Two years ago, SG Climate Rally made headlines in September 2019 and created momentum for a range of activities and initiatives. Two years later in 2021, climate change activists in Singapore were frustrated by the lack of systemic or structural progress at COP26, or the 26th United Nations Climate Change conference. The frustration is perhaps compounded by persistent apathy or lethargy among Singaporeans too. As such, is there a feeling of pessimism or even hopelessness, that institutional changes will be perpetually inadequate in terms of scale and timeliness?
So much ink has been spilled on Singapore’s healthcare and public health response to the ongoing pandemic. Yet, there will be an end to COVID-19, and the start of 2022 feels like a good time to shift some of the public focus to our country’s long-term, pandemic-linked social challenges. In this short episode, I summarise the most urgent and obvious problems – migrant, healthcare, and economically disadvantaged essential workers – before detailing four challenges which have received less attention: First, the harm to children, adolescents, and youths; second, compounded socio-economic inequality; third, social isolation; and fourth, ambiguous loss and unresolved grief.
It has been more than 18 months since Singapore’s first climate rally at Hong Lim Park in September 2019, and the COVID-19 pandemic, as we have documented time and time again in this podcast, has only highlighted and exacerbated existing socio-economic inequalities in the country. With one of SG Climate Rally’s founding members, Estella Ho, we talk about intersectional climate justice and the unequal effect of climate change. In addition, we also learn more about her activist and advocacy work with the movement, in terms of her experience working with government agencies, working with other groups and organisations in the same space, and dealing with burnout.
In a commentary on climate governance for academia.sg, Belicia Teo made the case that the impact of climate change is not equal, and that, as a consequence, identifying and addressing these risks “should be up for debate and public scrutiny”. This was important, she added, so as to address differences in norms and values in Singapore. Her research was based on 10 interviewees from six climate groups, and we invited her to elaborate how the Singaporean state and climate groups framed climate change, as well as the differences in these framings. In addition, what should we expect from the state and the climate groups in the future?
Final-year PhD candidate in the University of British Columbia’s Department of History Edgar Liao studies the history of youth in Singapore. His work is informed both by his archival work and his previous experience as a volunteer and youth leader in the youth work scene in the country. After helping us understand the theoretical (Foucauldian) concepts he employs, Edgar explains how Singapore’s youth policies as well as patterns of inclusion and exclusion inform the history of the present. He describes a dualistic discourse: Of the Singapore state empowering youths with resources for development, while scrutinising and policing their activity and activism at the same time.