SINGAPORE — Singapore’s Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources is going beyond just monitoring the haze, by taking action against those responsible for the fires, said Minister for the Environment and Water Resources, Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, in an interview with Channel NewsAsia. His ministry plans to get tough on transboundary haze by taking to task, companies which contribute to the haze. Planned measures include the tabling of an Act to hold directors of such companies accountable for the damage caused and the health impact on millions of people in the region. “Early next year, I’ll be going to Parliament to introduce a new Act specifically targeting trans-boundary haze,” said Dr Balakrishnan. “We will make it a criminal offence. We will hold the companies as well as directors liable for the damage they cause to us, as well as the deleterious health impact on our population. We’re about to finalise the drafting, I will present it to the public. We will take the views of the public, adjust it if necessary. I hope to pass this bill sometime within the first half of next year. “Again, the intention is to send a signal to companies. We are going to hold them accountable and we know who is responsible for causing these problems to literally millions of Singaporeans and Indonesians.” Dr Balakrishnan said his ministry will also collaborate with non-government organisations to highlight the problem within the local and international sphere. He said the key objective is to ultimately create an awareness among consumers of palm oil, to understand which companies are producing palm oil sustainably and responsibly, and which ones are doing so through indiscriminate burning. Dr Balakrishnan also touched on the topic of the rising number of dengue cases, which has exceeded 22,000 cases by yesterday (Dec 27), with seven reported deaths. Dr Balakrishnan said the NEA inspects about 100 construction sites a week, and finds breeding occurring in between eight and 10 per cent of them. He said the NEA has been issuing more stop-work orders to construction companies. The ministry is also considering raising penalties for construction sites found to have recurring breeding of mosquitoes. “Whilst I would say It’s too early to say that the epidemic is over, I think the worst is over,” said Dr Balakrishnan. “We are now down to about 350 cases ... thereabouts. I think the number will stay around there.” “We will continue to pour in more resources, continue to do more inspections, continue to mobilise Singaporeans and gradually bring the number down,” he added. “But this remains an ever-present threat to us. Our immunity as a whole is low and this virus has very high epidemic potential.” The year 2013 has also been significant on the climate change front, with intense rainfall over short periods of time continuing to cause flash floods in many areas, and experts have warned of more such weather patterns in the future. Dr Balakrishnan said a review of the Sustainable Singapore blueprint will begin in 2014, and will involve public consultation. The blueprint maps out the country’s strategy for economic growth in an environmentally-sustainable way. The review will also incorporate NEA’s Volunteer Corp Scheme, where members of the public are trained and issued with warrant cards to book and issue littering summonses to offenders on the spot. Dr Balakrishnan said: “I want this to go through the proper process of public consultation. What type of people should be eligible to have a warrant card, what kind of training is necessary? How should they be deployed, where should they be deployed? Instead of working with individuals, work with NGOs, work with organised groups. The real objective is not enforcement. It’s public ownership and peer pressure.” CHANNEL NEWSASIA
One advantage of using genetic engineering to help crops adapt to these sudden changes is that new varieties can be created quickly. Creating a potato variety through conventional breeding, for example, takes at least 15 years; producing a genetically modified one takes less than six months. Genetic modification also allows plant breeders to make more precise changes and draw from a far greater variety of genes, gleaned from the plants’ wild relatives or from different types of organisms. Plant scientists are careful to note that no magical gene can be inserted into a crop to make it drought tolerant or to increase its yield—even resistance to a disease typically requires multiple genetic changes. But many of them say genetic engineering is a versatile and essential technique.
“It’s an overwhelmingly logical thing to do,” says Jonathan Jones, a scientist at the Sainsbury Laboratory in the U.K. and one of the world’s leading experts on plant diseases. The upcoming pressures on agricultural production, he says, “[are] real and will affect millions of people in poor countries.” He adds that it would be “perverse to spurn using genetic modification as a tool.”
It’s a view that is widely shared by those responsible for developing tomorrow’s crop varieties. At the current level of agricultural production, there’s enough food to feed the world, says Eduardo Blumwald, a plant scientist at the University of California, Davis. But “when the population reaches nine billion?” he says. “No way, José.”
It has become fashionable to issue dire projections of declining prosperity based on demographic aging. But is that really such a problem?
There is no doubt that all the countries of the world are getting older, but they are at very different stages of the process. The median age in the United States—with half the population older and half younger—is currently 36. In Ethiopia it’s 18, owing to a higher birthrate and a lower life expectancy. In other African countries it’s even lower. The world’s oldest country is Germany, where the median age is 45.
The pattern is very clear: The young countries are poor, and the old countries are rich. So why do people fear population aging? I see two reasons. The first is psychological: The analogy to individual aging suggests that as populations get older, they grow frail and lose mental acuity. The second comes from economists and an indicator called the dependency ratio, which assumes that every adult below age 65 contributes to society, and everybody above 65 is a burden. And the proportion of people older than 65 is bound to increase.
Yet we also know that the productivity of some individuals is much higher than that of others, independent of age. Nothing is inherently special about the age of 65. Many people live longer and do so mostly in good health. The saying “Seventy is the new 60” has a sound scientific basis. Meanwhile, education has been shown to be a key determinant of better health, longer life, and higher productivity (not to mention open-mindedness). The active aging of better-educated populations can be an asset rather than a problem.
“A MAN WITH A CONVICTION is a hard man to change. Tell him you disagree and he turns away. Show him facts or figures and he questions your sources. Appeal to logic and he fails to see your point.” So wrote the celebrated Stanford University psychologist Leon Festinger, in a passage that might have been referring to climate change denial—the persistent rejection, on the part of so many Americans today, of what we know about global warming and its human causes. But it was too early for that—this was the 1950s—and Festinger was actually describing a famous case study in psychology.
German architect André Broessel, of Rawlemon, has looked into his crystal ball and seen the future of renewable energy. In this case it’s a spherical sun-tracking solar energy-generating globe — essentially a giant glass marble on a robotic steel frame. But this marble is no toy. It concentrates both sunlight and moonlight up to 10,000 times — making its solar harvesting capabilities 35 percent more efficient than conventional dual-axis photovoltaic designs.
Pulp Green Tech Holding, an R&D-focused company that owns Thai Gorilla Pulp Ltd., announced this week that it has successfully achieved a high-grade paper pulp made from empty palm fruit bunches, which are most often treated as waste material from the palm oil extraction process. The company estimates that roughly 95 percent, or 300 million tons, of this raw material is currently discarded per year.
fter Michael Mann set out to direct Collateral, the story’s setting moved from New York to Los Angeles. This decision was in part motivated by the unique visual presence of the city — especially the way it looked at night. Mann shot a majority of the film in HD (this was 2004), feeling the format better captured the city’s night lighting. Even the film’s protagonist taxi needed a custom coat to pick up different sheens depending on the type of artificial lighting the cab passed beneath. That city, at least as it appears in Collateral and countless other films, will never be the same again. L.A. has made a vast change-over to LED street lights, with New York City not far behind. Read on for why Hollywood will never look the same again — on film or otherwise.
While I like many of the companies that tend to fall under the banner, I'm finding myself more and more annoyed by the term "sharing economy," which is used as shorthand to categorize a fairly miscellaneous set of firms virtually none of which involve sharing in any meaningful way. Under the circumstances, I was glad to see Rachel Botsman's presentation on how the sharing economy lacks a shared definition in which she attempts to rescue the concept with a more precise typology. But I don't think it works.
The level of inequality can be shocking: "Hong Kong is either heaven or hell depending on who you might ask. It has the [developed] world's highest Gini score with Singapore 2nd and the USA 3rd. Over in Kowloon you'll find so-called 'cage people', residents living in cages or ultra small dwellings, barely able to make ends meet and end up begging in the busy streets or living off meager social assistance if they can get it. Food and rent are expensive so losing a job can be a matter of life and death."