I’m often asked what got me into the environmental field and what keeps me going. The TLDR version is that the climate crisis scares the everliving daylights out of me and most of my life has revolved around finding ways to manage this anxiety and find ways for life on this spinning rock that we all share. I have often felt inadequately equipped for the future and many of my pursuits revolve around picking up skills that may be useful as we careen towards the end of Life-As-Our-Grandparents-Experienced-It. As a boy scout, I took to heart Baden Powell’s instruction to “Try and leave this world a little better than you found it” and I hold on to the hope that this is still possible.
When asked to identify a beginning to my climate journey, I often share about scuba diving in the Gili Islands in Indonesia. I fell in love with marine life and had my heart broken by coral bleaching and the remnants of dynamite fishing. I wondered if photos and stories could inspire action to protect the reefs, and this belief kickstarted my brief photojournalism career. The summit of this short-lived dream was working as a camera assistant on an award-winning wildlife documentary that was narrated by David Attenborough. I also freelanced (briefly) for a local newspaper and made several short documentary videos before deciding that my path lay in other fields.
My love for the oceans pushed me to complete an Environmental Studies degree at Yale-NUS College with a specialization in marine ecology. I served as the president of the college’s marine conservation society for a year and, among other outputs, created a short video urging Singaporeans not to consume sharks’ fin during Chinese New Year. On a more academic note, I contributed to a paper on coral carbonate budgets in Singapore and completed my thesis by analyzing 2,500km of Southeast Asian coastal satellite imagery to find explanatory variables for coastal urbanization.
As I journeyed through college, I came to appreciate that the climate crisis will impact just about every facet of our lives and oceans only form the tip of the iceberg. With growing awareness of the climate impacts on justice, food security, and human health, I started to explore strategies to combat the heart of the crisis. I co-founded a divestment movement with a team of friends and we advocated for the National University of Singapore to divest its endowment from fossil fuel companies. Our campaign included petitions, op-eds, and meetings with the Investment Office. I have had less contact with the movement since graduation, but I am told that they have swelled in number and continue the important work.
At a national level, I co-organized the inaugural SG Climate Rally which was held in September 2019 to call on the Singapore government to take stronger climate action. My contributions included fielding interviews with the national press and coaching the speakers for the Rally. I have since stepped back from the team and I like to think that some of the climate policy changes we are seeing now were seeded in those frantic months.
My professional life has also involved exploring solutions to the climate crisis and I enjoy working at the intersection of NGOs and companies to find ways to create meaningful impact. I interned for a year at Mighty Earth and supported their work tracking deforestation linked to the palm oil industry. I currently work at the Global Platform for Sustainable Natural Rubber (GPSNR), facilitating the development of sustainable practices for the natural rubber industry.
There are a few elements that do not fit neatly into the narrative that I would like to highlight as well. Supporting mental health among environmental activists is a topic that is very close to my heart and I have spoken openly about the issue (1,2). To support my fellow organizers, I have held half- and full-day mindfulness workshops in the tradition of the Work That Reconnects. I blend in spirituality elements from the Plum Village tradition because I believe that faith and spirituality can provide firm foundations as we contemplate the crises before us. If this sounds exciting to you or if you think it would be supportive for your friends and co-organizers, do reach out as I am happy to facilitate these pro-bono. Mindfulness / spirituality can draw us together while reducing burnout, and we will need all the support we can get as things start to go off the rails.
Midway through my university career, I started watching a popular ice hockey vlogger (Steve Dangle, for those in the know) and I spent some months trying to adapt the concept for climate issues in Singapore. The effort produced … mixed results, but I leave the videos up on YouTube and Instagram for folks to chuckle at.
I have also contributed a chapter to the environmental anthology Eating Chili Crab in the Anthropocene. In my chapter, I study Singapore’s fossil fuel history and how we can alter our oily trajectory. 12 other fantastic writers shared their thoughts on all things related to the environment in Singapore and I would recommend it to those who enjoy reading.
I’m always keen to explore collaborations on climate issues and if you have any in mind, feel free to reach out! Till our paths cross again, please take care and be kind!
Last updated: 25 July 2021