by Tan Yihan
“Many people think we’re pessimists. But on the contrary, we’re optimists, because we believe a better world is possible.” These are the words of Greenpeace staff Shanya Aflasillkeha which echo the message of hope that the Rainbow Warrior, Greenpeace’s most iconic ship, aims to convey in its 5-month tour of Southeast Asia (SEA).
The ship is currently docked in Singapore and will be around from 28th till 30th May. On Tuesday (May 29), about 100 guests and supporters of Greenpeace, including representatives of environmental groups in Singapore, will be invited to visit the Rainbow Warrior, where conversations on issues such as climate change, plastics, deforestation and the haze, will be carried out.
“It is fitting that the Rainbow Warrior is here in Singapore especially as the government has marked 2018 as the Year of Climate Action. We must commend the government of Singapore for mobilising its citizens to take action on climate change,” said Naderev “Yeb” Madla Saño, Executive Director of Greenpeace Southeast Asia, the regional arm of Greenpeace, the world’s most visible environmental organisation.
Yeb noted, however, that there is only so much that one country can do. He pointed out Singapore’s chairmanship of ASEAN and its status as a global financial hub as opportunities to create even more impact in addressing the threat of climate change.
“Singapore can play a leadership role in transforming global finance to be sustainable. We can’t afford to continue financing coal,” Yeb added.
On 18 April, it was reported that Singapore based mega-banks, Development Bank of Singapore (DBS) and Oversea-Chinese Banking Corporation (OCBC) have signed off on financing a controversial coal power station in Vietnam.
Yeb has seen the impacts of coal with his own eyes: “I once went to a coal mine. As far as the eye could see, it was black and barren. The local people were getting sick, suffering from black lung disease.”
“In villages near coal power plants, children were getting birth defects. Fishermen were catching less fish, and that impacts their livelihood,” he added.
Singaporeans hoping to see a giant Greenpeace banner hanging from the DBS or OCBC office buildings are set to be disappointed.
While such non-violent direct actions remain a vital part of Greenpeace’s strategy, according to Peter Wilcox, Captain of the Rainbow Warrior, much more effort is now being placed on community organising, research, legal actions and policy work.
While Greenpeace does not have an office in Singapore, it is hoped that this trip will be the beginning of a relationship with the people in Singapore, with Greenpeace playing its part as a link between people in Singapore and other countries.
You can learn more about Greenpeace Southeast Asia and the issues it campaigns for at http://www.greenpeace.org/seasia or follow them on Facebook (Greenpeace Singapore), Instagram (@greenpeacesea) or Twitter (@Greenpeacesg).