Earth Hour? Or Earth Daily?

earthhourBy now, 3/4 of earth have already observed Earth Hour. And thanks to Facebook, we get updates every half since Samoa switched off more than 20 hours ago (Samoa was the first country to observe Earth Hour).

Since 2007 switch-off in Sydney, this movement has become global. So every last Saturday of March each year, we have Earth Hour.

The movement is not without merits, otherwise it wouldn’t have the support of UN and becoming a global annual event.

I for one have become more aware of the virtues of turning off electricity when there’s no use for it. But I also acquired this habit when I was a kid at school. Or like not wasting water.

With Earth Hour, we’re getting businesses to participate, such as hotels, restaurants and even TV stations. Around the world, we celebrate Earth Hour by staging public events, handing out 60+ t-shirts, and even getting celebrities to endorse the occasion. All good if it can convert people who participate to make it a daily habit, much like brushing your teeth when you wake.

I hope it doesn’t become one huge annual bash and that establishments take it as publicity stunts. Have all these outlets that publicly support Earth Hour practice on regular basis? I’m sure there’s studies available but at the same time, perhaps these outlets should also do a checklist on how Earth Hour has affected them. For example, have they converted to using power saving light bulbs or LED lightings? If not, why?

For kids, are they turning off light when they leave their rooms? Has it become a habit? Are commercial buildings switching over to more energy-efficient systems to power up?

I guess the ‘Plus’ this year was ‘IWIYW’, as in ‘I will if you will’. Strange tagline…what if I say I won’t? Maybe it should be ‘IHHY?’, as in ‘I have, have you?’.

One suggestion is for schools to continually celebrate Earth Hour by implementing a monthly session, such as, think of ways to study or do things without having to turn on electricity. Expanding it, business establishment can also do likewise. Speaking of preservation and carbon footprint reduction, tech firms and companies that rely on computers (pretty much all) may also want to practice Earth Hour but on a more regular basis, like fortnightly or even weekly. If this can be achieved, I believe the annual event will become even more significant.

For that matter, mobile devices makers should really look into higher capacity batteries so that we don’t need to charge all the time, and then buy more chargers to charge while on the move.

I know every kWh counts and that Earth Hour has shown what can be saved by just turning off electricity for one hour. Imagine what can be achieved if you multiply this hour by 52 (for weeks) on a global scale. Imagine.

~ lty ~


Price of Economic Progress?

MBSCame across this article on WSJ on a friend’s FB page, Wealth Over the Edge: Singapore – WSJ

The first thought was of pride, that Singapore has indeed moved way ahead of her neighbors in the last 48 years. I still remember the times when I went to Chinatown and see all the old shophouses and thinking, ‘wow, so old, can collapse soon. Should demolish and build spanking new highrises.’ Dream came true? Well, in part yes.

Most of the old shophouses have indeed came down making way for condominiums and commercial towers. It’s a picture-perfect moment for any visitors in Singapore, marveling at the economic miracle that is Singapore. Singapore is a top-10 destination for many surveys such as business destination, best airlines, most expensive cities, least corrupt, to name some. But where are we in terms of happiness and harmony? I”m afraid we don’t fare too well.

Are these surveys true? Depending on who you’re polling. For most of the surveys centering economic progress, most of the polls are returned from travelers that have been to Singapore, and Singapore is indeed a great place for foreigners. Lest I get accused of being anti-foreigners, let me state that I am a foreigner in a neighboring country and I am not against foreigners living in Singapore.

As for all the other holistic surveys, these are done with local Singaporeans who naturally have more grouses than most, and who can blame them. I suppose if I were living in Singapore in the heartland, I will also have these grouses. As my friend not-wrongly pointed out, what about the uncles and aunties who are merely trying to bring home some money for yet another day. MInd you, this friend is a foreigner living in Singapore.

Like most Asian cities undergoing economic transformation, we find a big segment of local commune gets displaced and left behind. Very soon, it becomes a social divide, the haves and the have-nots. The haves will of course be spending on $26,000 cocktails, A380 jets and the Ferraris. The have-nots will of course sit by the sideline and observe, plotting, planning to becoming a have. It is an unfair society and will get more unfair if the government doesn’t mediate. But what is a balance really a balance? When does unfair become fair? To both questions, I’m afraid the answer is Never. The best that can be done is not to let it tilt so much one way that it passes the tipping point.

The author of the article above is not wrong in portraying Singapore the way it did, albeit a microscopic view. The rich and famous and the wannabes exist at all levels of society and regions, no exception. If a Mongolian, given what we understand of Mongolia, or someone from a 3rd world nation, can be players in metropolises, we are truly witnessing social divide at a global scale.

Ina  couple of years, Singapore will be celebrating 50 years of independence. Quite a milestone. In all fairness (in the face of unfairness), the Singapore government has done pretty well to build and advance our tiny island state. But at what price? The progress that we’ve had cannot be reversed. Material wealth will always be uppermost in Singaporean minds. Singapore will continue reclaiming land, adding more square foots to build so that we can maintain our global position and attracting more and more of the rich and famous and the wannabes to settle in Singapore.

The one constant is that we have a stable government, one run by, if compared to most other nations, very smart people, and some exceptionally smart. But at some point, we do know that governing a nation is not just about being smart, it is also about compassion for the people it is governing.

We had a period of being led, as we didn’t have much, and we were ably led. And a whole nation’s standard was elevated. Now that we are at a different step on an unending ladder climb, what is the next step? Are more and more Singaporeans being left behind, so much so that only a smattering of us are at the top? It is always more tiring to look up than to look down and far easier to jump from a higher place. But alas, only the few of us are there.

Staring at 50 years, I’m hoping that our government and fellow Singaporeans can really take a step back and look at what we’ve achieved so far, taking stock and create a platform to debate and ponder where we want to go in the next 50 years. Now that we not only have a brilliant and smart government, we now also have a population of pretty smart people too. Perhaps this is time for our government to work alongside the people, empower our people to truly understand the vision of where we’re heading. Not just about the next 3-5 years (election speech?) but the next 10-20-30 years and the various milestones we need to meet to progress.

I guess we’ve gone past the era where force feeding was necessary. But now, I’m afraid we not only won’t be getting fois-gras, we may even end up killing the golden goose. Mind you, we the Singaporeans are the golden geese and our quaking can’t be ignored. I concede we do have a good government but can we have a better one? All Good can be Better but if you remain at Good, then it becomes mediocre. I believe you are better than that so show it.

Maybe this is the time to return to baseline and have an overview of what Singapore really needs in the next decade or two. No point standing at some random vantage points because your views may be obscured. We will never return to Simple but we can certainly define what Simple is for Singapore.

~ lty ~

In memory of…

A Dear Friend

Found out yesterday the passing of a long-time friend. Didn’t realize that we had known each other for 15 years, and that would’ve made him one of the first people I know when I came to Saigon.

Apparently, he died of a stroke, at 51, too young to be leaving everything behind. I supposed God does work in mysterious ways, always taking people that mattered in our lives.

As I followed the thread on fb condolences left by friends that know him, it is no surprise at all that he was so loved by those that had befriended him. I am not close to him by any measure, at least compared to some other friends, but we did share some meaningful conversations, and a couple of drinks.

From the outpourings on fb, I supposed he did touch many in the simple ways he conducted himself – simply by being kind, gentle, generous, smiling, and genuine.

He left behind a legacy that somewhat shaped Saigon’s pub scene, from Gekko to Underground, from Blue Salute to Red Drum.

The one constant of these places is that you’ll always get to meet a familiar face, or if you’re mintly new, you’ll be greeted by him first. The objective of these places was to make you feel at home, away from home, and the brotherhood (or sisterhood – Emile, I’m talking about you) spirit as drinks are toasted to familiar anthem that we know so well.

Michael, you will be so missed by all, for many years to come. The regular darts and pool competitions will never be the same. I know you’ll want everyone to be happy but the fact is, we will fight hard to resist the tears of your memory as we take every aim and every shot.

Today is Valentine’s Day but I don’t think there’s much love in Saigon. But all said, you’ve left indelible memories that we will carry with us until we meet. Until then, my friend, let’s toast this once more:

bo ta, bo lan pa
bo liao, bo lan chiao
bo lim, bo lan pa lan chiao


14 Feb, 2013