29 July 2008

The Inter-Ministerial Committee on Sustainable Development that was set up in February this year is asking for feedback on how Singapore can continue to be "lively, liveable and sustainable." I urge you to give your feedback to them here:


Here's my feedback to them:

Dear Singapore Government,

if you want a permanent long term solution to a sustainable Singapore, please consider the works of ecological economists such as Herman Daly, Brian Czech, and Robert Costanza. Please re-examine the questionable notions that relentless economic and population growth are always essential and favourable to our well-being.

According to some peak oil experts, we have probably reached the peak in global oil production. World net oil exports and production have plateaued since 2005 and according to some estimates will decline sharply from 2012. Peak oil imposes limits to growth.


I suggest the following:

1. Negative population growth. Please understand that our carrying capacity is limited by food availability. If global oil production declines from 2012 and natural gas after 2020, so will global food production. Considering that we import 90% of our food sources, what will we eat then? We can either choose to reduce our numbers in orderly fashion, or Nature will deal with it unsympathetically.


2. Intensify efforts to develop solar energy even if they are not currently economically feasible because it will be too late to mitigate the severe consequences if we wait for market price signals. The Hirsch Report states that we need a crash program at least 20 years before the peak to transition smoothly.


3. Implement sustainable organic urban farming by learning from the Cubans who successfully overcame their artificial peak oil crisis in the early 1990s after the collapse of the former Soviet Union.


4. A Steady State Economy: "An economy viewed as a subsystem in dynamic equilibrium with the parent ecosystem / biosphere that sustains it. Quantitative growth is replaced with qualitative development or improvement as the basic goal."

Herman Daly:

'Sustainable development' therefore makes sense for the economy, but only if it is understood as 'development without growth'—i.e., qualitative improvement of a physical economic base that is maintained in a steady state by a throughput of matter-energy that is within the regenerative and assimilative capacities of the ecosystem. Currently the term 'sustainable development' is used as a synonym for the oxymoronic 'sustainable growth.' It must be saved from this perdition.

5. Segregated cycle facilities or bicycle lanes on the roads. Petrol prices and car ownership will become prohibitively expensive in the coming years and getting around on a bicycle is one way to beat the transportation blues besides having to squeeze into our already packed buses and trains during rush hour. It's also a good way to keep fit and to reduce air pollution.


6. Adopt the Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI) as a metric of progress and well-being. The GDP as the public policy think tank, Redefining Progress, puts it:
[GDP] is merely a gross tally of products and services bought and sold, with no distinctions between transactions that add to well-being, and those that diminish it. Instead of separating costs from benefits, and productive activities from destructive ones, the GDP assumes that every monetary transaction adds to well-being, by definition
The GPI takes into account more than twenty aspects of our economic lives that the GDP ignores. It includes estimates of the economic contribution of numerous social and environmental factors which the GDP dismisses with an implicit and arbitrary value of zero. It also differentiates between economic transactions that add to well-being and those which diminish it. The GPI then integrates these factors into a composite measure so that the benefits of economic activity can be weighed against the costs.

The GPI is intended to provide citizens and policy-makers with a more accurate barometer of the overall health of the economy, and of how our national condition is changing over time.

A truly sustainable Singapore calls for a paradigm shift in our position towards growth. If we don't carry out the necessary steps as suggested above by some scientists and ecological economists, the outcome of our present policies in the years ahead will be calamitous for us as a nation. Stop thinking economically only and start thinking ecologically too.


Anonymous said...

Yeah, the efforts at 'promoting' cycling in Singapore are a joke. They basically amount to telling pedestrians to suck it up and tolerate cyclists encroaching on their space. Because cars are still sacred in Singapore and the mere mention of using some existing road space for bike paths horrifies most people. Even people who don't own cars somehow think that road space 'should' be for cars, that's how far our car worship has gone.

I will be submitting my case for bike lanes separate from pedestrian paths to that website, but I fear that we are lonely voices in a sea of car worshippers.