The Great Singapore Haze
If you have friends or loved ones living in Singapore or Malaysia you may have noticed a fair bit of bitching going on about the “haze” these past few days. We’ve had two bad days, and while it’s “better” today, yesterday it got worse, and worse and worse – as you’ll see in the photo montage. Apparently the PSI hit 152 last night, the worst since 1997 when it peaked at 226. If you ask me what PSI is, you can educate yourself at this link, but my definition is it’s really smoky and it’s making my head ache, my eyes water and my teeth go fury - nice.
A View of Marina Bay Sands from my office – the first picture is a beautiful clear day. The second picture is yesterday morning. The last picture yesterday afternoon. It got a lot worse last night…
If I was deciding on a measurement criteria, I’d say it’s reached significantly unpleasant proportions and I’m sure asthmatics have been struggling for their lives these past two days. Interestingly, two friends – one from China and one from India – said what, this is actually a pretty good day at this time of year by my standards… context.
My first haze experience in Singapore was in the 90s. It was my first trip through the Lion City and the orb – otherwise known as the sun – was straining through the smoky clouds. It wasn’t pleasant. I figured Singapore was always like that, so was rather pleased to discover it wasn’t the case.
I’ve had a decade of haze experience since, and the only time it really bothered me was in 2006 when it hit days before Lex was due to be born. It was a rather unsettling experience for this new mumma about to bring a brand new life into the world! Obviously all was good in the end, or maybe it wasn’t, and that’s why he’s such a frantic bloody shit today? Who knows.
So why does the haze happen? In the state of Sumatra in Indonesia and Kalimantan (check your world maps) they burn forests to clear the land. Many of these fires are illegal and done with absolutely no regard for nature or wild life. Next time you see an Orangutan at the zoo and read about the fact they are endangered, this is a big part of it – grrrrrr. Here’s a slightly more academic point of view and here’s a well-researched perspective. If you’re interested, the next time you eat fish & chips, or wash your hair, or your dishes, or lots of other necessary tasks, you can thank the dudes for starting these fires as it’s all for palm oil production – that’s why the beautiful forests are cleared. As a gentle suggestion, perhaps try not to buy products that contain palm oil, then again, entire communities rely on this income… what to do?
The reality is the problem is almost uncontrollable. It happens on a massive scale, in remote areas, there is a lot of corruption, poor communities rely on the money coming from the output, these areas are run by cowboys, and there has been no international will to create another way of living for these communities, as such, the rest of the world just sits back and ignores what is going on. I find it all a bit depressing to be honest because, bit by bit, the world is dying. Well maybe not. The world will come back into its glory once we poison it enough to kill humankind, so nature will be the ultimate winner in the end, right? We are stupid.
People living in the areas impacted by the haze have VERY strong opinions on this topic – some more than others. Social media commentary has varied from the outraged all the way through to my mate Eugene (a very funny man) suggesting the Indonesians have decided to help out with the dengue epidemic by fogging the whole island. He gave me a giggle. What’s fogging I hear you ask? Yeah I didn’t know either before I lived here - but fogging is the mass eradication of mosquitoes, a feature of life in Singapore. When visiting, check look for the smoky clouds of insecticide juice engulfing apartment complexes. It seems to do the trick.
In the meantime Indonesia – PLEASE PLEASE stop this habitat and wild life destruction, I beg you, I’m on my knees… and I don’t get on my knees very often. But you’re not going to read this, so while I wait for that ship to sail, I’ll stay on my knees and hope for a decent rainfall to wash it all away.
Yours, without the bollocks