Yi Ying will be moderating a youth roundtable discussion on key topics relating to the Summit theme “Governance and legal frameworks to promote sustainable landscapes”
Find out more about the youth session here!
As I was applying to be a youth moderator for the Forests Asia Summit, my mother sent me a picture of the view from our house, shrouded in the haze. The Pollutant Standards Index had hit the moderate range of 84. I recalled the cancellation of physical education lessons in school and the relief that some of my classmates felt. We could not see past the soccer field. While we were happy about not having to run that day, we all knew that the haze does not bode well for Singapore and for other countries in the Southeast Asian region.
Having witnessed first-hand the effects of haze on Singapore, I am particularly concerned about the clearance of Southeast Asian forests for palm oil plantations. Undoubtedly, this complex issue is pertinent because its effects are directly felt. When Singapore suffers air pollution, a loss of tourism dollars, and a drop in productivity, I know that other countries in the region are afflicted as well. The issue is also heart wrenching because it highlights a classic example of how well-intentioned environmental policies can lead to negative outcomes. The EU and many other countries initiated biofuel subsidies to encourage the transition from fossil fuels to sustainable fuels. However, this led to a leap in demand for biofuels, incentivizing the clearance of forests for palm oil plantations.
Yet, it is not the complexities of the issue that hamper action; it is indifference. As a young person seeking to raise awareness about the clearance of forests for palm oil, one of the obstacles I encounter is helping others to understand the relevance of the haze situation to their daily lives, beyond the human health impacts it brings about for a period of time every year. Few of us are aware that palm oil has penetrated all of our consumer products- from household products like shampoo and cosmetics to food that we consume every day. An assumption in a country like Singapore, which imports 90% of food, is that these problems are caused by small-scale slash-and-burn farmers in a distant land. As part of this interconnected world, consumers need to recognize that they are part, and in fact the end goal, of a network of supply chains. We are invested in this issue simply because of our choices. At the Summit, I seek to further recognize my personal stake in this issue and to inspire others to do the same.
Clearly, there is no silver bullet to this issue. Yet there is hope, because there are platforms that acknowledge the complexity of the problem and bring together different stakeholders to facilitate progress on the issue. The Forests Asia Summit is one such platform. I applied to be a youth moderator because I’m excited to be recognized as a stakeholder, as one invested in the future of our forests just as countries, companies and indigenous people groups are.
Having always been interested in governance issues and the complexities of trans-boundary environmental issues, I’m glad to be chosen to facilitate discussion on “Governance and Legal Frameworks to promote sustainable landscapes”. I anticipate meeting like-minded people, especially youth from other Southeast Asian countries and grappling with these incredibly multi-faceted issues from different countries’ perspectives. I look forward to be part of this excellent opportunity for regional cooperation over an issue that concerns us all.
Yi Ying Teh