Students take part in 'online strike' to lobby S'pore govt to measure carbon emissions in absolute terms

What are you doing for the environment?

Ashley Tan | March 16, 2019, 10:25 PM

A group of students from the National University of Singapore (NUS) launched an online movement to call for action against the threat of climate change.

Called Friday for Future SG, the team of Environmental Studies undergraduates encouraged Singaporeans to post messages on social media on Friday, March 15, urging the Singapore government to enact stronger legislation relating to climate change.

A call to action

In the days leading up to March 15, where youth around the world rallied together to protest climate change, the page urged participants to change their profile picture to the Fridays for Future logo, and post online voicing their concern for climate change.

They also called on their followers to tag organisations like the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources (MEWR) and Climate Change SG.

Here's their initial post on the page, started on Monday, March 11:

An online strike?

One of the students who started the Friday for Future SG page, Ng Shutian, told Mothership that she and her friends did not want to "give the impression that Singapore youths do not care [about climate change]".

"We saw that the global climate strikes are upcoming, and that Singapore had nothing planned on that day... we want to specifically highlight that what Singapore is doing is not enough."

And indeed, according to one of their strongly-worded Facebook posts, the group writes:

"The effects of climate change are insidious... Young people in Singapore will be around for the next 50 or more years to watch it all unfold. It is high time for the state, businesses and individuals to act as if we are under serious threat, because we are."

Why do an online strike instead of a physical one? The students from NUS were aware that an actual strike in Singapore would be frowned upon and would seem "contentious", so they took to social media to spread the word instead.

Collaboration with other S'pore groups

The group also posted about various Singaporean groups organising parallel campaigns for March 15's Fridays for Future event, like the online climate strike led by sustainable social enterprise Tingkat Heroes SG and The Weird and Wild:

Some young Singaporeans participated in the effort with a combination of material provided by both groups:

Here are screenshots from some of the Instagram stories:

Photo by thehandmaderomantics, Instagram

Photo by strawfreentu, Instagram

Photo by thepsychedelicsiren, Instagram

Photo by panmemo, Instagram

Online personality Preetipls and local actor-host Paul Foster added their voices to the mix too:

Photo by paulfosterrr, Instagram

Photo by preetipls, Instagram

A bit more about March 15, & the Fridays for Future movement

March 15 was the day of a global movement by thousands of students around the world, who skipped school to protest against governments' inaction towards climate change.

It was originally inspired by 16-year-old Swedish student Greta Thunberg.

Since August 2018, the teen has been stationing herself outside Sweden's Parliament in Stockholm every Friday with a sign saying "School Strike for Climate", according to National Geographic magazine.

Her strikes gained more traction, with more and more people in other countries following suit.

And on Friday, the strikes occurred en masse worldwide, from Sydney to Seoul to Hong Kong to New York. Here are some pictures:

A tweet from Thunberg showed the impressive scale of the global climate strikes — more than one million students gathered in 125 countries worldwide.

What it means to measure & report emissions in "absolute terms"

Currently, the government measures greenhouse gases via emissions intensity. This means emissions in Singapore are measured against our Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

In other words, if Singapore's GDP increases, the allowed emissions we produce will also be raised. Setting absolute targets, a specific quantity, for emissions production would hence be a more concrete measurement, according to the Australian Climate Council.

But how can you, a regular Singaporean, continue to do your part, since we've all missed Friday's campaign? Here are some things you can try:

  1. Stop eating meat. Or if you're too much of a carnivore, aim to eat less meat every week.
  2. Use public transport (MRT, bicycles) more.
  3. 'Marie Kondo' it — don't buy things you don't need.
  4. Buy locally produced food. Seth Lui has compiled a list of supermarket products made locally here.
  5. Reduce plastic consumption — go straw free, swap plastic bags for reusable totes at the supermarket.

The planet needs it.

Top photo from @unfcc and Friday for Future, Facebook