In an attempt to retain as much I learn from this year’s festival as possible, I’m going to be writing about whatever I learn as much as I can, as I did last year. My experience crossing paths with the renowned (to the not so well-known), international to the local, fiction to non-fiction writers began at this very festival last year, that brought together such brilliant minds that had the most beautiful words to articulate what exactly they meant. What we get as a result, is a series of very fruitful discussions, though some with more concrete conclusions than others. Nonetheless, every panel instigates a kind of discourse that leaves you with a mind full of thoughts by the end of it.
The first panel that I began the festival with was titled “The Prospects of a Garden City”, and it explored the idea of natural heritage– what it represents, why it is valuable and where its place remains in the years to come. It was raised that in the times from our history that dates back 700 years, the deforestation for civilisation had begun years before Raffles even came into Singapore, and the history professor in the panel verified that reforestation efforts tookover since the 1880s. Considering that the journey for Singapore to work towards a ‘Garden City’ was not just in the 50 years of independence that we can remember, but in reality goes back to 200 years ago. Taking that into account together with the context of Singapore’s riding along the tides of globalisation, and how we have to constantly manage the space we have, all of our space constraints are worked around with stringent planning. And herein lies the discussion, is this planning what we want for our nation’s landscape?
So the argument against this planning revolved around the artificiality of this gardening: the way we import the different plantations to create our landscape ruins the way natural heritage actually captures the story of our nation. While the argument for, which I prefer because of the optimism it entails, believes that this importing of plantations as a fast ticket to a greener nation has actually achieved more functional, economic purposes and the planning has allowed us to continue having a balance through the preservation of the more natural forms of greenery like the forests and catchment areas. In the makeup of our green landscapes today, we then find a new layer that spells the chapter of Singapore’s story today– the economic growth we value, mixed with the heritage we still attempt to preserve.
This panel was the first time I thought in my head ‘how I wish I was a geography student so I could make sense out of all these that they are saying’ and it truly gave me an awareness about the greenery that comes together to make Singapore as beautiful as it is today that I never had before. Here’s to more insight and thoughts I’ll get from this vibrant community of robust activity throughout this festival!