story | Regina Veronica Vanda, Guest Writer
photo | Regina Veronica Vanda
Ed: This article is the second in a series of articles featuring student organizations and their activities in Yale-NUS, contributed by Yale-NUS students outside of The Octant. We hope to make these passions contagious, tapping into students’ knowledge and expertise on the unique causes represented by student organizations.
A few weeks before my Yale-NUS College admissions interview, I took part in the Singapore Environmental Action and Leadership (SEAL) Programme organized by i’dECO, the Yale-NUS Sustainability Movement. The three-day SEAL workshop transformed my understanding of the environment and added a much more nuanced idea of sustainability. It challenged me to think critically and creatively about what action I can take not only as an individual who cares, but also as a leader who can create larger impact beyond my personal capacity.
Most importantly, the people behind the workshop inspired me. The ability to see possibilities and be committed to realize them is what I appreciate most about the I’dECO community, especially now that I have volunteered as a facilitator for subsequent runs of SEAL workshops.
With every new learning experience in environmental stewardship, which is concerned with responsible management of the environment entrusted to our care, as well as the influence of learning about the value of love and reverence for life from my Catholic faith, I become increasingly certain that environmental conservation is very much a humanitarian mission. If we do not act responsibly in our interactions with the environment, we are neglecting the dignity of both those who are less fortunate than us as well as that of future generations by alienating them from their rights to fulfill their basic needs. If we only realize how close the interdependence between human and environmental health is, perhaps we would take it upon ourselves to care for both more urgently and proactively.
For this reason, the campus climate action team is focusing not just on environmental imperatives but also the social-relational implications of climate action. For example, the World Water Day on March 22 encouraged water conservation in solidarity with those across the globe who do not have access to water security. Earth Hour Under the Stars was held on March 25 in collaboration with Ashen Light. It was a lighthearted picnic with electricity-free performances (and a mic-less open mic). But the objective of this event goes even deeper, to encourage us to reconnect with one another while disconnecting from our devices—hence the theme of this year’s Earth Hour global movement being Connect2Earth.
With 2018 being the Year of Climate Action in Singapore, I was prompted to re-think the role each of us can play in reducing our negative impact within our campus lifestyle. This could mean making it a norm to study together in the common area as a suite to cut down on the consumption of lights and air conditioning. Each event organized on campus can be an opportunity to reduce food waste and disposable cutlery.
Although the impact of these actions may be small, they can also serve as opportunities for conversations about conservation, why it matters and what more we can do. Creativity and collaboration are crucial in making this movement work. Some may be inclined towards enhancing connection with nature and getting their hands dirty, while others want to emphasize the importance of research or education. Some may even want to get companies on board through corporate sustainability. There is untapped potential of powerful peer influence within one’s social circles, and we hope to leverage on this potential to realize the action part of ‘climate action’!
On the first day of the Special Seminar on Global Environmental Governance, Professor Benjamin Cashore—a visiting professor from Yale University—said something that resonated with me.
“One would think that students of the environment would be the most depressed people, but you are not because you have a mission—you have a strong sense of mission in life.”
I hope that the Yale-NUS community will come to recognize that being good stewards of the environment is very much aligned to the mission of this college.