Friday, March 22, 2013

On global networks and solving problems

Global Issues Network.
Such a meaningful title for a club that is passionate about solving the issues that affect everyone. Poverty, lack of education, digital divides, global warming, natural disasters – you name the issue, and I assure you – GIN members worldwide are making an effort to raise awareness and funds to make a difference in the world.

I’m the new communications director of our club, so I have insight to the different activities, fundraisers, and awareness campaigns that are planned. We have an action committee and a planning committee that each break off into their own subsections and meet every Thursday at 9:30 am. One of the big first steps we are taking is organizing a guest speaker series; Mr. Jack Sim, founder of the World Toilet Organization, has the honor of initiating this exciting venture. He’s probably one of the few people in the world that passionately take global action to improve sanitation; he is based in Singapore and we’re extremely excited to have him talk to our school on April 5th.

In the action committee, we have groups that are dedicated to helping the disabled and neglected and even one that is attempting to make restaurants in Singapore more eco-friendly. One of the newer committees is the environment one, in conjunction with 350 is a global grassroots movement that attempts to unite people worldwide in getting carbon dioxide levels back  to the health 350 parts per million. It’s a unique, truly global venture as 181 countries have pledged allegiance to  I was shocked to not find Singapore on the map of committed world citizens. SAS is now proud to announce the first 350 chapter in Singapore. I really hope 350 continues to grow, working with the environmental club  at our school (SAVE), as we all walk on the receding path to a more sustainable future.

I recently wrote an article for the Singapore American newspaper on 350: . Click on  the March edition and on page 9 is my article.
Here’s an excerpt:
Extreme weather. Dying species. Rising water levels. Acidic oceans. Choking city air. Take a look at the headlines that have made news in 2012 and this first month of 2013. What do these mean? Why is it so important that we look at these short phrases that summarize the world’s ecological and environmental state right now and feel a sense of dread? The answer is simple. The world needs our help and we need to respond soon. There are so many places to start. You can take a stab at saving the endangered arctic fox or simply monitor the length of time you leave your lights on. No action is insignificant. Whether good or bad, every step you make in this world does leave an impact.  Students sometimes wonder how we can do our part and whether it will meaningfully and positively affect this small part of the world. But with organized networks that extend their hands to passionate people worldwide, like the Global Issues Network (GIN) and, we can find the support we need to share ideas and make a difference in this world.

Another quick reminder: Earth hour. Do your part at 8:30 pm tonight. Visit for more information on how you can help.

Happy weekend  to my fellow environmental enthusiasts!

Friday, March 1, 2013

An environmental service trip

It’s been a while since I’ve posted. The simple motion of going to school early in the morning can become such a vortex of much needed concentration that often I don’t even think about anything other than the continuous stream of homework and tests that pile up. But the perpetual cycle of school does not change the true facts: the environment still needs saving! I hope I’ll be able to post more regularly from now on.

I have a couple of things I want to cover over the next couple of days, so here is the first topic!

Interim Semester – Summit to Sea Service in Bali

Our school, SAS, has a week in February that is dedicated to out of classroom learning. Each high school student selects a trip they feel suits their interests and I chose a service trip to Bali. With our sponsors, Ms. Began and Mr. Crawford and the group Ecofieldtrips, we did a variety of activities that helped give back to the South East Asian community. We toured Eco Bali’s spice and vegetable gardens, filled with bamboo and other verdant plant life. We also walked through the cool caves that once served as irrigation tunnels for the rice paddies. We hiked up Mt. Batur, the most active volcano in Bali in time for the sun rise and experienced the wonders of Ubud’s monkey forest.

Bamboo in Bali 
The heart of the trip, however, lies in the work we did on Nusa Penida Island and on Side-by-Side Organic Farm. Nusa Penida is a relatively uninhabited, small island that captures the bucolic charm that portrays Asia before the industrial boom of the late 1980s. The island is home to a center of the Friends of the National Park Foundation, where we stayed in tents for several days and nights. The foundation focuses on the rehabilitation and reintroduction of the endangered Bali Starling, a beautiful bird endemic to the islands of Bali. We went on early treks along the paved  roads lined by wild vegetation in the pouring rain to spot these birds and learn about traditional Balinese culture. Over two days, we planted approximately 250 palm trees along the roads of Nusa Penida, went snorkeling to see the vibrant and undamaged coral reefs, helped manage the nursery and had a camp bonfire on the beach. It was a phenomenal experience; we grew aware of our plastic and electricity usage and especially appreciated the open, unpolluted skies.

The last two days of the trip were spent at an organic farm called “Side-by-Side.” The farm tries to mitigate the harsh consequences of using pesticides and herbicides, such as the eutrophication of lakes, by using natural fertilizers such as compost; run by an American woman named Pamela Tibbs, Side-by-Side includes local farmers in its quests to making farming a more sustainable practice. The intense manual labor included weeding the plots of land, creating beds for the vegetables, helping with building a green house, and assist in the process of making liquid compost. Although the work was overwhelming at first, with our fingers fatigued from holding the tools so tightly and our faces muddy as dirt mixed with mud in the humid Bali climate, I really enjoyed the gardening. Knowing that our efforts would be put to good use, one which was cognizant of the sometimes harmful impacts of farming on the environment was enthralling. I hope someday I will go back and show my family what we worked on and see how far it has come along; I also now want to encourage people to go for the organic products. While a tomato grown on a farm like Side-by-Side may not be as shiny and plump as that grown on an herbicide, chemical fertilizer, and pesticide using farm, the organically grown tomato is healthier for you and the planet.

Going into the grocery store may seem like a nonchalant, quotidian action but what all of us need to realize is that the purchasing of the locally grown, organic tomato actually supports a wider network of people trying to make a difference in the world.

Think green, no matter where you are!

What to look forward to next:
Global Issues Network and – are you doing the simple actions that matter?