Young people ‘the best hope’ for nature conservation

Young people ‘the best hope’ for nature conservation
File photo of students attending a Love Our MacRitchie Forest walk. Photo: NUS Toddycats/Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

Young people ‘the best hope’ for nature conservation

SINGAPORE — Amid constant public pressure to build more homes and develop land in Singapore, some important things must be done to maintain green spaces and build sustainably, at a governmental and societal level.

These include youths getting involved in conservation discussions, parents taking their children to parks and teaching them about nature, and government agencies collaborating to ensure green policies are enacted, Second Minister for National Development Desmond Lee said yesterday.

“The key is to make sure that greenery and conservation are mainstream elements of land use planning in Singapore, and it has been the case since Day 1,” Mr Lee said at a talk marking the 10th anniversary of the Jane Goodall Institute Singapore (JGIS).

During a panel discussion, which also involved renowned primatologist Dr Goodall, Nature Society Singapore president Shawn Lum and JGIS vice-president Andie Ang, Mr Lee also emphasised the “critical” role of youths in going green and being “active participants in conservation”.

“We should let young adults have the chance to learn about biodiversity,” Mr Lee noted at the event held at Mediacorp’s MES Theatre. “When children are outdoors, there are tremendous opportunities for them to learn about native wildlife and extract valuable lessons.”

Dr Ang added that letting children go on nature trails and being comfortable with nature is also key to teaching them about animal conservation.

Nearly 5,000 native wildlife species exist in Singapore, and 10 per cent of land is set aside for nature reserves and green spaces such as parks.

With that in mind, the Government is “making a big push to build infrastructure not only efficiently and economically but also in a way that’s more green and sustainable”, Mr Lee said.

He further cited cases of wild animals encroaching into homes and public spaces close to green areas. In April, for example, a monkey bit a resident in the Segar Road area, which had been plagued by instances of monkey incursions.

The cluster of flats face Zhenghua Nature Park, which was recently expanded to provide a larger green space for residents and increase the green buffer for the Central Catchment Nature Reserve.

“How can we co-exist with nature? ... Public pressure to develop will always be there. The next generation needs to understand how precious our biodiversity is,” Mr Lee added.

Dr Goodall, who founded the Roots and Shoots programme, which brings together youths as young as preschoolers to university students to work on environmental projects, said in her speech that young people give her “the most hope” for conservation efforts.

Roots and Shoots now has a presence in more than 100 countries.

“It’s the most exciting time for young people who want to learn about nature today. You can study things that were said not to exist in my day, and all the time finding out new things,” she said.

Yesterday’s discussion also touched on issues ranging from ecotourism to the use of plastic bags.

Mr Lee said policy changes on plastic bags are coercive and can be done, “but everyone has to go out and advocate this kind of lifestyle (of not using plastic bags)”.