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for the recent drastic decline in the air quality in Hong Kong.

SOOtiJ of the smog has been attrib-


uted to ~hide e~ons, coa1buming power plants and factories within the region. The in-
creased lerels of air pollutants subsequently led to an increase in acidity of rainfall in both Japan
and South Korea. The increased prevalence and intensity of acid rain have a n~ impact on
lakes and forests.
The regularity of ~rder pollution issues within Asia has led experts to call for more regional
pacts to be enacted within Asia to tackle these problems. Setting e~on limits on sulphur diox-
ide, nitrogen oxide and other chemicals, which is what u.s.and Europe are doing, may be useful
in controlling ~rder pollution. Yet, while the implementation of regional pacts will go a
long way in resolving this transnational problem, obstacles other than bureaucratic inertia will
hinder the legislation of such regional or international pacts. This is due to the fact that any gain
by one country is likely to be made at the expense of another. In fact, there eren exists the possibil-
ity that such discussions in which countries only have their own interests at heart may eren exacer-
bate strained ties be~n nations.

In certain cases, counter-accusations ~r who is responsible for a certain act of pollution may
make matters eren more complicated. This is dearly delineated when Indonesia pointed out that
Singaporean and other Asian inwsrors either have stakes, or own, the palm plantations routinely
blamed for some of the fires. lastly, eren if any amicable compromise among nations could be ar-
ri~ upon, some monitoring device has to be in place to ensure that what have been agreed on
will be feasibly enforced. G~n the increasing ecological footprint that humans are making upon
the planet, decisions need to be made and actions executed before ~rsible and irreparable
damage is made to the Earth.

PARlY I 03
un\1\d
Ont~\\anr.
Is politiOi the solution
to environmental problems?
By Bryan Hui Chit Xiang

Before vve marvel at the latest technolo- politics is the obvious and viable solution to prob-
gies and celebrate its potential contributions to- lems caused by the environment and also discuss
wards the economy, one should not ignore the the limitations of politics in protecting the envi-
cries made by environmentalists appealing for ronment.
us to pause and think about the consequences
human activities ~ upon the environment. To understand why politics is the obvious sohl-
In fact, the rapid construction of factories will tion to environmental problems, we must firstly
only exacerbate environment pollution. understand the main charncteristics of environ-
Throughout history, the environment has con- mental pollution. As environmental problems
stantly pa;ed challenges to man in the fonn of are usually widespread and not confined -within
gradual environmental change and natural di- national boundaries, there are huge consequenc-
sasters. Although Man has -vet to learn how to es to masses of people not responsible for these
mitigate the effucts sufficiently or to fully over~ problems. For instance, the Chemobyl disaster in
come these problems, he nevertheless creates 1986 led to radioactive plume spreading to exten-
na:rer challenges for us by inmluntarily (but sive parts in Russia, Ukraine and Belarus, leading
not unknowingly) speeding up the rate of envi- to the resettlement of hundreds of thousands of
ronmental change. While it is undeniable that people. Transnational boundary problems such
advancement in technology has brought about as these can only be successfully solved through
unprecedented imp~ments in standards of collaborations between countries. Environmen-
living for the masses, it has also resulted in seri- tal problems bring out the important but loosely
ous environmental degradation. The question regarded notion of interdependency between
that one should ponder then \\Quld be whether countries as the solution often requires collective
it is justifiable for us to destroy the environment effort by the various gO\emments.
in the pursuit of economic successes, and if so,
to what extent? In this article, I will discuss why- Depending on how politics is being played out, it

PARTY I 04
could help or m)rsen the situation. In the ~ of effort is that Singaporeans are o&en fur from
Myanmar, Cyclone Nargis caused great devastation being convinced of the importance and need
to the people. As the Myanmar goremment strug- for environmental conservation. Hence, the
gled to cope with the rescue of her people, they re- citizenry rarely push for proenvironment poli-
fused pro~ional aid from other countries and cies to be implemented In another way, it can
NGOs. This lack of international cooperation was also be argued that with increasing urbanisa-
to the detriment of the people of Myanmar as they tion, the effects of environmental degradation
were deprnro of crucial help in the initial ~ry is less visible to the people and ~ a result, they
stages. E\\!n though the Myanmar goremment are unable to comprehend the extent to which
had sub;equently made concessions under the Ulll- our environment has deteriorated. In addition,
brella of ASFAN, critical time had been lost. From when one considers the substantial benefits
here, it could be seen that politics could be used to that technology has best:cMOO upon us, there is
tackle problems caused by the environment but increased reluctance to accept the fact that \\e
only if it is p~ out according to a tactful script. are dealing significant damage to our environ-
ment and a need to rethink our accepted vvays
The limitations of politics to tackle environmen- of doing things. One needs to acknowledge that
tal problems are both structural and ~ological. the problem of the hasty plunge into techno-
Historically, the dimensions of politics ha\\! mainly logical and economic pursuit \\QuId result in
remlved around the state and the industry. The the implementation of painful measures which
ramification of this is that environmental policies has significant economical ~. It is this inabil-
often take a backseat to economic issues. This is ity to convince people that the threat of the envi-
due to the widespread fear that the implementa- ronment is real that has resulted in a slow prog-
tion of environmental policies will incur additional ress tovvards environmental conservation. Must
costs to the industries, hence accounting for the im- \\e feel the pain first before the cries can be
mense resistance put forth by the industries. heard?
Though this structural barrier seems to be huge,
the greatest hindrance to environmentally friendly In conclusion, \\e lta\e reached a crucial turn-
policies lies in the mindset of the people. ing point where \\e are compelled to chOU'le be-
M:'en greater technological advances (which in-
In Singapore, people generally do not assume "en- \U~ environmental ~) and the heed to ad-
vironmental citizenship". This can be seen in how dress the ~ of envirorunental degrada-
proenvironment campaigns are usually organized tion which haW Decome in~ hard to
by the goremment. The result of this topdown ignore. By recognising and resolving the limita-
tions of politics, it is probable that environmen-
tal conservation is realizable. Eml though it re-
mains an uncertainty that politics is the sohr
tion tDwards resolving environmental prob-
lems, the consequences will be dire if man~a
continues this reckless degradation of the
ronment.