By Christine Amour-Levar
The 33m-long Swiss research vessel Fleur de Passion, an old German World War II navy minesweeper which has been disarmed and redesigned for scientific research, reached Singapore on March 13, 2018 and docked at the Republic of Singapore Yacht Club.
The vessel and its crew are on a four-year Ocean Mapping Expedition around the world, retracing the footsteps of Ferdinand Magellan, measuring the impact of humans on the oceans and raising awareness for sustainable development - a project led by by Geneva-based Fondation Pacifique.
Magellan was a Portuguese explorer who set sail from Seville, Spain in 1519 and embarked on a voyage, which became the first recorded circumnavigation of the Earth. His arrival in Cebu, Philippines in 1521, would eventually lead to the Spanish colonisation of the Philippine Islands. Like Magellan, the research team set sail from Seville, Spain in April 2015 and hopes complete the journey by August 2019.
Working mainly with the authorities of the Swiss City-State of Geneva, the Ocean Mapping Expedition offers various educational and cultural programmes to the public.
Some of the scientific activities featured on the ship included the following:
20,000 Sounds Under the Seas
The 20,000 Sounds Under the Seas programme in partnership with biologist and engineer Dr Michel André records the sounds of the sea to assess noise pollution produced by human activity. "Marine noise pollution is recognized today as one of the greatest disrupters of marine ecosystems that threaten the natural balance of the oceans", said Dr André. "This pollution is little known to the general public because it is invisible and inaudible, at least for human ears,” he explained.
The Micromégas programme with the Federal Polytechnic University of Lausanne involves taking seawater samples at the ocean surface to evaluate the level of plastic pollution. The expedition also encourages education initiatives such as The Youth at Sea educational programme, which invites young people to stay on-board Fleur de Passion for up to two months to experience life at sea as full-time crew members. Over 34 teenagers have participated in the programme since 2015.
As part of an arts initiative, the ship also offers the Magellan’s Mirror cultural programme which invites cartoonists from Switzerland and other parts of the world to come aboard the ship and create illustrations to explain the expedition's mission and its programmes to a wider audience.
The Winds of Change
The Winds of Change programme, in partnership with the University of Geneva, launched in December 2017 in Mactan, Philippines. It monitors the methane and carbon dioxide levels in the oceans in order to better understand global warming. "Methane and carbon dioxide concentrations clearly rise near cities, approaching islands and shallow seas, in other words in areas that are influenced by human activities or experience higher algal growth", said Prof. Daniel McGinnis, Head of the Aquatic Physics Group at the University of Geneva and responsible of the programme on the expedition.
Established in 2007, the Fondation Pacifique has been carrying out educational, cultural, and scientific expeditions in order to help understand the human impact on the ocean. Fleur de Passion’s voyage can be tracked on their website and updates can found on their Facebook page and YouTube channel.
The sailboat departs Singapore on March 25, 2018 before heading to Jakarta, Madagascar, Mozambique and South Africa, where she is expected to arrive in Durban then Cape Town by the end of the year.
Earth Hour, the landmark movement by World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), is back with a festival highlighting the global plastics crisis. By helping people understand how plastics impact the natural world, Earth Hour 2018 will rally support for the actions and solutions needed to address plastic waste in Singapore.
Plastics are a mainstay in everyday life, but excessive usage is impacting ocean health and biodiversity. By 2050, there could be more plastic in the ocean than fish by weight.
The use of fossil fuels to manufacture plastics further worsens climate change. 3 million plastic bags and bottles are sold every 60 seconds around the world. In Singapore, a person uses 13 plastic bags a day, amounting to 27 billion plastic bags every year.
“A mindset overhaul on plastics is due in Singapore. Plastics can be a resource, but a staggering amount is used and produced today. Having individuals understand the issue and more importantly, take action to reduce their plastic use, is key to a lasting solution. Earth Hour aims to drive this change right here in Singapore,” said Elaine Tan, Chief Executive Officer of WWF-Singapore.
People in Singapore are asked to support the Earth Hour movement with a #uselessplastic commitment: to reduce plastic use, and to refuse “useless” or unnecessary plastics such as straws, bags and stirrers.
To drive home the message, Earth Hour will be a plastic-free event. Visitors are encouraged to bring their own reusable bottles, and no single-use plastics will be provided by participating vendors.
Earth Hour 2018 Activities
Earth Hour is held in conjunction with i Light Marina Bay, which encourages sustainability through a showcase of 22 light art installations. The 10-day festival from 16-25 March will feature interactive experiences, art and family-friendly games at the Earth Hour Village. The annual 60+ Countdown Bash will take place on 24 March, with the Singapore skyline going dim at 8.30pm.
Through an online platform called Connect2Earth ( connect2earth.org), WWF aims to spark conversations around nature and biodiversity around the world. The social data gathered through the hashtag #Connect2Earth will be used to identify current environmental topics based on geographical locations.
● Earth Hour Village: 16-25 March, 5pm - 9pm
● Earth Hour Marketplace: 23-25 March, 11am - 10pm (10.30pm on 24 March)
● 60+ Countdown Bash: 24 March, 6pm - 10.30pm
Earth Hour 2018 is on Saturday 24 March at 8:30 p.m. local time (Singapore).
Blog story / fact sheet prepared by WWF.
CLIMATE CHANGE AND OUR PLANET
Today, our planet – and its climate – is changing at an unprecedented scale. Human needs for energy, food, shelter and overall consumption patterns are driving up global greenhouse gas emissions and with every passing year, and each new climate record, climate change is making its presence known with an intensity we have not seen before.
Major natural systems – atmosphere, marine and terrestrial – are experiencing signi cant disruption, globally and locally. The results are evident – in the air, sea and on land – warming and acidi cation (changes in its pH level) putting pressure on sheries and bleaching coral reefs; shifting growing seasons that are impacting food production and availability for people and wildlife; intense and more frequent oods and droughts that are disrupting and destroying homes, habitats and migration patterns. Taken together, these e ects of climate change are eroding the planet’s best defense against its impacts: the earth’s biodiversity.
As vast as our planet is, there is no place on Earth where one would fail to nd life. It may be as massive as the blue whale in the ocean or the elephant in the tropical rainforest, or as small as the cactus in the savannah and the plankton in the sea. But each has a role to play in keeping our natural systems working.
Biodiversity is the single word used to describe this huge variety of
life in a variety of places. There are many di erent species and habitat types, and many of them are dependent on each other for life. But what does that have to do with us and climate change? Everything.
BIODIVERSITY SUPPORTS US
Biodiversity is essential to the food we eat, to the water we drink and the air we breathe. All of these ‘services’ we take for granted depend on a complex web of soil, water and carbon processes, powered by the millions of species we share our planet with.
Take the example of the Amazon rainforest. Often called the ‘lungs of our planet’, did you know that every species in this biodiversity hotspot – plant or animal – is helping provide the air we breathe thousands
of miles away? The leaf-cutter ant for instance helps trim forest vegetation, stimulating new plant growth while breaking down plant materials and adding essential nutrients to the soil. This helps trees
to grow and replenish – and continue to produce around 20 per cent of the Earth’s oxygen. Incredible, isn’t it? And to think that is just one species in one forest on one continent on Earth!
At any given minute, biodiversity is helping provide the services below to you and me, together with the varied wildlife we share our home with:
But now, things are changing. Our planet is getting warmer, our forest cover thinner and our oceans more acidic and it is because of us – and climate change.
CLIMATE CHANGE THREATENS BIODIVERSITY
Biodiversity provides a global safety net, providing us with all the essentials for life. Each species is like a single thread – and the
more threads that link together, the stronger the net and the better
our planet can cope with change. But when a thread fails, which is happening more and more due in part to climate change, it weakens all the other links.
The impacts of climate change, such as rising waters, melting ice or drying river basins and croplands, mean that species, including us humans, are having to move or adapt how and where they nd food and water. Our grasslands, forests and oceans are reeling under growing pressures such as droughts, wild res and coral bleaching, to name a few. All in all, biodiversity is struggling to keep up and as it does, we are losing what could be our best defence against climate change.
HOW BIODIVERSITY CAN HELP CHANGE CLIMATE CHANGE
Our forests and oceans are on the frontline of climate change – and climate action. Between them, they absorb about 60 per cent of the planet’s CO2. But as we pump more greenhouse gases into the air, we need to ensure our forests and oceans are healthy enough to take the load.
Healthy natural systems with rich biodiversity can be more resilient against threats like climate change (ask the dinosaurs!), with nature continuing to provide the essential support we all depend on as people and other species try to adapt and thrive.
By protecting Earth’s natural systems, together with the variety of life needed to make them work, we can help reinforce our planet’s natural defences against one of the greatest environmental challenges of our time.
MAKE THE DIFFERENCE WITH EARTH HOUR 2018
Join WWF’s Earth Hour to protect biodiversity – and our planet – against climate change. Together, we can create real impact and ensure people and nature can thrive in our shared home. This is our moment to change the planet for the better.
In the past decade, WWF’s Earth Hour has helped mobilize communities and countries take action to protect their seas and forests, from Russia and Argentina to Uganda, Ecuador, Madagascar and Indonesia. Join us today and be a part of the world’s largest grassroots movement for the environment.
Since 2007, WWF’s Earth Hour has mobilized millions around the world to encourage action to protect our planet and its biodiversity against climate change. Impacts include:
This Article was first published on Forbes on February 21, 2018.
Story written by Christine Amour-Levar
Shark fin soup has been a tradition at Chinese festive celebrations and wedding banquets, but growing demand of shark fin soup is pushing sharks to extinction and disrupting the balance of our oceans. Without sharks, the entire ocean ecosystem could be altered, negatively impacting humans and ocean dwellers alike.
According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), a quarter of sharks and rays are facing extinction in the coming years. Today, 100 million sharks are killed annually around the world, driven by demand for their fins and meat. Hong Kong, China, Malaysia, Singapore and Taiwan are the top importers of shark fins globally. The fins are supplied by Indonesia, Spain, India, the United States and Argentina, which account for almost half of all shark landings in the world.
In 2017, Singapore was identified as the world's second-largest trader of shark fins after Hong Kong. Between 2012 and 2013, Singapore exported $40 million worth of shark fins, closely following Hong Kong’s $45 million, and imported $51.4 million worth of fins, compared to Hong Kong’s $170 million.
Nevertheless, Singaporeans are increasingly aware of this grave problem, and according to a recent survey by WWF, nine out of ten people in the island state care about sharks going extinct, while eight out of ten have stopped consuming shark fin over the past year. Despite this, there is still a significant group of people who believe sharks can be grown in fisheries. Many fisheries across the world have tried this but to-date, only one has been able to farm one species: the spiny dogfish. All sharks sold in Singapore today are caught in the wild.
Furthermore, some countries have regulations that only allow shark fishing if the whole animal is brought to land. Yet, this does not make the practice sustainable. Thanks to the growing awareness of the impact sharks’ extinction could have on our environment, the #NoSharkFin movement is gaining momentum around the world and particularly in Singapore. And as the island celebrates the Lunar New Year, businesses across the country are taking action against serving shark products.
Last week, 89 Singapore-based establishments committed to phasing out shark fin in 2018. These include brands such as Crystal Jade, Pan Pacific Hotels, AccorHotels and Foodpanda, whose policy applies across its 3,800 partner restaurants. Chinese restaurant group, Crystal Jade Culinary Holdings, has committed to removing shark fin dishes from the Chinese New Year set menus across all restaurants in Singapore under its portfolio. From 31 July 2018, shark fin will no longer feature on the menus of its 28 restaurants. “Seafood remains a prominent part of Chinese cuisine. This decision to phase out shark fin, a long-established traditional dish, is our first step towards protecting oceans and seafood supplies as a socially-responsible business. We will continue to offer premium alternatives in place of shark fin,” said Cynthia Yee, Senior Vice President, Marcom, Crystal Jade Culinary Holdings. The company is confident that the move will improve customers' perceptions and lead them to patronize its restaurants more often.
The Pan Pacific Hotels Group, which is headquartered in Singapore, has stopped serving shark fin across its 34 properties and 7 restaurants around the world as of 1 January 2018. F&B delivery service, Foodpanda will also remove shark-related dishes from the menus of the restaurants listed on its platform starting 5 March 2018. Its head of marketing and sustainability lead Laura Kantor said that currently, just 93 out of 3,800 restaurants on the platform serve shark fin and less than 1% of total orders include shark fin.
This move signals a collective effort by the F&B industry to address the serious threat that shark fishing poses. “As sustainable options do not exist for sharks, halting consumer demand is the only solution today.” said Elaine Tan, Chief Executive Officer of WWF Singapore.
This is WWF's largest collective pledge by the F&B industry in Singapore to date. Establishments will phase out shark fin in one of three ways; by completely removing shark fin from their menus, by not serving shark fin for a trial period of time or by removing shark fin from menus and serving it only upon request or on a case-by-case basis.
Environmental issues related to consumption of shark meat and fins are not new among consumers in Singapore and abroad. Over the last five years, about 18,000 hotels worldwide have removed and banned shark's fin from their menus.
Consumption of shark fin soup in China has fallen by around 80% since 2011, thanks to a celebrity-driven public awareness campaign and a government crackdown on extravagant banquets. But the good news is offset by an alarming rise in the consumption of this prestige dish in places like Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia and Macao, according to a new report by WildAid, a San Francisco-based group that campaigns to curb demand for wildlife products.
Continued public awareness, effective legislation and ongoing scientific research remain essential to the future safeguarding of many shark species, even as conservation efforts continue.
Article first published on Forbes on February 4, 2018.
Story written by Christine Amour-Levar
Traffic congestion is one of the most prevalent and frustrating characteristics associated with major cities. Despite being known as the "Garden City," Singapore has one of the highest road densities of developed nations with 4.8km of road for each square kilometre of land. Singapore also has one of the highest ratios of vehicles per kilometre of road at 232. This is significantly higher than Japan (63), France (39), the United Kingdom (77) and the United States (37).
Even though the country has put in place a range of incentives and constraints to limit the impact cars have on the city-state with a system of quotas, registration fees, and congestion charges, traffic congestion still remains a major concern. And as the city gears up, once again, to host the Singapore Airshow, Asia's largest aerospace and defence event on Feb 6 to 11, 2018, one area of interest bound to be on everyone's minds is urban mobility.
Airbus, a major participant of the air show every year, announced it is planning to feature its Urban Aerial Mobility (UAM) technology -- more commonly known as the flying taxi concept.
Visitors at the Airbus stand will be offered a virtual reality tour in this hotly anticipated solution to road congestion. The CityAirbus or Flying Taxi programme, an intrinsic part of the overall UAM concept, is scheduled for its first test flight at the end of 2018. With an estimated cruising speed of 120 kph (80 mph), it will be a multi-passenger, self-piloted, battery-powered, vertical take-off and landing vehicle intended to carry up to four passengers over congested megacities in a fast, affordable and environmentally friendly way.
Furthermore, while initially slated to have a pilot onboard, the taxis will switch to fully autonomous operations as and when the host city is ready to go driverless. The flying taxis would be able to skip over city traffic, which could dramatically decrease travel time, entering and exiting busy transit points, alleviating ground congestion and reducing CO2 emissions.
Singapore is as serious about cutting traffic congestion as it is about reducing its CO2 emissions and remaining ahead of the curve when it comes to environmentally-conscious businesses and green technologies. Singapore’s Minister of Finance Heng Swee Keat in his Budget 2017 speech included plans to implement a carbon tax from 2019 and adjustments to two vehicle incentive schemes to encourage the use of greener vehicles. Furthermore, in March 2017, the Ministry of Transport also revealed that it was in talks with companies to start trials on flying taxis. This is part of a drive to expand the range of urban mobility options, and Singapore plans to have them ready by 2030.
CityAirbus Programme Head Marius Bebesel said in an interview for this article that wherever Airbus operates its new urban air mobility vehicles they will need to meet government regulations and fit into the local air traffic infrastructure and rules concerning routes, altitudes and speed. “We are discussing such requirements with authorities in several countries, including Singapore,” he said. Furthermore, when asked about the price tag of these flying taxis and the infrastructure requirements, he answered that they "will be cheaper than a conventional helicopter both in terms of acquisition and operation, and any city using our flying taxis will need to build dedicated vertiports for take-off and landing as well as ground stations to control the vehicles.”
Additionally, with artificial intelligence (AI) replacing the traditional human driver, concerns have arose that autonomous buses and flying taxis could be exploited through malicious attacks and weaponized. Airbus is aware of this growing risk, according to Bebesel, and "actively dealing with this aspect of safety on all levels." Ultimately, Airbus believes that its Flying Taxis will revolutionize urban travel for millions of people. “In a not too distant future, we'll use our phones to book a fully automated flying taxi that will fly us from the city to the airport – without any pilot."
And Airbus isn't the only company developing flying taxis. Uber has signed a deal with NASA to help develop traffic systems for its flying car project, which it hopes to start testing in 2020, while Dubai just saw the maiden trial of a two-seated, 18-rotor taxi prototype built by the German company Volocopter. Nevertheless, Airbus benefits from a close relationship with Singapore dating back to the mid-1970s, with the company supplying Singapore Airlines and Silkair with Airbus jetliners, from the A320 to the A380. It seems likely that Airbus’ Flying Taxis may soon be buzzing over the Lion City