By Tag Wan Yi (15S03N), Liu Hong Zhan (15S03O), Shayna Toh (15A01D), Chua Siwei (15S03E), and Yu Xinkai (15S03U)
Additional reporting by Justin Lim (16A01B)
An air of finality marks this year’s Ecoweek. For some, Ecoweek’s the first campaign targeted at the environmental issues that plague our planet amidst all the other worthy causes advocated for in the school; but for Community Advocates’ Glassark, this year’s Ecoweek marks the closure of the the very interest group that had organized this annual affair. Rather than to exist as a singular body to advocate for environmental change, Glassark’s aims will now be a batch-effort. This organisational change could, on a symbolic level, represent a shared burden across all citizens of the planet. But to members of the Glassark, this marks an unfortunate end to a brilliant annual initiative that encapsulated an undying advocacy for environmental change.
Before it effectively disbands in 2016, Glassark was one of CA’s four main student interest groups that aimed to each raise awareness for specific issues. The group has aimed to bring relevance and attention to environmental issues ranging from global warming to the energy crisis – issues that were often neglected in favour of more prominent social issues such as immigration or poverty.
But just as how the Earth is important to us as a home, it is important to raise awareness of the misdeeds to her environment. While this year’s Ecoweek aims to shed greater light on the issue of wildlife conservation– a shift in focus from last year’s advocacy for the recycling of scrap materials– Glassark’s members share with Press that this in no way means that environmental conservation should stop: that we ought to do away with our “backyard syndrome” and begin to acknowledge the fact that the entirety of Planet Earth is our “backyard”.
Whether be it through the conservation of wildlife, or through recycling or energy saving, Glassark sends an important message to us: That the fight against environmental issues never stops, and that it is still on our onus to protect and conserve our planet’s resources.
Ecoweek’15: The What and the Why
Ever heard of sharks having their fins brutally sliced off, only to be thrown back into the ocean for an imminent death? What about snakes and crocodiles bred in captivity to be skinned for the most expensive of purses? Or even the brutal extraction of ivory from the tusks of elephants?
Illegal wildlife trade is one of the main threats causing animal extinction, among other factors such as pollution and climate change. Up to 73 percent of the world’s flora and fauna has been lost. This is not a distant worry found far in the Kenyan forests, or some threat only levelled on the Amazon: wildlife trafficking is a pressing and pertinent issue right in our backyard. Singapore ranks among the world’s top 10 illegal wildlife smuggling hubs, due to, quite ironically, its clean reputation as an efficient port. Our excellent and efficient transportation network has been exploited by criminal organisations to smuggle endangered wildlife species and by-products to fuel the growing appetite for such products in the region. The Southeast Asian region alone is set to lose a fifth of its species by the next century. That’s one in 5 species that our children’s children will never get to see.
Wildlife trafficking has been a widespread and ongoing issue in Southeast Asia. Two weeks ago, more than 24 critically endangered Yellow-crested cockatoos were rescued by police at the Port of tanjung Perak in Surabaya, Indonesia, after being found stuffed in water bottles for illegal trade.
“Illegal ivory estimated at $8 million,” reported the Straits Times’ on 19th May, just a mere two days ago. The shipment, which consists of about 3.7 tonnes of illegal ivory, is the second largest seizure of illegal ivory since 2002, the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) and Singapore Customs said in a joint press release on Tuesday.
Despite governmental crackdowns, wildlife trafficking proves to be an enduring profitable enterprise – and you know how it goes. If it makes money, go for it. At least 10,000 species in the wild go extinct each year and we fear more.
Where does Ecoweek come in?
That being said, this year’s Ecoweek aims to raise awareness for the global threat to wildlife, and highlight the importance of wildlife conservation. Wildlife trafficking activities have increased in scale, severity, and pervasiveness in the recent years, and the school population ought to understand the urgency of this issue.
Posters by the World Wide Fund for Nature have been put up around school: ones which we believe have encapsulated the danger and threat of wildlife trafficking with both clarity and poignancy. In addition to that, our booth in the canteen walkway explains the current situation and its implications, as well as how you can play a part to stop the illegal and unsustainable wildlife trade.
While we may not have participated directly in the killings of these endangered wildlife animals, nor do we have the capacity to resolve this issue entirely. But, we, as consumers, continue to be the root cause of this issue – we drive the demand for such products. And all it requires of us to take that first step in making the right choices and spreading the message. We hope that with Ecoweek 2015, we can spark an active conversation regarding wildlife conservation and inspire others to join in the movement with us because it’s a matter of: Cherish, or Perish.