This is a dispatch from Singapore’s climate future. Except it’s not our climate future, not yet — but it could be.
15 February 2019 is less than a year away. That’s the date this dispatch comes from, and the date that marks our nation’s commitment to total defence. In this work, we’ve framed climate change as a whole-of-country transformation that demands a rethinking of defence, the economy, society and so much more. That’s because all the ‘ambitious’ visions of a green Singaporean future we have today — our sustainability blueprints, our commitments at international negotiations, our transformation roadmaps — fall far, far short of what we think the scale and urgency of our present crisis demands.
Almost everything you read in this newspaper could actually occur. We really could live in a country that recognises the urgency of climate change, that walks the talk on sustainability, and that cares about climate justice. We really could live in a world where companies design products to last instead of becoming obsolete in six months, where concerts are zero-waste, and where literal tons of perfectly edible food don’t go to waste every year.
None of these are radical ideas. What is radical is our status quo – an unsustainable society that is far out of line with what an ecologically finite planet can support. What is really radical is thinking that “this is how the world works” means nothing can ever change.
It’s not your fault. You didn’t decide to put products sourced from unsustainable, haze-causing palm oil on our supermarket shelves. You didn’t sign a contract with the world’s biggest oil companies to turn Singapore into a nerve centre for one of the most corrupt, polluting and unethical industries in our world today.
But it is our fault. Collectively, we’ve failed to use our power as citizens to make change. We’ve convinced ourselves that our wallets, not our voices, are the keys to a sustainable future. That’s not enough.
Meaningful change happens when people come together to change systems and hold the institutions that make up those systems accountable. Cities and communities around the world are making similar changes and having success. Singapore should be doing the same.
In Singapore, we often pride ourselves on being leaders. We lead the world in many things, yes — but taking effective action against climate change is not among them. Luxurious airports, millionaires per capita and internet speed count for little next to the immiseration and suffering climate change will visit on the most vulnerable people in our country and in Southeast Asia.
But we can be leaders. We’re blessed with so many of the tools we need to act on climate — the resources, know-how and skills we possess could transform our economy, society and culture in service of sustainability and justice. We really could do it. There really is hope — and that’s exactly what the Semoga Times represents.
Imagine if we stopped telling ourselves “this is how the world works” and started asking “what if things could be different?”
Imagination is a vital exercise. Without it, “this is how the world works” becomes one of the most powerful prisons there is. We have to imagine. Climate change requires us to.