Let Kids Go Out

Last week in lecture, we covered the social dimensions of urban ecology. I think what stood out for me the most in class was the results of the survey that we and our parents did. I couldn’t help but feel a deep pang of sadness in the great change in time spent outdoors and the activities we engaged in in our leisure compared to what our parents did in their time.

I have reposted two of the graphs shown in class below:


In class, we have talked about the social attitudes that may have caused this change, such as increased emphasis on studying. However, I would like to discuss how the changes in physical environment also contribute to the results above.

It is clear that there has been a shift from play being in more open spaces (neighbourhood, nature area) to one that is in specially demarcated zones (playground, homes) from our parents’ generation to ours. In addition, there is a change in favourite pastime from more active activities (playing outside, sports, nature activities) to more sedentary ones (games, TV, reading). These two changes may reflect a changing Singaporean landscape. For one, it seems that places are being more compartmentalized and more borders are being drawn and purposes assigned to them. For example, in the past, open areas like void decks and fields can be used for sports, games like block catching, and nature exploration (catching insects). Currently, there are stricter rules enforced which prevent children and youths from playing ball under blocks (even to the extent of erecting metal barriers to discourage such behaviour, which to me, really borders on being ridiculous), and also on state land.


Boundaries are also more clearly defined and fewer open spaces are available now that Singapore has become more built up. Also, growth of vehicle numbers and greater proliferation of roads may have contributed to the perception of increased danger from traffic (which was one of the most frequently cited examples for needing supervised play). In addition, the surge in media penetration in terms of televisions and computers the increases the propagation of the mean world syndrome, where constant bombardment of violent content makes viewers think that the world is actually more violent and scary than it actually is. The greater perceived danger of the outside world may also account for the higher proportion of students preferring indoor activities, as they may have grown up in an environment that discourages outdoor play.

I would like to conclude with a video which I came across on Facebook, which was actually what compelled me to pen this blog post.

It highlights the dire situation of children spending less time outdoors than prisoners. This attention-grabbing title of the article from which I found this video sent a strong message and made me reflect on how serious this phenomenon is. I would encourage everyone to take some time to read the article. Perhaps it is time for us to reflect on how we as future parents can reverse this worrying trend.

Underwater Sculptures

In last week’s tutorial, Dr Todd shared with us the impacts of coastal urbanization on biodiversity. More importantly, he made us think about the types of mitigation and rehabilitation strategies we could adopt to enhance biodiversity of sea walls. This is especially relevant to conservation, given that coastal defences are likely to grow in the future, due to increasing urbanization and rising sea-levels. In this post, however, I would like to talk about the importance of scientific communication in aiding conservation efforts.

Over the weekend, I chanced upon a video that reminded me of the class activity I am sure we had all enjoyed (making our own tiles for sea walls!):

Underwater Sculptures Are Helping Rebuild Our Ocean’s Coral ReefsUnderwater artwork is helping rebuild our ocean’s coral reefs.

Posted by The Huffington Post on Wednesday, February 17, 2016

The video showed how a sculptor, Jason deCaires Taylor, made artworks from marine cement with a neutral surface pH and submerged them to form artificial reefs in the ocean. More than being just underwater art installations, these sculptures have allowed the growth of coralline algae on their surface, providing new opportunities and habitats for colonization and regeneration of reef ecosystems. In addition, these breathtaking artificial reefs, located in the off the shores of Mexico and the Caribbean, have diverted attention away from natural reefs that are threatened, allowing them to regenerate.

I thought it was a brilliant example of an innovative human intervention in marine conservation, and its positive impacts on the environment is heartening. Although I am not sure if the level of colonization on these sculptures is comparable to other restoration projects, Taylor’s projects have the potential to allow people to appreciate and connect with nature on a deeper level. Using art as a medium to raise awareness about the plight of the world’s coral reefs makes it more accessible to wider audiences, and highlights the beauty of nature. Such a form of scientific communication, that which frames human interventions as a source of hope, rather than a harbinger of doom, may compel more people to have greater concern for the environment.


Tying it back to what we have learnt in the tutorial, these sculptures have surfaces that are structurally complex, with various nooks and crannies. These surfaces may serve as a good anchor and provide microhabitats for algal and coral growth. In addition, the nature of marine cement allows it to resist currents and the cumulative slowing of currents by these sculptures, which can number up to 400 in a single location, may also contribute to a more stable low energy environment conducive for reef growth. Hence, it is interesting to note how these sculptures, while aesthetically pleasing, also fulfil certain rehabilitative requirements.


Perhaps it is time for us to view conservation in different lenses, expand our horizons, and seek innovative solutions to our environmental problems.

You can find out more about Taylor’s work through his website.