Wednesday, November 08, 2006

On Haze, Al Gore, and Green Cars

I have been highly irritable for the past month, as the Pollution Standards Index (PSI) crept towards the unhealthy zone. “Runny nose, eye irritation, sore throat, dry cough…”, my doctor read out. And delivering the final blow, “stay indoors!”, he bellowed.

Woe, adieu to my usual outdoor activities, with all credit to the haze.

There’s indeed some truth in the so oft-heard dictum that we only treasure something when it’s gone. One can’t help but agree to the suggestion that Singaporeans have taken the clean and green environment here for granted.

It is during this time each year that we are reminded of the need to do the environmentally-friendly right stuff.

So when former US Vice President Al Gore’s award-winning documentary premiered in Singapore, I thought it was so fitting and timely to catch “An Inconvenient Truth”. Not that I was convinced by the documentary’s anti-Bush bashing (subtle or otherwise), but the ‘go green’ messages resonated well, especially as the haze reminded how the quality of my life is dependent on Mother Nature.

I read that Singapore’s level of particulate mater less than 2.5 microns in size (PM2.5) has exceeded standards set by the US Environmental Protection Agency. The message is clear: what you can’t see doesn’t mean that it’s not there! Apparently, high levels of PM2.5 pose health risks as the particles can penetrate deep into the respiratory system. And all this is not due to the forest fires in Indonesia alone.

Instead, diesel vehicles here reportedly contribute half of the PM2.5 in the air.

Hence, the initiatives by the Singapore Government to have more ‘green’ cars are laudable. Diesel vehicles with 70% less PM2.5 are now readily available in the market. Car makers are also promoting more ‘hybrid’ cars. More people are encouraged to car pool or take public transport. And the Transport Minister, Raymond Lim recently came out to say that “my other car is a bus”.

To quote Tabitha Wang, “I’d assumed that breathing clean air was my right but I was wrong; it was a privilege”. Well, the sunshine seems to be back, let’s keep it that way…

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