The Online Citizen

The Haze: How much more do we have to bear?

June 20
10:27 2013

By Keith Lim

As I write, I sit within the confines of my air conditioned bedroom, in a desperate attempt to avoid inhaling the toxic air outside. Do note that I care quite a bit about the environment and I don’t normally use the air conditioning so this isn’t really the norm for me. It is sad really, that the cause of this haze that I’m sure many Singaporeans have been decreasingly tolerant of isn’t a result of our own actions. Many who have been to the more industrial parts of China, for example Tianjin, which my parents have visited recently, can attest to how poor the quality of air there is. But unlike the situation in Singapore, their air quality is a direct result of their industrial activities.

Really, what is the limit to all this burning? How much more do we have to bear? And is there anything we can do on our part? Well, many of us can whine, at how the PSI has hit a record high of 321 as of 11pm, 19th June 2013. We can also complain of how our health is deteriorating, how many of us with respiratory ailments may see an increase in the number of attacks, and how this is hurting our economy, probably most significantly in the tourism sector. Personally, I suffer from asthma and have felt the brunt of the haze more than most ordinary people. The periodical shortness of breath, phlegm choking up the airways as well as an extremely dry throat, not to mention some evidence of eye irritation.

Unfortunately, I am probably not the only one. I’m sure there are many other less tangible ways the haze has affected us – dirty laundry, lower visibility for motorists, being unable to exercise outside or having to reduce outdoor activities. We are in fact suffering the brunt of pollution another nation has callously caused, and quite frankly, why should we?

While we recognise that there is really not much we can do, and that our power is limited, we mustn’t be defeated by this haze. Our ministers have been diligently liaising with authorities in Indonesia to discuss the situation, and well, we don’t have that kind of capacity to do things. What we can do is to send an even stronger message about our stance against the forest fires and pollution from the haze itself through subtle actions. My family has decided to entirely boycott all products from Indonesia, as well as to boycott Indonesia as a holiday destination, including nearby islands Bintan and Batam, both of which I am sure are very popular with Singaporeans. Rationale being, when there is an economic boom over there, there is more industrial activity and more land needs to be cleared to support it. Correct me if I’m wrong, because I am no economics student, but I believe it does make some logical sense.

Such products include furniture and agricultural products(meat, vegetables, rice, oil), just to name a few. Basically, do read the label just to be sure. There are definitely many other alternatives in the market for us to choose from. I believe this is a small step we can take in to show our displeasure with the current situation, and that we won’t just take this lying down. I urge fellow Singaporeans to do the same, to take this stand and to boycott Indonesian products as well as to refrain from going there for their holidays. If enough consumers do this, this may have a significant impact on Indonesia’s economy as Singapore is one of the countries it exports the highest volume of goods to in terms of monetary value, the 4th highest to be exact. Also, in terms of tourism, Singapore seems to consistently contribute the highest number of tourists every year, boosting their tourism sector significantly.

Lastly, please try to be kind to all the Indonesians living here. I’m sure they too are suffering the brunt of the haze just as much as you and I, so let’s try to live harmoniously and not push the blame to them because they too are quite helpless in such a situation and are probably not the ones directly responsible.

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All opinions expressed by the writer is solely his and does not represent the stance of The Online Citizen.

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