Mitigating the irretrievable impact of climate change is not something to be procrastinated; not something to be wished away; not something to pretend that it is so far away that it is not going to affect us now or that we can always look at it later. It is something we have to work on with urgency. NOW!!!

And this to be done not at an individual level, but as a concerted effort by groups, corporations and government, also seeking more of preventive action than adaptive.

That was the message the youngsters who had gathered at Hong Lim Park  on a hot and hazy  Saturday afternoon , for the first ever SG Climate Rally dressed in red to show the urgency,  tried to establish. This was in solidarity with the global youth climate movement started by the Swedish teen activist Greta Thunberg.

The Rally organisers had many activities set up for the attendees. There were Board games on environmental issues, Body painting, and importantly a booth “Postcard to My MP” wherein the organisers helped to locate addresses of MPs of various localities and provided postcards to people to pen their thoughts or suggestions on environmental concerns to them. A long banner was also being diligently filled in by artistic and creative drawings and graffiti on the theme by the attendees.

What on Earth is the Climate Crisis?  Here was a space for attendees to be better informed as experts explained the various aspects that are closely interlinked and needs to be tackled. The causes and impact of global warming: melting of icebergs, floods, hunger, forced migration, depleting coral reefs, the rise of sea levels, loss of biodiversity and so on.

Ms Lad Komal Bhupendra

This Rally was spearheaded by Ms Lad Komal Bhupendra,19, student of National University of Singapore (NUS)  in Environmental Studies and her team. There were 6 speakers including her who voiced their concerns.

Ms Komal in her opening speech mentioned that bolder policies have to be made through combined forces and that is more important than individual actions. “I don’t want the generation younger to me to walk though their school life believing that we can protect the earth by merely increasing the aircon temp from 19 to 25.”

She also said, “The need to make the changes for climate change is now and we must fight for the future we deserve and cannot shy away from the climate crisis.”

Ms Ellen Wu, 17, conservationist, stressed on systemic change required. She also mentioned that concerted action by a big group will have more impact than individual action. Citing an example, to have shark fin soup removed from menus of restaurants thousand emails send to them will have more effect than individual pleas. “Unity is the greatest weapon and no one should feel guilty of merely existing,” she said.

Ms Karen Sim, 40, a professional in the sustainability industry and lifelong conservationist mentioned that we should overcome our fears of backlash and being blacklisted and speak our minds on environmental concerns. And that no country can exist in a vacuum and it is naive to think our island can survive if the ecological system around us collapses.

Prof N. Sivasothi, a senior lecturer at the NUS Department of Biological science in his speech among other things said not have a scorched-earth policy, plant buildings, and then import landscape to do some gardening. He added compensatory planting has to be done when green cover is lost to development.

The youngest speaker Oliver Chua,11, a member of the Mother Earth Toastmaster club,  stated a lot his classmates are still in that don’t know, don’t care’ or ‘I know but don’t know what to do’ phases as it is hard to comprehend the impact of droughts, floods, hunger and malnutrition in this country where necessities are in abundance. He also suggested introducing compulsory subjects into the school curriculum no different from civic education, where we learn about ethics and values, but instead, about our relationship with the environment.

The last speaker co-founder of environmental advocacy group Lepakin SG, Mr Ho Xiang Tian 23, took to directly addressing the government.

He said, “Households only contribute 6% of Singapore’s carbon emissions. Industries contribute 60%. It makes no sense to me that we are told to switch off our lights when not in use, but the lights on Jurong Island never seem to be switched off.

He asked the gathering to observe a moment of silence after which he continued that the government has been silent for far longer time.

“Singapore only takes responsibility for 0.11% of the world’s emissions, and that is always the reason cited for our lack of climate action.

But we ignore the fact that we are the world’s fifth largest refinery export hub, or that the fuel we provide to ships and planes emit almost 3 times of our own national emissions.”

He wound up his speech saying we need governments and businesses to act, and we must let them hear our voices in whatever way possible.

The Rally ended with a ‘die-in’ segment wherein the attendees were asked to face their homes based on North South East West directions and to collapse and fall in a domino effect movement. As the attendees lay quietly simulating death the organisers recounted the devastating effects of climate crisis and loss of bio diversity.

It was indeed heartening to see the huge turnout of 2000 people predominantly youngsters come together indicating they consider the theme to be relevant to them.

As the founder Komal had said in her speech this was definitely not a total defence drill as done in schools. It was as some placards brought by attendees announced; “This is A Climate Emergency’, The Climate is Changing, Why aren’t we?” (The SG Climate Rally was held at Hong Lim Park on Sat 21st September 2019, from 3pm to 6pm and was restricted to Singapore citizens and Permanent Residents)

PC: Chitra Krishnakumar