Feb 6, 2006
Eco-friendly? Far more pressing issues on my mind
By Eisen Teo
ENVIRONMENTAL scientists were recently ringing the alarm bells again - '2005 was the hottest year on record', 'Polar ice sheets could begin melting this century', 'Large-scale and irreversible disruption to the planet's climate system'.
The headlines kept screaming but I do not find myself losing much sleep over them. I do not even find myself conserving or recycling paper.
As products of a ruthless educational system, my peers and I have mastered the art of photocopying - without batting an eyelid - more than 100 pages at one sitting.
If we make a mistake? Never mind - we simply crush the offending sheets and fling them into the nearby bins, each already full with hundreds of similarly crumpled sheets. I can almost hear protests from the greenies.
But for us, it is a matter of 'I can't be bothered' or 'I alone can't do much'. Our mentality is: 'If I save 10 pieces of paper, it'll only be wasted by the next guy who comes along'.
We have far more pressing issues on our minds, like the urgency of schoolwork. And frankly, it is easier to give in and do what everyone else is doing - especially if we can afford it (less than five cents for one sheet of paper).
We are also mostly 'immune' to reports of environmental destruction now, because we are taught to take everything with a (large) pinch of salt and treat even frightening stories about dying polar bears with scepticism and cynicism.
For all our calls for the freedom of civil society, we need the Government to prod us to adopt environmentalism. The awareness is there, but we need more to translate it into action.
The writer is a first-year history major at National University of Singapore.
This article brought back a funny little memory for me. I recall that when I was a law student at NUS Law Faculty, I read about some environmental study focusing on the use of paper in Singapore. The study showed that the NUS Law Faculty (one of the smallest faculties in NUS) used more paper per year than the entire Singapore Armed Forces put together. Amazing, isn't it.
I don't know if the Law Faculty is still like that now. Frankly, a lot of the paper was wasted paper because the average law student never made it through more than 40% of the voluminous amount of prescribed reading. Nevertheless the Faculty admin staff would just faithfully photostat all the prescribed materials and slot them every two or three days' into the students' lockers. If you had chickenpox and you didn't come to school for a fortnight, the Faculty admin staff would get mad because your locker would get completely filled and they couldn't slot any more materials into it.
Thinking back now, I wonder why a better system couldn't have been devised. Perhaps the Faculty should have just provided hard copies of the Absolutely Most Essential Reading, then put everything else on CD-ROMs and given each student a CD-ROM. From the CD-ROM, the student could then just print out only as much as he had time to read.
650 MB = an immense amount of paper.
Maybe the problem was that CD-ROM technology wasn't exactly that common back in those days.