Save the Earth? Save the Soil First

To most of us, soil is often seen as a dirty concoction of muddy sediments and slimey worms, especially after a downpour. It’s a pain to deal with the earthly stains if one happens to carelessly slip and fall. But why do we have such strong feelings of disgust for something that is essential for the circle of life, in which we are unavoidably a part of? The answer lies within the minimal amount of contact we urbanites have with nature; also known as nature deficit disorder (or NDD). NDD arises when we are sheltered under cemented structures most of the time, thereby moulding our negative impressions of soil. In reality, soil is just as vital as air and water to us. The dirt that we have taken for granted all the time is one of the most critical carbon sinks we cannot afford to lose in the fight against climate change.
We are, however, losing this important carbon sink grain by grain. Global soils hold carbon three times more than the atmosphere can hold, and even so, there is still potential room for more (Ngumbi, 2016)! However, the extreme climate induced by anthropogenic developments are causing unexpected, long-term disturbances to the physical, chemical and biological properties of soil. For instance, a rise of 0.13°C per decade was observed in Canada’s land surface temperature from 1956 to 2005—that is 0.65°C in total over the 50 years—indicating that the land is warming up faster than the ocean (Qian, Gregorich, Gameda, Hopkins, & Wang, 2011). Don’t be misled by the numbers—though the difference is small, the effects are not.
In addition, soil is host to countless microbial communities—the engineers behind the biogeochemical transformations in nature. These microscopic organisms are the ones that are extremely sensitive to changes in temperatures. An astounding 26-year study focusing on the effects of warming of soil was conducted in Harvard Forest, and the results showed that a rise in temperature would most likely alter microbial community composition and, most importantly, the efficiency of microbial carbon use. These effects would undoubtedly intensify carbon emissions from soils (Melillo et al., 2017).
Since it is nearly impossible to reverse the effects of global warming over a short period, it is inevitable that the carbon emissions from soils will spike in the near future. This will then contribute to a warmer climate, resulting in a never-ending cycle of warm climatic conditions. This therefore does not give us a reason to idle and wait. Preventing land degradation has been proven to be a substantially effective method, as the microbes will return to their “carbon- storing” mode if the environment is favourable (Paustian et al., 2016). But how can individuals like you and me contribute? It’s not as hard as it seems. Start by developing an appreciation for soil with your actions and words, and in the process, you might not find soil to be dirty after all.

 

References:

Harvey, V. (2017, October 5). Carbon emissions from warming soils could trigger disastrous feedback loop. The Guardian. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/oct/05/carbon-emissions-warming-soils-higher-than-estimated-signalling-tipping-points

Melillo, J. M., Frey, S. D., DeAngelis, K. M., Werner, W. J., Bernard, M. J., Bowles, F. P., Pold, G., Knorr, M. A., & Grandy, A. S. (2017, October 6). Long-term pattern and magnitude of soil carbon feedback to the climate system in a warming world. Science, 358(6359), 101 – 105. Retrieved from http://science.sciencemag.org/content/358/6359/101

Ngumbi, E. (2016, May 17). How Soil Microbes Fight Climate Change. Scientific American. Retrieved from https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/guest-blog/how-soil-microbes-fight-climate-change/

Paustian, K., Lehmann, J., Ogle, S., Reay, D., Robertson, G. P., & Smith, P. (2016, April 7). Climate- smart soils. Nature, 532, 49 – 57. Retrieved from https://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v532/n7597/full/nature17174.html

Qian, B., Gregorich, E. G., Gameda, S., Hopkins, D. W., & Wang, X. L. (2011). Observed soil temperature trends associated with climate change in Canada. Journal of Geophysical Research, 116, D02106. Retrieved from http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1029/2010JD015012/full

[OPINION PIECE] When Eco-efforts Get Trashed

Disclaimer: This post was prepared and written by the author in his/her own personal capacity. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors’ and do not necessarily reflect the views and position of others within and affiliated to the Bachelor of Environmental Studies Programme. Opinions expressed should not be utilised outside of the context of which this article is set.

 

I totally forgot how angered I was when the packed food vendors first appeared outside the Science canteen until a recent Facebook post surfaced the matter once again. It started off with just this one Korean stall selling Kimchi rice and bulgogi, and it shocked environmental groups. It appeared out of the blue, without any prior discussion with environmental groups as far as I know. Admittedly, I can totally see why it came about. The canteen was terribly crowded and the queues were far too long to work out for anyone with a tight schedule.

I remember a group who were distributing reusable lunchboxes in an effort to cut down plastic waste (kudos to them, because I did nothing at all). However, it seemed like an overwhelming majority of the NUS community still chose to take their food out in disposable boxes. But what could I have expected? The pre-packed food was fast, convenient and not all that pricey compared to what was sold at the canteen. It also doesn’t help that the space on the second level that the management has opened up allows only packed food. Fast forward to today, there are now four of such stalls in the faculty, and four times the disposables. People can now pick and choose what kind of food they want to go with their plastic! 

That just felt like a huge slap in the face to the people who worked so hard to come up with schemes to encourage people to reduce their plastic consumption. While I wasn’t directly involved in planning one, I have friends who were and I can testify that it takes many months to get one going – there are budget planning, operational considerations and of course discussions with the related offices on implementation. Even with that, success is not guaranteed.

Then one day, the packed lunch initiative was rolled out.  This could have potentially offset the impact of months and months of Project Box (an initiative by NUS SAVE which rewards users who bring their own lunchboxes with meal discounts). It was disappointing that the management did not raise the issue of plastic waste in light of this. There were zero initiatives to cut down on even a fraction of the rubbish that is being churned out – I think bringing your own cutlery is not too difficult, even if you really had to pack your lunch and go. Moreover, not the slightest effort was made to promote existing initiatives to reduce plastic waste. It was as if the stacks of packaging filling up our trash cans were totally not an issue.

If anything, this is a reflection of how far we are from incorporating environmental factors into routine decision-making, even in established institutions. We’ve been told that knowledge is power, but we forget that power is not change. Stories about our suffocating oceans and overstuffed landfills will be nothing more than depressing trivia if we do not act upon them.

Another sobering realisation I had was that we might never win in a battle of convenience. No matter how hard we wreck our brains over lowering the barrier to making the environmentally favourable choice, the more destructive alternative will remain one step ahead.  It will always be easier to buy and throw than to clean up afterwards or to drive from place to place than to squeeze on stuffy and unreliable trains. While we are celebrating some singular tuckshop that charges 50 cents for takeaway, delivery services are out there making packed food more accessible and attractive to millions of people all over the island.

Perhaps we have been going a little off on a tangent with our efforts. Making eco-conscious decisions should be something that we should do because we have a responsibility towards the place we live, not because it comes out tops in some short-term cost-benefit analysis (because it hardly ever will). Caring for the environment is more like a value that we should inculcate in people, and I don’t mean the kind that can be measured in monetary terms. We shouldn’t see the targets of our efforts as mindless consumers because mindless consumers, as we learn from economics, always act in self-interest. They are simply cogs in a machine engineered for speed and low cost.

I believe that in every person, there is a struggle between the passive, manipulated consumer and an individual who wants to do what’s right even if it means expending a bit more energy in going against the current. We have to reach out to that individual. When I choose to source for and pay more for an ethically produced product for instance, it is never because it benefits me in any way. It is because I am able to see myself as part of something greater. No one should ever be too important or too busy to spare a thought for the people, animals and environment around them. This is in stark contrast to the advertising that we are exposed to every day, which seemingly fawns over us, makes us feel like royalty, and tells us that we are deserving of retail therapy every time we get by another week. The reality is that the more we buy into these messages, the more powerless we become as we needlessly spend our time and money on bad purchasing decisions rather than developing ourselves or helping others.

Given three words to describe the environmental movement, I would say that it is empowering, altruistic and forward-thinking. If not for environmental education, I would never have known how my actions could affect the skies, the ocean and other human beings, including those living halfway across the globe now and those who will come into this world decades later. Rather sadly, I also realised how absurd, selfish and wasteful society is.

I hope that anyone who reads will keep in mind the power you have in your hands. I can never stress enough how every individual matters. If we have the ability to cause climate change on a global scale, potentially start the 6th mass extinction, or even use up 2 billion plastic bags per year, then surely we can change it as well. You don’t have to jump straight away into a zero-waste lifestyle, go completely vegan, or give up all the luxuries in life. Environmentalists have often been labelled as hypocrites because we are unable to practice what we preach perfectly – we are all human and have our weaknesses, so let us all be a little more forgiving. Looking at things from a bigger picture, and just to give an example from a burning topic at the moment, it will be much better for everyone to cut down on a couple of plastic bags per week than for a minority to use absolutely zero.

Of course, there’s more to all this than just bags. There are so many things that you can do to help the environment and potentially other human beings as well. From bringing your own bottle, refusing that plastic straw, avoiding fast fashion, choosing products with sustainably produced palm oil, recycling your electronic waste, participating in a coastal clean-up, or thinking twice about an impulse purchase… the list goes on. What we can and are willing to do will be different for everyone, so it helps to reflect on what changes you can make in your daily life and read up on the issues that catch your attention (hence putting the “conscious” into eco-conscious).

With all that being said, I don’t mean to convey that we should all just stick with the preachy stuff from now on and not bother with behaviour-changing projects or initiatives that give people that extra push. After all, we are creatures of habit, values cannot be inculcated overnight and the problems the Earth faces today simply cannot wait. If you can, lend your support to some of the green groups out there who are pushing for schemes such as the plastic bag tax or are coming up with projects to increase recycling rates and reduce waste. Banding together and making our voices heard is the first step in getting our leaders to make high impact, eco-conscious decisions.

To end off, it may help to approach problems from a different perspective once in a while. The facts are out there and it’s time we started to care and take action. We are lucky to have grown up in a prosperous place, and it is almost never the case that “we have no choice”. This phrase is often used when people relinquish their power so as to abandon the responsibility it entails. Sure, the right choice may not be the easiest or cheapest one to make, but we should do it anyway for the sake of those who truly have none.

By: Ng Shu Tian (Y3 NVB)

Sustainability+ Dialogue: Is Sustainability Still Possible?

“Is sustainability still possible?” That was the question posed by the inaugural Sustainability+ dialogue, jointly organized by the Bachelor of Environmental Studies (BES) committee and Environmental Law Students Association (ELSA).

It was heartening to see participants from a diverse array of disciplines including life science, arts and social sciences, law, engineering, dentistry, environmental studies and liberal arts (Yale NUS). Indeed, sustainability is not merely a buzzword in the media; it is a concept relevant and pertinent to many different fields nowadays.

The dialogue began with an opening keynote speech by Mr Desmond Lee, Second Minister for National Development, who gave many insights into Singapore’s sustainability master plan and answered queries about sustainability in the context of Singapore from a governmental perspective. Participants were then allocated to focus group discussions covering 6 aspects of environmental sustainability: biodiversity conservation, environmental education, environment in civil society, green cities, renewable energy and the future economy.
During the engaging discussions, participants raised issues such as the circular economy and capitalism, biodiversity loss in Singapore, environmental education in an era of disruptive changes and uncertainties, transportation as a key in establishing greener cities etc. And true to the event’s theme, participants were encouraged to bring their own utensils for the networking tea in a bid to be more environmentally-friendly.

The session concluded with a panel discussion featuring panelists Dr Jenson Goh, Ms Melissa Low and Mr N. Sivasothi. Participants brought up questions ranging from environmental activism in Singapore to international environmental agreements, to which the panelists offered their personal experiences and work insights. A student, in particular, asked about how we can keep up with new environmental (or general) legislation passed in Singapore, which is definitely a useful skill for many of us. [Tip: if you would like to be kept in the loop about new laws and policies in Singapore, you can simply subscribe to the RSS feeds on the various agencies’ websites.]

The event provided a safe and friendly platform for the NUS population to share their opinions and concerns about the environment regardless of the amount of knowledge or expertise they might have. In this sense, it is comforting to know that there are many who do care for the environment. Perhaps it also highlighted that the concern of environmental sustainability should not be limited to those in environmental-related occupations and fields; it is a shared responsibility that affects each and every one of us on this planet. As a participant in the event, I am immensely grateful to the organizers from BES and ELSA, as well as the guest speakers and participants for the enjoyable session!

Written by Yu Lin (Y2 NVG)

ICCS @Chek Jawa (Sept’9)

“No water, no life. No blue, no green.” —Sylvia Earle

Oceans are the origin of lives as well as the key to sustain them, yet the most polluted area is the very ocean. The immense amount of waste being discharged or dumped in the oceans everyday threaten marine ecosystems, and push these fragile ecosystems closer and closer to extinction.  As of now, plastic pollution remain as one of the greatest threats to marine life – with over 250,000 tonnes of plastic already floating on the ocean surface, and being transported globally by circulating gyres (Eriksen et al., 2014). In Singapore, our disposal of more than 3 billion plastic bags a year (Reyes, 2013) contribute to such problems nearer to home.

Fortunately, awareness on marine pollution has increased over time, resulting in conservation efforts to recover and preserve marine ecosystems. One such effort is the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore (ICCS) that organizes frequent field trips to help keeping beaches of Singapore free from pollution. This year, we collaborated with Bedok South Secondary South on a very special ICCS project at Chek Jawa Wetland, Pulau Ubin. A total of 39 BES students and 34 Bedok South Secondary School students participated in picking up marine litter along the protected area. Within an hour, more than 400 kg of marine litter – ranging from water drums to many, many, many plastic bags – were collected. It was both relieving yet heart- sinking for everyone to see a sheer amount of trash being collected. However, the silver lining was definitely the rare chance of being able to observe inter-tidal organisms in the protected area of Chek Jawa.

Here are what some of our participants had to say about the clean-up:

Jun Yu, Year 1:

“ ICCS is an interesting experience for me. Honestly, i just signed up for fun, and why not, since this is my first time participating in such an event. Marine litter is a widespread problem and this experience just serves to highlight how we can all play a part in reducing our marine trash and keep our environment clean. Incidentally, I have written a blog post about marine trash, do check it out for more information.
And if you ever got stuck in quicksand, trust Google and lie flat on your back, and tell me if it works.”

Chee Weng, Year 3:

“ I had an awesome time during the coastal cleanup. It was a great opportunity for me to mingle with the y1 juniors and to interact with the students from bds. I was very inspired by everyone’s hard work and enthusiasm despite having to wake up early in the morning. Kudos to everybody who participated in the cleanup! It was fun and enriching, and I can’t wait for the next one already!”

Alfie Tan Shi Ying, BDS student:

The coastal clean-up trip to Chek Jawa has really been an eye-opening experience for the class. It made me realised how much we are destroying the precious Earth that we are living on. We were surprised to pick up numerous plastics existing in many forms, plastic bottles, styrofoam pieces, fishing nets that trap animals and many more on a coastal that hardly anyone could reach unless with the permission of NParks. To our amazement, we collected 50 bags full of rubbish within a short span of 1.5 hours in the morning. Through this clean-up experience, I learnt that all of us must do our part in making the Earth a better and cleaner place to live. We also felt accomplished to have been able to play a small role in restoring part of the environment as not many of us get to see the real truth of what happens to the litter we throw and this experience gave us an opportunity to realise the damage we have done to our environment. Hopefully, after this experience, more of us can continue to care for the environment.

 

Marvyn Chiaching Cruz Tan, BDS student:

Upon arrival at the coastal area at Chek Jawa, we were extremely astonished at the amount of rubbish we saw. There were lots of litter along the shore, under the trees and in the mud. We picked up rubbish such as toys, plastic bags, plastic bottles, take-away containers, glass wares, nets, styrofoams and even shoes. We even found big items like oil drums, wheel tyres and containers which could have came from the fishing or commercial boats that passed by the waters. Although we merely spent about 1.5 hour picking up rubbish along the shoreline, we managed to collect 50 bags of rubbish, even then there was still a lot of rubbish left unpicked. This VIA activity really gave many of us a whole new experience and it was a great eye-opener. Through the clean-up, we were able to display the school ICARE values that the school has placed great emphasis on. We learnt the importance of caring for the environment and the animals around us by not littering and picking up the rubbish we see. We also learnt to be accountable for the environment that we live in as every of our actions can have great impacts on the environment thereafter. At the same time, we learnt to respect the environment we live in. We enjoyed ourselves at the clean-up and it was a truly memorable experience.

Last but not least, we would like to express our immense gratitude for those who were participating in ICCS. We hope to see you in future ICCS event!

References:

Eriksen, M., Lebreton, L. C. M., Carson, H. S., Thiel, M., Moore, C. J., Borerro, J. C., Galgani, F., Ryan, P. G., & Reisser, J. (2014). Plastic Pollution in the World’s Oceans: More than 5 Trillion Plastic Pieces Weighing over 250,000 Tons Afloat at Sea. PLOS ONE, 9(12). Retrieved from http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article/file?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0111913&type=printable

Reyes, E. (2013, October 2). Singapore Uses 3 Billion Plastic Bags A Year: Study. Eco- Business. Retrieved from http://www.eco-business.com/news/singapore-uses-3-billion-plastic-bags-year-study/

Tackling the plastic bottle crisis and our wider disregard for nature. (2017, June 30). The Guardian. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/jun/30/tackling-the-plastic-bottle-crisis-and-our-wider-disregard-for-nature

 

The Rise of Ghost Forest

Once were where countless trees and other organism used to thrive, now a barren land falling into the abyss of silence except the lapping deadly saltwater. These eerie silhouettes did not appear out of thin air; they are, in fact, witnesses and victims of the increasingly rising sea level.

Since the beginning of Industrial Revolution, massive amounts of greenhouse gases have been released into the atmosphere, contributing to the rise of earth’s surface temperature (“Ocean acidification”, 2017). Scientific evidences have shown that the ocean, has absorbed more than 93% of released anthropogenic heat since the 1970s, due to the water’s high heat capacity (Reid, 2016). The absorption has driven the sea level to rise at an unprecedented rate, much faster than what scientists have previously predicted. As a matter of fact, the Pacific Ocean has been warming 15 times faster in the past 6 decades than it did for the past millennia (Vergano, 2013). Consequently, salt water has been being push further inland, inundating non- coastal forest areas and killing salt- intolerant flora.

Along the east coast of North America, salt marshes have conquered thousands of acres of land, leaving nothing but barren trunks stretching from New Jersey to as far south as Florida. Known as ghost forests, some scientists have deemed this phenomenon as “a dramatic expression of climate change” (Drouin, 2016). The prolonged exposure to water is not merely attributed to soil erosion, but also the acceleration of nutrient breakdown and leakage. More nutrient runoff could give a boost to algae bloom that exacerbates aquatic habitat as it rapidly depletes oxygen in the water, thus placing more environmental burdens on the stressed land (Kaye, 2017). Furthermore, the disappearance of healthy forests will eventually result in the collapse of the local ecosystems. “It was dry, usable land 50 years ago; now it’s marshes with dead stumps and dead trees,” said Professor Matthew Kirwan, a ghost forest researcher from Virginia Institute of Marine Science (Parry, 2017).

As harsh as it sounds, we are running out of excuses for ignoring climate change amidst the age of Anthropocene. For the sake of the environment and subsequent generations, we must start our journey on fighting against climate change. No more excuse, no more procrastination.

 

Written By: Hong Hui (Y2 NVB)

 

References:

Drouin, R. (2016, November 1). How Rising Seas Are Killing Southern U.S. Woodlands. YaleEnviroment360. Retrieved from http://e360.yale.edu/features/ghost_forest_rising_sea_levels_killing_coastal_woodlands

Kaye, L. (2017, August 3). Sea Level Rise Creating ‘Ghost Forests,’ New Wetlands Along Eastern Seaboard. TriplePundit. Retrieved from http://www.triplepundit.com/2017/08/sea-level-rise-creating-ghost-forests-along-u-s-east-coast/

Morton, S.B. (Photographer). (2017, June 16). Ghost Forest [digital image]. Retrieved from http://nationalpost.com/news/world/seas-rise-trees-die-climate-change-before-your-eyes

Ocean acidification. (2017, April 27). National Geographic. Retrieved from http://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/oceans/critical-issues-ocean-acidification/

Parry, W. (2017, August 1). The Startling ‘Ghost Forests’ of The East Coast: Climate Change before Your Eyes. National Post. Retrieved from http://nationalpost.com/news/world/seas-rise-trees-die-climate-change-before-your-eyes

Reid, P. C. (2016). Ocean Warming: Setting The Scene. In: Laffoley, D., & Baxter, J.M. (editors). (2016). Explaining ocean warming: Causes, scale, effects and consequences. Full report. Gland, Switzerland: IUCN. pp. 19. Retrieved from https://portals.iucn.org/library/sites/library/files/documents/2016-046_0.pdf

Vergano, D. (2013, November 1). Ocean Warming Faster Now Than in 10,000 Years. National Geographic. Retrieved from http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/10/131031-climate-ocean-temperatures-years/

 

SHARE AND CARE 1 (AY 17/18)

Share and Care has been a BES tradition that fuels BES students with advice and experiences from seniors for better preparation on challenges and learning opportunities. In the first session of this academic year 17/18, 7 seniors were invited to share their stories in pursuing their academics here at NUS.

The topics included BES Student Life, specializations, special modules like UROPS and many more.

We would like to express our immense gratitude for the speakers who devoted their time for Share and Care despite tight schedules, and hope that the audiences genuinely benefited through the session.

Links to Share and Care materials:
Slides:
My BES Student Life
Bio & Geog Specialisations
UROPS
JGIS Internship
Young Nautilus Internship
BES Drongos

Video:
https://tinyurl.com/yclbvh4f

P/s: missed out our Share and Care Session? Fret not, stay tuned for our next Share & Care session (and remember to bring along your friends too!). See you there!

BES day 2017

BES Day is our annual flagship event to start off the year as a BES Community. It is organised by the BES Student Committee and serves as a day to facilitate inter- and intra-batch bonding, filled with food and fun. This year, we gathered at East Coast Park for some delicious barbeque, nice scenery and an overall chill time. Of course, a BES event would have to be environmentally friendly. Hence, we maintained the tradition of not buying any plastic utensils and instead asked the student body to bring their own non-disposable cutlery and utensils. Here’s what some of our BES students thought of BES Day 2017:

Samuel Teo (Year 1):

“Missing BES camp (and everything school related) due to commitments at work was quite a demoralising way to start one’s university life. When I attended my first tutorial, everyone had already known each other but I felt like a lost sheep. When I heard about BES day, I felt it was a perfect opportunity to get to know everyone! I took the leap of faith and signed up although I had only known a handful of people then! I wasn’t disappointed when I got to ECP. I was quickly welcomed and included in the group! Everyone is so friendly and willing to talk to each other. I feel that I’m now better acquainted with my course mates and it wouldn’t have been possible without BES day!”

Li Fang (Year 4):

“BES Day is always something to look forward to every start of the new academic year. Having been part of the organising committee of last year’s event, I was glad to be able to sit back and fully enjoy this year’s.

Needless to say, the food was the highlight of the day. I cannot tell you how perfectly grilled the meat and mushrooms were unless you tasted them for yourselves, which you should be slapping yourself if you didn’t come (Yes, it’s that good). We have some pretty skilled chefs that day. You know, if they can’t find a job after graduation, they’ll definitely succeed as a satay man (Haha sorry Justin and Shao Hua).

BES Day is a great setting to catch up with friends after not seeing them for three months of the summer holidays. It is also the rare opportunity to meet people from other batches. I hope the juniors got to speak to some of the seniors and gained some insights and tips to surviving university!

Thumbs up to the 6th BES Student Comm for organising a successful BES Day!”

 

The BES Student Committee would like to thank everyone who made it, and hopes that you guys will look forward to future BES events!

 

Controversies of Solar Power: Uncovering the process of solar panel manufacturing

Solar power has never been cheaper than it is now, making it one of the most trending renewable energy sources. Production cost have even dropped to the point of being commercially competitive with the price of coal-based electricity in certain parts of the world (ABC News, 2017; Safi, 2017; Shankleman & Warren, 2017)!

However, while most people are cheering for the era of solar, there are still many harsh realities about this renewable energy that cannot be ignored – one of which is the highly toxic compound present in most solar cells. Cadmium telluride photovoltaic (also known as CdTe solar cell) is the second most common solar panel installed around the world (Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, n.d.). The CdTe solar cell has been widely accepted for its inexpensive production, quick installation and high efficiency which surpassed the capabilities of a silicon – based cell. However nothing is perfect – the two main elements making up a CdTe solar cell are highly controversial. While Cadmium can pose a serious threat to public and environmental health through leaching, Tellurium is extremely rare and would require potentially unsustainable mining techniques to acquire commercial amounts (“Cadmium toxicity”, n.d.).

Furthermore, scientists from UK’s National Oceanography Centre have recently discovered a seamount abundant in Tellurium near the coast of north – west Africa (Shukman, 2017). This discovery has left environmentalist in a dilemma: in order for solar power to thrive, the Earth would have to suffer – either in the form of land mining which could cause destruction of habitats on land, or deep sea mining where the marine life would eventually deal with the consequences of such disturbances.

What do you think? Would these environmental disturbances be worth it for the future of pursuing more sustainable energy means?

 

Written by: Hong Hui [Y2 NVB]

 

References:

ABC News. (2017, February 24). Solar power cheaper than fossil fuels in most capital cities: Climate Council. Retrieved from http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-02-23/solar-power-cheaper-than-coal-climate-council-finds/8296232

Cadmium Toxicity. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.arltma.com/Articles/CadmiumToxDoc.htm

Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy. (n.d.). Cadmium TellurideRetrieved from https://www.energy.gov/eere/sunshot/cadmium-telluride

Safi, M. (2017, May 10). Indian solar power prices hit record low, undercutting fossil fuels. The Guardian. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/may/10/indian-solar-power-prices-hit-record-low-undercutting-fossil-fuels

Shankleman, J., & Warren, H. (2017, June 16). Solar power will kill coal faster than you think. Bloomberg. Retrieved from https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-06-15/solar-power-will-kill-coal-sooner-than-you-think

Shukman, D. (2017, April 11). Renewables’ deep-sea mining conundrum. BBC News. Retrieved from http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-39347620

SHARE AND CARE 5 (AY 16/17)

What better way to end off the academic year’s Share and Care sessions than to invite our graduated seniors back home to share about their working experiences? In this final edition of Share and Care, 10 seniors from the first 2 batches of BES kindly took time off their Wednesday evening to present on what they’ve been up to since they graduated 2/ 3 years back.

The Speakers of Share & Care 5. From left to right: Jacqueline, Nicholas, Anjana, Dawn, Shuyan, Sing Yee, Sara, Samuel, Zhangxin. Not in pic: Wan Xuan.

The sense of homecoming was palpable, from the small talk between the graduates and the banter directed at their ex-classmate speakers. So was the current BES seniors’ anxiety of post-graduation life, with questions spanning from CAP to interview advice. Particularly heartening was the number of Year 1 and Year 2 students who attended the session; they easily filled up entire rows of seats in the huge lecture theatre behind the senior batches.

During the talks and Q&A sessions, countless invaluable advice was passed down, ranging from the need to remain flexible in searching for suitable jobs, conduct personal or on-the-job skills upgrading and build relationships with fellow colleagues. It certainly seems like the interdisciplinary nature of our course helps in positioning us as fast learners and having relevant skills for a diverse range of industries, but that also means that our specific experiences in various industries, from our choice of modules and internships, matter greatly in the employers’ decision to hire. And yes – doing internships during school holidays is useful – both in helping us understand more about certain issues we are passionate about, and to help us realize places that we wouldn’t necessarily return to after graduation.

Q&A Session with the graduated seniors
Pizzas and networking!

All in all, we cannot thank the graduates enough for coming back on a weekday night and staying throughout to answer our questions and network with us over pizza. We sincerely wish you all the best in your careers ahead. In the meantime, back to worrying about finals for now…

Cheers,

Publicity, 5th BES Student Comm

IN A NUTSHELL – ISSUE 7 (APRIL 2017)

In the final issue of In A Nutshell this semester, we’ll leave you pondering with more twists and turns on the climate front, while artists explore the value of continual survival of the species through films, literature and ever advancing genetic technology. Sweet.

 

Click on the image to download newsletter. All published newsletters are grouped under the category “In A Nutshell”.

 

Alternatively, click on the links below to access the news articles:

Climate 

BBC NEWS

US backtracks on multiple climate change initiatives, including curb on coal, Clean Power Plan

CHANNEL NEWSASIA

Frictions as cities edge out countries in environmental protection

EURACTIV.COM

Unclear LULUCF rules gives countries room to manoeuvre Carbon limits

 

Environmental Conservation 

FORBES

Scientists considering implications of efforts to bring back the woolly mammoth from extinction

THE GUARDIAN

Drawing wrong conclusions from conservation research coupled with media sensationalism could jeopardise conservation effort

HUFFINGTON POST

U.N. officially recognising the inter-dependency of human well-being and biodiversity

YAHOO NEWS SG

Wastewater recycling becomes a crucial solution as water crisis claims the top position of global crisis list

 

Singapore 

TODAY ONLINE

Perception of water technology successes may have obscured essential water conservation messages

THE STRAITS TIMES

Borehole soil analyses for Cross-Island Line to begin amidst continued conversations on route choices

 

Green Ideas

THE GUARDIAN

Wildlife making themselves at home in Australia’s urban cities as greening effort heightens. But can all city dwellers embrace wildlife like Australians do?

NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC

Know your green buildings! Check out what constitutes a green building and how they can improve our environment

 

Lighter Notes 

THE STRAITS TIMES

Singapore’s native smooth-coated otters spotted climbing ladders – a sign of urban adaptation?

THE CONVERSATION

To survive, or not to survive. That is the question asked (and somehow answered) by these past literature and films as space exploration continues to progress

 

Right Here Right Now

OFFICE OF ENVIRONMENTAL SUSTAINABILITY

Screening of “Before The Flood”, 6 Apr 3.30pm @ UHall Audi. Sign up here now!

 

In all seriousness, thank you very much for your support over the past acad year! Please let us know what you thought of the “In A Nutshell” series and how we can improve upon it in the future!

Love,
Publicity, BES Student Committee