Three Reasons Why We Should Care About the Environment

Programmes team manager Thiru Gopal reminisces about growing up near nature and how we still need to continue to care about the environment in our concrete jungle.

The latest exhibition Human x Nature from the National Library foregrounds the vital role that the environment plays in our ability to survive—and thrive—as a species. While preparing for talks to accompany and publicise the exhibition, I thought about how much the environment had changed from when I was growing up. Back in the 1970s and 80s, we did not have mobile phone games to obsess over after school in the afternoons. No, it was running around with friends and neighbours’ children in the playground, or even along canals and ditches. We would play hopscotch, five-stones and marbles in the sand, and only come home when dinner was ready.

Climate Change

While life back then was an endless stream of adventures accompanied by lovely cool weather, this is a world away from what the young have to deal with nowadays. With June’s sweltering heat, it’s no wonder they are staying indoors playing computer games with the air-conditioning cranked up during the holidays! The rising temperatures are, of course, a concern, as sustained high temperatures would bring about the decline in not only the quantity but also the diversity of animal and plant species.

To address the issue of rising temperatures, we first need to accurately chart the rate of global warming in Singapore. Some of the earliest weather data was recorded by First Resident William Farquhar between 1820 and 1823. Before the Malayan Meteorological Service was set up in 1929, various individuals had already been documenting Singapore’s rainfall and temperature throughout the 19th century. Find out more from librarian Tin Seng as he investigates the history of recording weather data in BiblioAsia.

Food Security

For the first seven years of my life, I grew up in an orchard amid lush greenery. We grew vegetables such as Drumstick (pods from the Moringa tree), Indian Spinach and Indian beans as well as fruit trees such as papaya, pomegranate and soursop. It was very therapeutic to sow seeds and watch them grow into little seedlings. It was all the more satisfying when the fruits of our labour were also served as food on our dinner plates!

Nowadays, this lifestyle is no longer a viable option. Cooking for our family meals means that most of the meal’s ingredients come from a supermarket. We have become heavily reliant on food imports in land-scarce Singapore. To support Singapore’s national strategy to strengthen our food resilience and produce 30% of our nutritional needs locally by 2030, Singaporeans are now encouraged to grow some fruit or vegetables at home, in line with the Gardening with Edibles initiative.[1]

Back in September 2020, while working with librarian Kevin for his A Librarian’s World talk, we learnt about some of the strategies and technologies that Singapore uses to help face current challenges posed by the global food supply chain. We also found out more about how alternative food sources can help strengthen food security, which is vital to Singapore.

Protecting Our Resources

There is always a strong sense of pride associated with the creation of practical items. Skills such as sewing, knitting, crafting, repairing, carpentry were highly valued when I was growing up, and making something from scratch or increasing the lifespan of an item was a labour of love. These skills are perhaps not as highly valued today in our increasingly throwaway economy. However, we need to take stock and appreciate our finite resources or habitats will be lost, as landfills take over.

The Human x Nature exhibition showcases our fragile relationship with nature and the environment. We have put together a series of programmes for all ages that provides awareness that it is not too late to play our part in protecting it. You can find out more at www.go.gov.sg/hxn.

Human x Nature: Environmental Histories of Singapore is taking place right now at the National Library. Visit us at Level 10 of the National Library Building. The exhibition is open daily from 10 am to 9 pm (except public holidays).

Thiru Gopal is a manager at the National Library. She is part of the team that works on curating programmes to promote the National Library collections and exhibitions.

[1] Aqil Haziq Mahmud. (2019, March 7). Singapore aims to produce 30% of its nutritional needs by 2030, up from less than 10%. Channel News Asia; NParks. (2021, March 21). Gardening with edibles. National Parks. Retrieved 2021, July 14.

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This is the blog of the National Library, Singapore. We post about stories and fun facts from our shelves.

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