19 June 2014
Throw away your misconception if you still think that environmental sustainability is not of your concern. The environment has changed, but if we do not, the world will never be a better place to live in. Singapore International Water Week (SIWW) recently came to a close. It was my first time attending some of the events during SIWW. I feel that the knowledge shared are not only useful and enlightening for the water leaders, but also for ordinary citizens like you and I who ought to know that we all have a shared responsibility in making our environment sustainable. I would like to share 3 key takeaways from the event which I find really insightful: (1) Collaboration (2) Flexibility (3) Leadership.
Even though the government is the authority providing the public goods and services for the people, the role should not lie with the government alone. Collaboration with the various stakeholders should be the key to harness their strengths to develop goods and services that can benefit a larger audience group. We need to understand that the government does not have infinite resources and manpower, hence partnerships between the public and private sectors are crucial so that both can leverage on each other’s strengths to co-create innovative and sustainable water solutions. During the joint opening plenary, Mr Peter Bakker, President, World Business Council for Sustainable Development said: “We need to drive solutions to scale. There are many great stories out there that die in smallness. We need to start scaling the stuff up.” He cited three ways to scale things up, namely (1) to innovate, (2) give the right incentives to businesses, (3) to collaborate. There may be many great ideas and promising technologies out there, but due to the lack of resources, these may not develop successfully. However, with the commitment and cooperation from different parties, these technologies could be brought to fruition.
In today’s increasingly complex and globalised world, both the government and the people need a major shift in their mindsets. They need to be adaptive and prepared for any contingencies. The world is facing many wicked problems. According to Peter Ho, wicked problems “have no immediate or obvious solution. Large and intractable, these issues have causes and influencing factors that are not easily determined ex ante. Their many stakeholders not only have different perspectives but also do not necessarily share the same goals. A key challenge for governments is to move the many stakeholders towards a broad alignment of perspectives and goals.” (source: The Straits Times, “Governments must thrive in complex world “, an extract from his speech at the Australia New Zealand School of Government 2012 conference in New Zealand). Climate change is an example of a wicked problem. Climate change brings about extreme weather events such as more intense rainfall or drier periods. While the Singapore government is gearing up its flood resilience and water security, this is a change that necessitates the cooperation and understanding of all. The people need to understand that climate change is not something that can be resolved overnight. I strongly feel that it is a long-term fight which we all have a share in – to pursue a common good. The economy and businesses can only thrive in an environment that is sustainable, and only which the quality of living can be increased. Environmental sustainability cannot be achieved when people’s attitudes are not right.
Political will was what Ms Helen Clark, Administrator of United Nations Development Programme, identified as the key thing that we need to accelerate progress in environmental sustainability. I couldn’t agree more. In my opinion, in order for the people to understand the importance of environmental sustainability and for them to practise it, the government needs to exercise strong leadership and political will through policy planning and implementation to show their determination in achieving it. They have to be transparent and set the actions right in order for the people to follow and to garner their trust. Rules and regulations are important to attain compliance and to achieve environmental sustainability on a larger scale. Hopefully, in time to come, everyone can be intrinsically motivated to protect our environment.
Be it collaborating with the private sector, changing your mindsets, or asserting strong leadership, all these underscore an important point – pursuing environmental sustainability is for the greater good. Every effort, no matter how big or small, has an impact on our environment. Every action on your part could create a sustainable future. Stop hesitating now and start making a difference – conserve water, reuse water & keep our waterways clean .Remember, our environment needs to be sustainable in order to be liveable.
By Cookie Monster