Saturday, April 19, 2008

Removing Snaring Nets and Mind Traps

Pulau Hantu, 19 April 2008

Evening descended upon us fast, and as the ferry cast off from its berth, the sky painted the hues of a finished day behind Pulau Hantu.

I was quite 'finished' too for the day; exhausted by the weight of the abandoned net I have come to remove at the central lagoon. But my son's presence make up for any hardship I might have felt. I felt really happy he was by my side and learning by my own example what it would take to care for our natural world. He rewarded me with this magnificent shot above. I must say he has an edge - 'the eye' - to capture it the way he did. A spirit-catcher he would be, I thought, smiling to myself when he showed it off to me. Can a father not be happier? : )

Thanks to my newfound friends - Faizal, Faizul, Yanti, Sarah, Diyana, Nas, Famy, Shahidah and Izean - I got the job done.

I must have had the look of a contented sailor relishing thoughts of a hotmeal and a nice cosy bed waiting for me to dive into dreamland...

and leave all my weariness behind in Hantu?

Well, no; not by any good measure. I woke up from a deep slumber at 6am the next day profoundly haunted by an incoming email concerning the Straits Times report (by Tania Tan) about IYOR 08 and realized just how much more hard work lay ahead of me and it cannot wait. A report with serious omission of facts must be challenged. People cannot be left mis-informed.

And so I wrote... till day break. The result: a rebuttal (below). It immediately became apparent, as I finally put pen to rest, that there are worse snaring nets to be cleared than those from the sea, and that is - the mind traps. This is systematically more damaging to any conscientious efforts for nature conservation in effect. There is so much more to be done, isn't it, my friends? Sigh : (


This report has serious errors by omission.

Firstly, Mr Lee may be reported as 'overseeing' Singapore's participation in the IYOR 2008 campaign, but really, he should not be interpreted as having an authority over the activities being organized to celebrate the reefs this year. These activities are being created and sustained independently by self-motivated individuals. I am one of them. Mr Lee does not figure at all in my plans for IYOR.

Secondly, the report has unfairly put all IYOR participants under the same umbrella as a people supporting the idea of 'coral relocation'. I, for one, do not support coral relocation at all. In the same vein, I would rather words be used to the effect of 'maintaining Singapore as a coral paradise' than 'turning Singapore into a coral paradise.' The word 'turning' is dangerously manipulative here.

Save corals reefs we must but not the way it has been suggested. Readers should not be led to think this is the true nature of conservation, neither should they believe that the voice of conservation belongs to only a selected few. The true picture is - in Singapore today - hundreds of ordinary Singaporeans are rallying nature conservation on their own right. The nerve of conservation, in effect, has been de-centralized. The report appears to me as having pirated that folk ownership somewhat.

So, read reports in our main media if you may but be wary of selective truths - even when someone seemingly knowing (a scientist or a bureaucrat) speaks, be mindful that something may be missing in translation. The best bet is for you to get involved and and get to know the hundreds of humble people working the ground in Singapore. You can be one of them too.
April 20, 2008 8:40 AM

1 comment:

Jeffrey said...

Thanks Joe, for your wonderful work clearing the net at Pulau Hantu. I wholeheartedly agree with you that conservation is not about one-man-leading-the-charge, but requires a group effort, or in some cases, many voices raising amongst the silence. Newspaper reports aside, how about participating in the IYOR08Singapore effort and voicing your ideas within that forum, too?

IYOR08Singapore is an attempt to pool ideas and resources, not to detract from the work done by individuals or organisations, but to better promote them. While the concept is not new, it is the first time this is being tried, and every individual voice is encouraged to participate.

Cheers, Jeff