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Friday, January 05, 2007

Singapore: Turning the Tide

There's something about Singapore that makes me smile - in spite of the workaholic days, the tremendous expense of almost everything (not including the food or the cinema tickets thank goodness), and the perpetually steamy sub-tropical temperatures. And that something - is the wilderness - and yes, it is still here.

Because you see, in spite of the citystate's well-founded reputation for urban development, manic industriousness and land reclamation on a nation-building scale - there are little gems of forest and mangrove and coral reef that persevere in the nooks and crannies that the bulldozers (to date) have overlooked.

Upon arriving on Singapore's shores six years ago, I was (and continue to be) amazed by the sheer diversity of plants and animals that live and grow within this maze of concrete and steel. As a person born in the lush highlands of Sri Lanka and raised within walking distance of southern England's softwood forests, it has always been important for me to be able to escape 'back to the wild' from time to time. Of course I was pensive when moving here, and so were many who knew me and my frequent need to step out of the rat race.

And yet, as unlikely as it seemed back then, Singapore did indeed offer me that chance to escape. Because in an area of land ten thousand times
smaller than North America, there is tropical rainforest, freshwater swamp, rambling mangrove, a scattering of secret rocky shores and reefs. And looking after these gems are a committed group of individuals who are rightly gems themselves - just visit some of the links on the right sidebar to meet a few of them, and through them, many others.

Although I am not even half as physically proactive as I should be, these green warriors are out there pre-dawn, morning, noon and night, documenting what's still roaming around in the urban jungles and along the city coastlines - and I feel very fortunate to know them.

So, by way of welcoming in the New Year, I announce one of my resolutions - to highlight the work and subjects of these dedicated few - on film; so here's hoping that the TV Gods smile on me in '07!

Even as I write, plans are underway to develop Singapore's precious southern islands into exclusive resorts, and these offshore islands are the very thing that makes Singapore's resilient marine life so unique!!! Its baffling - they should be an asset instead of something to sweep under a carpet of imported sand and manicured lawns!

Fortunately the nation's naturalists are not keeping quiet about it...

From the infectious enthusiasm of Ria Tan, to the meticulous observations of Joseph Lai and the Bird Ecology Study Group, to the colourful aquatic discoveries of Debby Ng and the Pulau Hantu divers, and of course scientific and practical guidance and constant shoulders to lean on from Siva and Subaraj. And many many more, who I still haven't got round to yet.

It may be a small island, but its got a great big green beating heart.

Happy '07 to all of you.