City in a Garden – a vision that was put into effect by our late former Prime Minister, Mr. Lee Kuan Yew when he started Singapore’s greening campaign in 1963. This revolutionised a transformation in Singapore’s city landscape and urban planning. This vision had took on a more overtly outlook with the conspicuous presence of green spaces within the city, which includes a network of nature reserves, parks, park connectors, and tree-lined roads, amongst others. The initiative has contributed to the improvement of the standard of living of the Singaporeans as they strived for modernity whilst maintaining a natural ecosystem as a backdrop to its concrete metropolitan jungle.
The recent addition of Singapore’s 101-hectares Gardens by the Bay – an urban “green lung” found within the city’s financial district is a welcome initiative in improving her biodiversity set within an urban setting. Although a large portion of land was needed for the development of the Gardens, land-scarced Singapore went ahead with it. This spelt Singapore’s commitment to fulfilling its vision of a City in a Garden.
The aesthetical quality of our living space is important in improving the quality of our lives with maintaining the environment a shared responsibility. Humans have an inherent affinity towards nature and this fondness has been referred to as biophilia. The addition of elements of nature has profound effects on cognition and emotion, as early civilisations will attest. Ancient Egyptians and Pompiites furnished their homes with trees whilst the medieval infirmaries of Spanish Cordoba were set amidst lush greenery. These examples posit that the successes of these civilisations can be attributed to their pleasant living environment.
Singapore has the honour of being consistently mentioned as a model sustainable city. The green landscape of this city had possibly contributed to the nation’s development, be it economic or not. However, the environment should not be taken for granted, regardless if they are found naturally or “manicured” by a national agency. The pleasant living environment we have will be inherited by the future generations – it is a baton passed down by us and we have to ensure that they are able to experience the same fruits of success as we did. Furthermore, Hardin arrived at an economic theory dubbed as The Tragedy of the Commons as he observed that society is inclined to care for their private spaces rather than public spaces. This can be related to Wilson and Kelling’s Broken Windows theory, which summed up how society treats their living spaces. They postulated that if their living space is unpleasant, it tends to get more unattractive whilst the vice versa is true if the place is beautiful in the eyes of her residents. Therefore, the upkeep of our living environment has to come from a collective effort while it subconciously contributes to the betterment of the society. Recent global initiatives such as Earth Hour had brought environmental awareness to the masses. There is also an increasing demand for the greening of our urban cities with more and more green spaces and rooftop farms sprouting throughout South Korea and the ASEAN region. This trend can only be positive to the development of the region – aesthetically, socially, and economically.
By Solyh Ahmad, ASEAN Correspondent from Singapore