Is There Time For U-TURN?

In primary school science, we learn that dark colors attract heat, light colors reflect heat. At the rate that things are going, the ice caps melt a lot faster, producing a lot more water in the ocean, reducing shorelines, and since there’s more water body on the planet, it also means we attract more heat than reflecting.

Considering that the world is constantly changing & engineering is also constantly improving, with the right amount of funds & combined human effort, we just might have the slightest glimpse of a chance to reverse the global warming effects.

To ensure our chance of survivability and to do some serious damage control, apart from the efforts to reduce carbon emission, something is more eminent, but not exactly attempted. You may consider this crazy, but if we embark on a global movement to reverse the effects, we just might be able to delay the gravity of the situation.

It is definitely impossible for us to produce enough ice cubes to dump into the Arctic & Antarctic regions. But, it is humanly possible to create massive sheets of material to repel & reflect light. When enough heat is reflected, the average temperatures become regulated, or fall. And when more heat is repelled, the north & south may resume its colder temperatures, and in the course of another few centuries, the icebergs just may stop melting and start forming again.

Supposing we begin by embarking on engineering feats in the north & south poles, to erect floating stadium sized reflector panels to mimic the reflections of the ice caps, supposing, we paint the roof of every building in our cities white, supposing we implement green walls & facades for every building, supposing we introduce weeds & cacti into dessert plains, and we channel access water to flow into manmade reservoirs in the desserts, would you agree that we might just have a chance at reversing the effects of global warming?

If you by any chance agree with the sentiments here, perhaps you might just want to help passing the awareness on, to as many people you know.

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Temperature Rising like El Niño

It’s already 2014 and we’re no stranger to nature’s phenomenon called El Niño. The major shifts of climate patterns leave everyone in the limbo, and to expect the unexpected. Over the centuries of human defiling nature & taking things for granted, in the likes of; escalated carbon emission, degradation of the ozone layer, minimized greens to regulate temperature, ice caps melting, and quite recently, the waters of the pacific suffering from high fever.

When people fail to see the effects, or when they’re not directly affected by the consequences of actions, nobody actually bothers, except for reading & hearing about the epic events taken place elsewhere.

Freak weather patterns are just some of the mildest issues that we’d witness or experience. Some parts of the planet will find the humidity a little more discomforting than normal, others parts of the planet could be visited with a lot more precipitation than normal, other parts may be visited with epic storms and perhaps other phenomenon yet to be witnessed.

Meanwhile, it is evident that the climate change has led to significant loss of crops, loss of jobs, weakened economies, heightened inflations and plenty more.

Here’s another revelation if we haven’t already knew…

Corals in the oceans suffer from climate stress, where they appear to be bleached. The algae that thrive amongst the reefs are reduced, while the food source for corals also diminished. And when the food chain is affected, the fishes tend to seek greener pastures elsewhere.

Another thing that is invisible to the naked eye is greenhouse gas emission from thawing & melting permafrost. This emission of in-ground methane is considerably potent and given the varsity, is producing larger volume of harmful greenhouse gases than farmed animals.

Hence, we’re looking at temperatures rising, and very likely, exponentially.


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Raising the Bar for a Stronger & Sustainable Future

It wasn’t too long ago that I shared an opinion that the present day Green Buildings/ Green-Mark policies & initiatives are merely showmanship and status quo; that may not have the best interest of energy conservation. Well, now, the good fellows at District of Columbia Department of the Environment have just raised the bar, and I strongly hope that this would be the benchmark for the world to adhere to.

Net Zero & Living Building Financial Study; A Cost Comparison Report for the Buildings in the District of Columbia, was a study conducted by New Building Institute (NBI), International Living Future Institute (ILFI) and Skanska… conceptually transformed three LEED v3 Platinum design buildings to Net-Zero Energy, Water & Living Buildings. Typically, they focused their scope on the 3 commonly developed building types; office new construction, multifamily new construction and office renovation.

“The findings in this report are eye-opening. It presents us with a policy framework that will help us achieve our goal to slash energy use to half of what it was in 2010 by 2032, and provides us with the data to back it up,” says Bill Updike, green building specialist for the District Department of the Environment. “The District has a history of leading on progressive green building policies. This report will aid our efforts to further advance the building industry toward more resilient, restorative facilities.”

The ideas & objectives may seem a little bold & idealistic, but mind you, they are in essence what every town, city, state, province, nation & continent should consider adopting. It is no news that fossil fuel is depleting fast, it is no news that energy consumption per capita is rising exponentially, and it is no news that everything that adds up can cripple any country’s running cost on year.

So, with as little as 1 to 3% added initial cost of construction, where the designs are intended to conserve, retain & sustain, new developments can potentially save up to 60% of energy consumption. And if multiplied across the town, city, state, province, nation & continent, savings are humongous.

These savings can then be translated to address social benefits & needs.

Imagine a world of built environment or eco-systems that helps to regenerate & conserve the elements of energy & resources. No, we will not degenerate into cavemen, but rather, every experience is very much like a walk in the park.

A simple act today, adopt a simple change in mindsets & philosophies, applied to the practices of today’s architecture & building industries, can ripple into something that benefits many generations hereon after.

In the entries to come, I shall attempt to share little insights on how each individual can do their part in the smallest mundane ways to save & sustain the planet.

Pass It On

It would be great if each of us who read & agree with the above mentioned idea, would begin by spreading this article along, via social media, word of mouth and every other imaginable means, so that the policy makers learn of the tangible benefits, so that the movers & shakers in the relevant industries learn & implement these ideas.

Sharing is caring, and we musn’t stop sharing.

Credits & references:

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It’s only January…

To my avid followers, I have to beg your pardon for my hiatus towards the end of 2013, as I was buried under piles of projects; demanding loads of my undivided attention. Not to mention, the environmental issues were no longer news, except they were worsening & escalating, if not repetitive.

A quick recap of the issues towards the end of 2013 – that didn’t require much elaborating; frequent MRT outages – the new downtown line (phase 1) experiencing down time on opening day. Not withstanding the typical outages on incumbent lines towards the year end festive shopping seasons. Massive mayhem & congestion on the newly opened “submarine” MCE (marina coastal expressway); the delays doubled the traveling time compared to normal routes. The number of DHF cases continued to climb to all time highs, death toll increasing etc. The epic hollywood fight scene involving foreign workers rioting in Little India, resulted in overturned police cars & ambulance set ablaze… etc.

To date, we’re into the 4th week of 2014, and we’ve already encountered several epic fails happening on the MRT again. This time round, the outages take place back to back, fast & furious.

January 11, 2014 (Saturday), train disruption between Kranji and Yew Tee stations (north-south line) at about 1pm. Reports have it, that commuters had to alight & walk the tracks towards the nearest train station, under the punishing mid-day sun.

January 20, 2014 (Monday), blackout at Outram Park underground station (north-east line) during morning rush hour. Apparently, back up generators didn’t kick in, neither did the battery backed emergency lights function. Commuters were made to evacuate in pitch darkness; many relied on their mobile phones to light the way.

January 20, 2014 (Monday), reports of signal fault between Yio Chu Kang & Ang Mo Kio stations (north-south line) in the morning rush hour, resulting in more than 19000 commuters inconvenienced.

Nobody knows how many times unreported service delays; from time to time on any other given day takes place.

By now, many would have already learned about the recent announcement on fare hikes for public commute. I’m not a mathematician, and I don’t really understand how the fare hikes affecting the vast majority, would benefit the minority that are least likely to maximize the benefits anyway.

The familiar economics phrase says – “When supply exceeds demand, prices plummet. When demand exceeds supply, prices spike”

It is quite obvious that the rapidly increasing human population on this tiny island; is indicative that the demand for public commute is on the rise. Meanwhile, the frequent outage of public commute causes a decline in the supply… and when you put 1 & 1 together, you get the answer.

The public transport service providers are private entities/ public listed, and it seems legitimate that they do their part to answer to the shareholders. Sad to say, when their core business of providing commute service is a let down, it probably won’t make sense if shareholders continue investing in an entity that fails to deliver.

The general public & typical commuting community is & will be incensed when the fare hikes are implemented, since the issue has recently become a talking point.

Let’s be realistic. There are more than 50 train stations on this tiny island, and everyday, after train services end, there are only so few hours for housekeeping & maintenance to take place. With only 1 or at most 2 companies awarded to carry out the maintenance on the growing railway network, increasing the outlay towards maintenance will not remedy the situation adequately and quick enough.

They claim the investigations conclude that cables in use are inferior, if not faulty. It doesn’t take a Sherlock Holmes to warrant a full scale anti-corruption investigation- to find out how & why the material in use are inferior, or not compliant to the industry standards that are critical to the operations of the network.

Whatever the case is, given the pace of how problems have been surfacing, we should sit tight and anticipate more “good” to take place in the months to come.

It’s only January…

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A Storm that took the Island by Storm

On the morning of September 5, 2013 (Thursday), another 50yr or centenary deluge revisited the island, in the wake of recent typhoon/ hurricane activities in the north east region of the orient. The precipitation is indefinitely unprecedented, to the extent that 1 of the major highways (the Ayer Rajar Expressway “AYE”) was crippled.

flood-septemberAs the mainstream media has the tendency to play down the ill effects, reported that the highway was partially affected, while the scale of the situation actually affected many highway inlets & exits, stretching almost half of island. Key routes linking the western heartlands to the city center were also cut off. Many cars were stranded & immersed to the windows along some of the major roads.

flood-schoolAt least a quarter of the island’s population had their daily morning ritual massively affected, students had to brave the horror to get to the schools, working adults ploughed through the flood, dense standstill traffic took place on all other passable route options into the city where more than a third of the population earn their bacon.

In the aftermath, the authorities & agencies gave their views on the situation, to the effect that; they are aware, have reasonable anticipation for the situation to aggravate, but have little or no sustainable solution to remedy the problem that is set to escalate in time to come.

the-coast-lawsuitMeanwhile, in the southern tip of the island, residents at a prestigious condominium on Sentosa Island are filing a class act suit, taking the developers, builders & contracted agencies to task, for defects & incompetence to remedy the problems & possible loss on investment returns on the estate.

As it is, the town planning, public utility drainage/sewage systems were designed, built & managed by independent agencies, and flashfloods have taken place multiple times in the recent years. At some point, the flashfloods took places merely weeks apart.

Considering the distinctly similar principles of both scenarios; if individuals affected by 1 common problem can initiate a concerted effort to file a class act suit against the bodies/establishments responsible for the problems, then in similar fashion, citizens & residents affected by the floods have legitimate grounds to come together to file a class act suit; against the relevant agencies for their failure to manage the repetitive floods in recent past.

lawsuitForeseeable, subject to severity of individual experiences, claims may vary from; damage of property/assets, opportunity costs, incidental costs incurred, losses on investment returns, trauma & distress etc.

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Public Simply Ignorant (PSI)

As it seems, the politicians have done their part, and all are at the mercy of the fire starters in the land of Sumatra, to decide as & when they choose to extinguish the ongoing inferno.

psipsipsiBased on the escalated trend for PSI, PM2.5 & AQI readings, it seems the recent talks have fallen on deaf ears. Sure, many are upset and distressed by the ongoing situation, while the doom & gloom continues to loom. The sun is barely visible (by day), nor the moon & stars by night.

Meanwhile, much hype is drummed up towards the massive scramble to acquire the N95 mask, said to be effective protection against the microscopic pollutants in the air. However, I’m dismayed that no education of any sort is ongoing to teach the public on how to adequately protect themselves. It is evident that many have been wearing their masks improper, and they’re health is inevitably compromised despite owning a mask!

Seriously, what is the point of grabbing a mask but not getting proper protection from the pollutants?

Here are some examples of how the defense is compromised.

While the N95 masks are quickly sold out and slow to be re-stocked, while retailers are rationing & limiting the quantities per person eligible, all hope is not lost.

People don’t know what they don’t know, so here am I to shed some light on the situation.

And I hope if you are reading this and care about the people around; would do your part in sharing this article.

Do not despair if you can’t get your hands on the over-hyped N95 masks. They are generally larger and cannot fit our Asian facial structures snugly, the gaps are indicative that your defense is compromised. The fact that you can still smell the burning scent is another indicator that there is seepage somewhere.

In times like these, do not dispose what you already have, since resupply is limited.
If you already have a disposable mask, regardless if it’s touted to be good or moderate, a slight act of innovation can go the extra mile.

Use disposable wet tissue napkins, fold it in half, and let the existing mask hold the wet napkin against your nostril & mouth. This added layer should help to seal some of the prevailing gaps, while the moisture of the napkin helps to trap some of the dust particles.

Given the worsening conditions over the past 48hours, it will become necessary for you to get a proper respirator, because soon, your disposable masks will be rendered inadequate.

If you have the budget to do so, you may wish to acquire a full face respirator, so that your eyes are protected, and your air is filtered through industrial grade filter cartridges. Understandably, there may be shortfall in supplies for the full face respirators, so, half face respirators would have to do for now.

You probably won’t know what type of filter cartridge is adequate, so you will have to consult the retail assistance for recommendation (seeing that the pollutants are microscopic, I personally recommend the use of cartridges against organic vapor).

In an instance, you will know the difference because the burning scent is blocked out totally.

CAUTION:  Your eyes & the rest of your face are exposed, so if you experience irritation, do not use your hands to rub, because of dust contamination settling on your skin. The correct thing to do is to visit the nearest rest room, use wet napkins to wipe your face in a single motion (do not rub), run your eyes under the running tap if necessary. It is good practice to wipe the rest of your exposed body parts as well.

If you perspire a lot, you’re at greater risk of having particles settling on your skin, and you may wish to wear long sleeve clothes and/or hooded raincoat to minimize exposure.

Eye protection is also necessary, since it is somewhat linked to the sinus region. Swimming goggles provide water tight seal, and is a sure bet against dust. You may also consider the use of motorcycle/ cyclists goggles, since they were made to protect riders form dust too. Some sportsmen sunglasses provide all round protection as well, but may not be sealed against the skin, and so you’re still exposed to the microscopic particles.

The best form of protection is by all means, to stay indoors, seal your windows using wet towels, but provide some gaps so that air can still pass, and you will not suffocate.

At present, nobody is declaring stop work order. Neither does it seem likely, that they will declare a state of emergency. Nobody can protect you except yourself. So, if you are feeling unwell, please visit your nearest clinic and/or hospital to seek medical attention.

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Oppa Gabra Style~!

Once every year, this tiny island city is blanketed by the thick clouds of haze courtesy of massive deforestation (via burning) in Sumatra. The south-western winds & dry season carries the bulk of the ash filled air up north towards Singapore, Malaysia and sometimes even as far as Borneo & Philippines.

Year on year, this annual ritual does not mellow but grows rampant. The climate change patterns do not send sufficient rainfall to douse the inferno, and with poor risk managements, it has been proven before & again, that the fires spread further and wider than the fire starters had intended.

The limitations of the local resources & fire brigades cannot prevent how & where nature fans the fires towards.

This year, an all new record high Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) registered at 393 (dated 19 June 2013) according to the environment agency, although, it seems far worse on the ground.

* Conspiracy theorists speculate that the broadcasted PSI readings are somewhat moderated to minimize alarm for the republic.

Simply glossing through the social media, i.e.: facebook, twitter etc, people are uploading & sharing the fogged out images of their vicinity to question the accuracy of the broadcasted PSI readings.

We hear on national radio, the strong encouragements by radio personalities for public to consider the use of the N95 (anti contaminant) masks. Sad to say, we witness the selling out of surgical masks/ face buff in pharmacists & department stores in an instance. The spiked readings have seen many taken ill due to congested breathing, sinus related discomforts and eye irritation.

Meanwhile, on the mainstream news, we also witness that the relevant ministries and ministers project a passive light of what they can do, or at least, is the best that they can in the given circumstance.

Well, in all my years of growing up on this island, having been visited by the annual haze, this year saw the highest PSI reading (fluctuating between unhealthy to hazardous levels) in more than a decade.

I’m not taking my chances, I’m forgoing the N95 masks, and I’m moving on to a proper full face anti contaminant mask. Considering its going to be an annual national crisis, I’d rather be prepared than to be caught “gabra”.

I’m not attempting to make a political swipe in the given situation, but I believe there is cause for the government to improve on the necessary actions to educate & equip the republic, on the necessary preventive measures to protect themselves when such crisis take place.

Often times, the education campaigns come too late and are often seen as playing catch-up. If much emphasis it placed on national defense, educating & equipping the people with such protection is not too much to ask for.

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