Climate change is real, says the founding members of Singapore Youth for Climate Action (SYCA), Nor Lastrina Hamid, Pui Cuifen, and Melissa Chong. How can youths do something about it? Doyenne.sg finds out from the ladies who are affecting change.
“This journey is one of great urgency. All the science of climate change is showing that we are driving towards a cliff.”
Pui Cuifen, a founding member of Singapore Youth for Climate Action (SYCA), is speaking at Raffles Institution, Singapore’s oldest school for gifted and talented elites. She captures the students’ attention with a kickass title: “Grades and society don’t determine your legacy. YOU do!”
The title is meant to startle the bookish youngsters, who were brought up in an unabashedly meritocratic education system. It defies all social beliefs that doing well academically will secure them a bright future. Cuifen’s presentation continues and she paints a more accurate picture – climate change is real. It affects all humankind.
SYCA was launched in November 2015 by a group of young Singaporeans who were already active in the environment advocation scene. They gathered to address a pressing problem – environmental activists and advocacy efforts are few and far between in Singapore.
“There is a stark difference between the way local and international students react to talks about environmental issues,” says Melissa Chong, also a founding member, pointedly. “It is a common rhetoric, but I still reiterate that Singaporeans really need to be more opinionated, vocal and passionate about issues outside of our daily lives.”
I browse SYCA’s photos taken during last year’s COP21 climate talks in Paris and realised that it really is evident that youths from other developed countries are more active and rigorous in their approaches.
A closer look reveals that these young activists are already socially involved and critically thinking about taking climate action. Arnstein Vestre, President of Nature and Youth, Young Friends of the Earth Norway, says in measured tones:
“We work a lot on stopping the drilling of oil in the Arctic. It is a very vulnerable marine area. If we want to solve climate change, we have to keep the oil in the soil in countries like Norway, and the Arctic.
I hope that this COP sets down an ambitious agreement that is just and fair. One which keeps the main responsibility for climate change with the rich countries, and also empower countries all over the world to do the transition to a zero carbon economy.”
“There is a stark difference between the way local and international students react to talks about environmental issues.”
SYCA provides a platform for activists in the local community to act as mentors, provide resources and network with like-minded individuals who want to play their part in advocating environmental issues in Singapore. “We want to bring out the Singaporean voice. Not just our voice, but rally a choir to advocate about climate change,” says Melissa.
However, becoming a fertile flower bed for an actively green ecosystem is an arduous journey. “In Singapore, the motivation to make behavioural changes might not be sustainable. Consumers ask if an environmentally-friendly action helps them save money,” says Nor Lastrina Hamid, another founding member.
“Many don’t see climate change as an issue, because it is part of our reality,” states Cuifen. “As an environmental scientist, I want to do things a certain way, but society says doing it another way is better. Climate change is a daily conversation about doing something more climate-friendly in my everyday life.”
Lastrina raises some good points: why do we always see the same group of people at these sharing sessions – why are there no new faces in the crowd?
“This journey is one of great urgency,” Melissa asserts. “All the science of climate change is showing that we are driving towards a cliff. As we get closer, the ones in the driving seat, or at least, those able to influence, must do everything to stop climate change.”
“As youths, we are the ones facing the consequences,” says Lastrina. “It is our responsibility to take climate action. If we don’t take ownership now, we are the ones who have the most challenges to face in the next 20 years.”
Cuifen affirms, “Youths see the doom and the gloom in climate change. That’s why we focus on them. They are so ready to do something.” According to Melissa, some have chosen to represent the Singaporean youth voice, others will be working on influencing legislation. “We know they will soar,” she says.
When asked what women can do to help, Melissa assures us that we are more influential than we think. “As wives, mothers and sisters, we have so much power to affect climate change. We are often the decision-makers of consumption in the family – the brands of soap we buy, whether we recycle… The culture of the family starts with us. ”
The ladies at SYCA have raised issues that poignantly remind us of the passing of time. Beyond societal pressures and building a smart nation, it really depends on each individual person to take climate action – fast.
Singapore Youth for Climate Action (SYCA) is a platform for young Singapore residents to join hands and fight for climate change. They want to plant seeds amongst passionate young leaders, turn snowballs into avalanches, and mobilise more youths to support the global climate movement.