Hoogen, J. van, Hordijk, I., … Crowther, T., W. (2018). Cities of the future, visualizing climate change to inspire actions. BioRxiv. https://doi.org/10.1101/458018

Hey guys!
Welcome back!! This post will be a response piece to Dr Coleman’s question on my personal views regarding Singapore’s essentially closed-door stance of accepting refugees.

Truthfully, I’m not very fond of the policy because I believe we have the ability to help them despite our small size, especially when we are an immigrant country ourselves. More so, situated in South East Asia, where there are more than half a million refugees, I feel that we are a little selfish in rejecting them. To be honest, I do not really buy the argument of limited space (which is also mentioned in the article) as the government was aiming to grow the population to 6.9 million by 2030 in the 2013 Population White Paper in spite of our limited space. Although the paper faced heavy criticism from its people, it does show the government’s clear need or desire to bring in more manpower to counteract the declining birth rate in the country for sustained economic development. In this sense, I believe that refugees may be able to help, especially when the majority of refugees are of or under working age. They can be of great help in filling employment gaps in the economy, in industries like F&B, construction and nursing, where Singaporeans mainly shun (The Straits Times, 2017). They are more likely to treasure the work opportunity given, after their gruesome experience at home, and have greater motivation and incentive to work, which can be a plus point in our workaholic society.

Germany has been slowly reaping the benefits of accepting migrants. With its apprenticeship programme that provides migrants with vocational training, many refugees are able to enter the workforce, slowing the country’s shift towards a shrinking and ageing one. Singapore may want to take reference from this and consider it as an alternative way to combat ageing workforce and reason to open gates to help refugees.

I understand that security is one big deterrence in opening borders to refugees, especially when Singapore had undergone many hardships to achieve its peace and order. It will seem like a big compromise if we change our stance. However, times have changed. We are no longer as vulnerable and incapable as before. I believe that we shouldn’t stand in our comfort zone and deny ourselves possible opportunities for alternative measures in helping us cope with our population issues.  We shouldn’t be so selfish in leaving half a million refugees in the exploitative hands of human traffickers and their alliances.

It is still too early to say whether accepting refugees in the 21st century is a beneficial or disastrous act of the host country. For the mass global refugee movement after the WW2, which Dr Coleman’s mother was part of, impacts have been assessed and countries like Australia, Canada and Brazil who have opened their doors to refugees had experienced a post-war economic boom as a result. The expansion in the labour base, especially in Canada, had significantly contributed to its industrial growth (Hall et al., 2019).  We are currently only seeing the initial negative impacts of the act, but positive economic benefits have slowly emerged for Germany, so maybe is it not al that bad to accept refugees for Singapore?

References:

  1. The Straits Times. (2017, January 8). The Population White Paper – Time to revisit an unpopular policy?. Retrieved October 11, 2019, from https://www.straitstimes.com/opinion/the-population-white-paper-time-to-revisit-an-unpopular-policy
  2. Hall, R. D., Bercuson, D. J., Nicholson, N. L., Morton, W. L., & Krueger, R. R. (2019, October 8). Canada – Early postwar developments. Retrieved October 11, 2019, from https://www.britannica.com/place/Canada/Early-postwar-developments

The Dilemma of Labelling

Debates on the labelling of the climate “refugees” and recognising climate change as grounds for asylum-seekers have been on-going.

The label of refugee will imply that these people can get socio-economic aid from international, government and non-governmental organisations, Getting financially covered, climate refugees have one less problem to deal with. However, in return, their identity may be degraded to a “second-class citizen of the future” (Farbotko & Lazrus, 2012). This is because some may view these people as having nowhere else to go and thus being adopted into their new home country. In a sense, they can be considered as “unwanted”, losing their right to be proud of their migration decisions (The Economist, 2018).

On the other hand, the migrant label suggests about the voluntary movement of people from place to place. Their original identity and dignity of migration will still be intact for no financial coverage. Moreover, not recognising climate change as grounds for claims of asylum will avoid weakening support for existing refugees, given inadequate financial ability to cover and protect that many refugees (UN, 2019). It is reported that the Syrian migrant crisis has already put the UN’s financial limits to the test (The Economist, 2018).

Personally, I am leaning towards the label of climate refugees, rather than migrants. Despite the label enforcement of second-class future citizens, I feel that financial and social aid given by the UN and government is of significant importance to the refugees integrating into a new society and it is something that should not be forgone or exchanged for other people’s judgements or perception of themselves. Survival is more important.

Although one may argue that these migrants ultimately move on their own accord and will, tolerating extreme weather conditions until they cannot withstand and thereby moving to other places, these people are the most affluent migrants who are able to afford and plan ahead of their move. I believe that most climate refugees are from less affluent countries who cannot afford financially to give up their homes and move to new places unless the place becomes inhabitable and threatens their survival. Therefore, in my opinion, the recognition of climate change as grounds for seeking refuge by the UN should be encouraged to help these less wealthy migrants who are at their wits’ ends, using escape as their last resort to prolong their survival. Some aid is better than no aid, right?

Anyone with differing views or thoughts? Please comment down below!!

Till then,

Gladys

 

References:

  1. H., W. (2019, October 3). Why climate migrants do not have refugee status. Retrieved October 4, 2019, from https://www.economist.com/the-economist-explains/2018/03/06/why-climate-migrants-do-not-have-refugee-status
  2. The United Nations. (2019, June 6). Let’s Talk About Climate Migrants, Not Climate Refugees – United Nations Sustainable Development. Retrieved October 4, 2019, from https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/blog/2019/06/lets-talk-about-climate-migrants-not-climate-refugees/
  3. Farbotko, C. & Lazrus, H. (2012). The first climate refugees? Contesting global narratives of climate change in Tuvalu. Global Environmental Change, 22 (2), 382-390.

Awareness on the Climate “Refugee” Crisis

While I was writing my next post on labelling people as climate “refugee”, my roomie popped out of her bed and asked me what I was doing, I told her I was researching on the climate “refugee” crisis and she had this surprised but puzzled look on her face. It was her first time encountering this term and I was a little surprised as well. I think I have been living in my own bubble. Spending time with my batchmates on a daily basis, I naturally assume that people are environmentally conscious of the dire situation on Earth and aware of the environmental issues occurring around the world. I guess it never occurred to me that the environmentalist community makes up only a small fraction of the world’s population, needless to say about Singapore, the little red dot.

Curious to know how many of my friends know about the climate refugee crisis, I sent out an online survey, asking them for their perceptions on the term and whether Singapore will face the crisis. When I looked at the results, I knew I have made a mistake in my primary research.

The percentage of ‘Yes’ responses were a little too high for me in the first pie chart to accept the results. It then occurred to me that I had sent the survey to my batchmates as well. Given that my BES friends are more responsive to the survey, my survey results become a little distorted, portraying inaccurate data regarding public awareness and perceptions on climate “refugee” crisis if I were to use my friends as a  sample group.  Slightly more than half of ‘Yes’ respondents are BES students and therefore, in actuality, only 39% know about the term, after surveying more of my non-BES friends. For me, this figure has given me some optimism in resolving this issue. I had expected a smaller percentage. However, I have to take these data with a pinch of salt as my sample size is too small to get general sensing of the public awareness and views on the issue.

When I asked them to define what is the climate “refugee” crisis, most of them took it very literally as escaping from their homes due to climate change or inhabitable weather conditions. Although it may show that they are new to this issue, but their use of language such as forced, destroyed and unliveable has shown that they know the urgency and severity of the issue, which is also supported by their 88% belief that the crisis is happening now and action is needed now to prevent it from worsening. However, it was regretful that I did not take the chance to ask them how they can do to prevent this catastrophe from unfolding, as I thought it will be a fantastic time for them to reflect on their own actions and perhaps make some changes. While this survey was done to satisfy my curiosity on the awareness of the climate refugee crisis within my social circle and prove my point that the general public does not know much about the issue, I think I have unknowingly introduced and educated my friends on the topic. A few of my friends become interested after doing the survey and have come to me to ask me more about the problem, which was heartening to see!!

For the second part of the survey on their views whether Singapore’s future in facing the climate “refugee” crisis, I will leave it when I talk more about the possibility of Singaporeans becoming climate migrants in a later post. Watch out for it!

Till then,

Gladys

Link to my survey if you wanna check it out: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1CMoZbcIEo8_aHZZZtfR1hWf5o8XUPYYpySgJnlTm8oQ/edit#responses

Losing more than just their homes…

These are the people who ignite the fire in me to learn more and speak up (for them) about climate “refugee” crisis. They were the Uru Murato people living by Bolivia’s second-largest waterbody, Lake Poopo, since the 16th century (Casey, 2016). However, they are no longer called Uru. They have lost the indigenous identity that they have called their own to the drying of Lake Poopo, as a result of cyclical droughts intensified by the El Nino phenomenon (UNEP, 2005).

The passing down of Uru medicinal traditions, fishing practices and culture is thus discontinued and has vanished off the Earth’s surface (Carey 2016). It is disheartening to see them losing a piece of themselves. Giving up generations-long heritage and traditions, they essentially lose their cultural skeleton. Without this backbone, the Urus enters a new foreign community with a high risk of social disintegration and isolation. In addition, with their specialised fishing skillset, they can have difficulty finding suitable jobs in the civilised towns and cities, where their specialisation may not be needed (Carey, 2016). 

This set of issues is not specific to only the Urus, but the whole population of climate migrants, both current and prospective. This phenomenon also encompasses their loss and search for a new sense of identity and belonging to the new environment and constant worry of job insecurity and unemployment. More so, will they be receiving the same or similar treatment as the locals from the government to help them with their socio-economic needs or get looked down upon and neglected?

I’m thinking if these impending issues are problems that future “refugees” or migrants can foresee, will they take the initiative to train and become skilled, for instance learning new languages or becoming more educated, to increase adaptive capacity in new homes?

Although it has been implied that there are fewer social issues of relocation when the migration is voluntary and well-planned (Locke, 2009, cited in Campbell and Warrick, 2014),  Kiribati is yet the only nation in the Pacific region that prepares its citizens for future climate migration. Its education program has caught my attention. It tailors the tertiary education system towards the economic needs of neighbouring climate-resistant nations like Australia and New Zealand, covering unemployment gaps in the nursing and maritime industries (Campbell and Warrick, 2014).

This has given me a bold inspiration to dream big and another reason to pursue my other interest in nursing. Initially, my plan was to do a mid-career switch to nursing after doing some conservation works, thinking that the two interests are mutually exclusive. I guess now it is possible to have the best of both worlds! Having to experience the world’s best education, I now hope to travel to these countries and help elevate their quality of education through knowledge-sharing. Discovering a new purpose for travelling, I hope in the near future I can organise a similar volunteering trip to one of the islands and even stay long in the Pacific region to lead the education projects! Anyone with me?

References:

[1] Farbotko, Carol & Lazrus, Heather. (2012). The first climate refugees? Contesting global narratives of climate change in Tuvalu. Global Environmental Change. Vol 22. Issue 2. Pg 382-390. Retrieved from  https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0959378011002019#sec0015

[2] Casey, Nicholas. (2016, July 7). Climate change claims a lake, and an identity. Retrieved from  https://static01.nyt.com/packages/pdf/tbooks/Climate_Refugees_NYTimes_050317.pdf

[3] Campbell, John & Warrick, Olivia. United Nations Economic and Social Commision for Asia and the Pacific.(2014, August). Climate Change and Migration Issues in the Pacific. Retrieved from https://www.ilo.org/dyn/migpractice/docs/261/Pacific.pdf

An Impending Doom – Climate “Refugee” Crisis

This will be the biggest migrant crisis the world has ever encountered, far greater than the on-going Syrian migrant crisis. But is the world prepared for this catastrophe? As much as I like to be optimistic, my answer is no (for now) – the Syrian migrant crisis is still unsolved and has worsened with the recent increase in conflict and more extreme weather conditions.

What is the Climate “Refugee” Crisis?

Climate-induced displacement will see tens of millions of people each year leaving and searching for new homes due to factors like rising sea levels and desertification (The Guardian, 2017). Movements can be internal, between cities within borders, or transboundary, between nations. More often than not, it is an internal migration process. In the cruel world we live in, countries most affected by the migration produce only 1% of global greenhouse emissions (Global Human Forum, 2015). A growing population in these nations makes it harder to combat climate change and the crisis. This is because with increasing needs of the people, more funds will be allocated for the provision of basic services and less for conservation efforts and R&D for green technology.

However, given that most are less affluent countries, like Bangladesh, they are less equipped to resolve environmental issues (Ahmed, 2019). They have lower financial ability to meet socio-economical needs and thus, it is possible to foresee another “survival of the fittest” competition between humans competing for limited resources in these densely populated areas. Furthermore, these countries often have a less-educated workforce which suggests lower research ability for geoengineering or green technology to mitigate the issue of climate change. This is environmental injustice as wealthier countries are not paying the correct price for their actions, continuing their destructive measures while leaving the less affluent to bear the consequences that they have limited means to counteract (Ahmed, 2019).

Environmentally-induced migration is more than just affecting the people’s livelihoods, but also potentially heightening socio-political tensions and fuelling violence. This can be seen in the Europe migrant crisis that had caused social disorder and fragmentation across the EU, partly leading to the occurrence of Brexit and the rise of right-wing populism in the region (Ratkovik, 2017). The recent push for anti-immigration policies in the region is foreseeable to become an obstacle in mitigating the climate migrant crisis. Rejecting migrants to protect their people and maintain social stability in the country – will countries be willing to change their selfish mindset soon and work collectively to give those in need a new home? Xenophobia is one main reason why I think the crisis will be hard to resolve.

Maybe you’ve noticed that I have been using the word ‘refugees’ in inverted commas. This is because the UN has not recognized climate change as grounds for refugee status – I hope it will be a matter of time that the recognition is approved. As for now, only a few organisations and governments are aware of the situation. International aid is weak, and many are struggling to survive.

In my upcoming posts, I will be discussing more on the debate on recognising climate change as grounds for refugee status. Hope you have fun reading Till then!

References:

The Guardian. (2017, November 2) Climate change ‘will create the world’s biggest refugee crisis’. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/nov/02/climate-change-will-create-worlds-biggest-refugee-crisis

World Vision. (2019, June 21). Syrian refugee crisis: Facts, FAQs, and how to help. Retrieved from https://www.worldvision.org/refugees-news-stories/syrian-refugee-crisis-facts

Ahmed, Maram. World Economic Forum. (2019, June 20). How climate change exacerbate the refugee crisis  – and what can be done about it. Retrieved from https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2019/06/how-climate-change-exacerbates-the-refugee-crisis-and-what-can-be-done-about-it/

Global Humanitarian Forum (2009). The Anatomy of a Silent Crisis. Retrieved from http://www.ghf-ge.org/human-impact-report.pdf

Ratkovic, Milijana. (2017). Migrant crisis and strengthening of the right wing in the European Union. Megatrend revija. vol 14. pg 47-60. 10.5937/MegRev1703047R. Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/322312085_Migrant_crisis_and_strengthening_of_the_right_wing_in_the_European_Union

Hello and Welcome!!

I’m Gladys, a current Year 1 student taking the Bachelor of Environmental Studies programme at the National University of Singapore and I will be blogging about the phenomenon of environmentally-induced migration, or also known as the impending climate “refugee” crisis. 

I came across this issue when I was researching about the environment during my A levels. I become curious about it as it is a rather new impact of climate change which I am able to observe the issue unfold from the beginning. Since the crisis is at its early stage, I feel that we can do something about the situation to prevent it from deteriorating.  Hence, I seek to raise awareness on the issue through my blog and gather support to fight against its occurrence.

Droughts in Europe and South Africa, floods in India, heatwaves in Japan, Typhoon Mangkhut in the Philippines and China, wildfires in Australia, forest fires in Scandinavia… the list goes on and on for extreme weather events occurring solely in 2018. Chaos created by humans and resultant impacts of climate change are bringing disorder to people’s lives, of which some are forced to leave and search for new homes. Climate change affects any and every one and you may just be the next climate migrant finding for a new shelter. I hope more light can be shed onto the issue to help these neglected migrants.

I will also occasionally post and share some of the recent conservation efforts I have done to show how an individual effort can contribute to limiting climate change and preventing the climate refugee crisis.

However, don’t get too fixated on saving the Earth and remember to also cherish today’s treasures before they disappear off the surface of the planet! Capture them on your camera lens and in your head!

Hope you enjoy reading my blog!!

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