I am counting up my days back in Singapore – 11, and counting. Slightly more than a week has past and I’m gradually settling into a new routine: 5.5 work day Raffles Hospital Internship, freelance administration (a part-time job), regular exercise, making time for family and driving lessons. The first week has left me no more than excited. Allow me to share my proudest moment at work (from the first week):
First steps as an Intern have involved long hours sitting by the Reception – preparing toilet paper for the treatment rooms or folding plastic bags. I am told to observe closely the reception work of my colleagues and I take advantage of this luxury to ask them all my curious questions about work in the Rehabilitation Centre. My observations (amongst other discoveries) led me to notice that there were newspapers thrown away daily, rather than recycled. At the end of my first workweek, we have created a recycling bin for the office to use (to contain these newspapers). I have proudly volunteered to clear it at the end of every week. The agreement of my colleagues the best affirmation and the cardboard box as a makeshift recycling bin sits in the storeroom like a trophy.
About 9 days ago, I had the privilege of attending a Future of Us Engagement Session titled “Keeping Singapore Clean”. Issues discussed included (1) the massive amount of wastage embedded in today’s consumerist culture, (2) proposals on how to encourage litter-picking or discourage litter-throwing, (3) systems installed in HDB flats to facilitate more effective recycling etc. Amongst which, the issue of litter resonated with me for its prevalence and preventability. This one is about rubbish.
From the time of the “Keeping Singapore Clean” Engagement Session, I have been inspired to open my eyes a little wider to notice the litter that line the streets, hide in the grass patches or go ignored (rather than unnoticed) on the corridors we take. I realize there is a conscious choice we are too used to making – the choice to walk past litter, rather than pick it up. The excuses are many – “it might be unhygienic to pick it up”, “it’s not my fault”, “I pay fees to have these cleaned by others”. It is embarrassing to admit that they were, for me, paraphrase for “I don’t care enough”. On this note, I begin to question if we truly treat this place as home. At the Engagement Session, a point that stuck with me for long after was that while education plays an important role in clearing litter off our streets, there is a contradiction that downplays everything learned about cleanliness. The contradiction lies in the environment in schools and everywhere else – at schools, littering is strictly not allowed and inconsiderate acts as such as corrected immediately; contrary to that, the external environment students are also exposed to has litter all over. How then, do we intend to let “education”, alone, be the solution? (After all, what we teach is what we get)
It was heartening to learn of the Singapore Glove Project that encourages Singaporeans to take action in their own means, clearing litter off our streets as we did 50 years ago. Let’s take none of this for granted. The trouble, I have decided, is as with any environmental movement, that the benefits of the act of picking litter involve an absence and absence is hard to prove – there is no instant gratification to speak of. In the words of The Lorax, unless someone cares a whole awful lot, things are not going to get better.
The future of us starts now.