What is biodiversity and why should we care?

Date July 2, 2015

Imagine having to eat the same food over and over again forever! Not fun. And probably not good for you either. The same way a healthy body depends on a varied and diverse diet, the health of our planet depends on the diversity of living things and ecosystems to provide all the conditions we need for a safe and healthy life. But Singapore is so small? What does it matter if we lose all our forest or coral reefs? Certainly it doesn’t make a difference? I’m sure you’ve heard of trace minerals. The tiny amount of stuff our body needs to function properly. In just the right small amounts, these minerals are required to keep a healthy body in balance. Leave those tiny bits of minerals out, and we become susceptible to a whole suite of health problems. Compared to the Amazon and Great Barrier Reef, the forests and reefs in Singapore may seem insignificant, but local ecosystems can play a crucial role at home and in the region. Last month, ordinary people out shopping in one of Singapore’s mega malls got to discover just how biologically diverse Singapore is and how a growing number of people are playing a part to keep it safe. Two such people include Dr. Neo Mei Lin aka. Dr. Clam (left) and Dr. Siti M. Yaakub aka. Dr. Seagrass! Who have dedicated their lives to better understand how these simple plants and animals can help us learn more about our land and the importance of their ecosystem functions for healthy life on earth.

You don’t have to be a scientist to know or care about biodiversity. Heng Peiyan has had a wealth of experience exploring the shores and reefs of Singapore. She shared her knowledge, experience and passion with visitors at the 2015 Festival of Biodiversity. The event was also the launch for the new Sisters Island Marine Park trail. Peiyan walked Minister of State, Desmond Lee, through the dive trail experience and shared some insights about what to expect from the dive trail as well as what divers and visitors to the new marine park can learn and experience from their visit!

The Hantu Blog was also really proud to have our volunteers Gina Tan and Ahmad Rafiuddin (above) reaching out to members of the public. If we know and care about our biodiversity, it’s important for us to share it. Volunteers help people connect with Singapore wild places that seem to distant from our urban lives. The interactions we had at the event showed us that many people do care and want to learn more about our wild places! Many had questions about the exhibits they saw and some were even inspired to become volunteers themselves!

Stories help us relate to our natural environment. Much of our lives are influenced by the natural world around us. Many of the local desserts we love so much, originate from the rainforest. The furniture in our homes, the fish that we eat, and even the weather that can comfort us or hinder our day, depends on healthy ecosystems. It is true that technology can take some of our dependence away from natural processes, but only to a certain extent. Healthy soil means clean water, and a clean environment for all other life to grow, including ourselves. There is nothing that can replace a sea breeze and a clear blue sky. No technology can replace the scent of crisp fresh air that invites us outdoors to soak in some comfortable sun. And safe seafood requires clean waters. While much of our urban landscape changes relentlessly, national identity can be forged by connecting with natural landscapes. Even if many of the species we have here can be found in other parts of the world, what we have is ours. It belongs to us. And because it exists in urban Singapore, our natural landscapes are unique, specially adapted to live alongside us. The same way we may not be comfortable being taken out of our homes and plonked into another part of the world, the wildlife that exists here has become suited to living in the place that is Singapore.

The signs of wildlife are all around us. We just need to know how to look out for it. Shells on the beach, patterns in the sand and tracks in the forest, tell us about the secret lives that exist quietly in our wild places. Volunteers at the Festival of Biodiversity shared how we can recognise some of these signs. When we begin to recognise things in the world around us, we can begin to ask questions, identify patterns, and learn about how we are living with the natural space around us. What is our impact on our forest? What can we do reduce this impact? We are still trying to understand many of these questions, and we need lots of excited and curious minds to join us on this journey of questioning and discovery!

Connecting with nature is easy. Because it’s so beautiful! But sometimes it may seem hard to make a difference for something that seems so much larger than ourselves! As the old adage goes, one person makes a difference. Together, we make change. Change doesn’t happen because someone decides it. It happens because you and me choose it. By expressing an interest and concern for our environment, by sharing about what we love and helping others understand and care about it too, we signal to our policy makers that we care. If no one showed up at these events, we wouldn’t be able to continue our work. If volunteers didn’t express their unyielding desire for a marine park, we wouldn’t have a marine park today. Some changes take time, especially if it’s an important change. But we can’t give up. Witnessing the passion and energy of the collective gathered at the festival, it was evident that there is a lot of potential for change! Remember, you don’t have to be a scientist, you just have to be interested. The volunteers at the event came from a wide variety of backgrounds, from banking and accounting, to doctors and dentists, students and teachers, engineers and business people, journalists and musicians from Singapore and abroad. It doesn’t matter what your background, because nature is universal!

Congratulations to all the hardworking volunteers and staff of NParks who helped make this event possible! What was a small festival that began at the Botanical Gardens has grown into a large annual event in the heart of Singapore’s CBD because of the support of the public and volunteers! Want to make a difference? Check out this page.

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