Friday, 21 June 2013

SG Haze: Response to readers' comments

My half-hazed self (who was wheezing and blogging till 1 a.m. last night) would never have expected that haze post to go viral in less than one day. Presently more than 50k pageviews for that one post alone! Phew.

Firstly, for the large majority of positive/encouraging/funny/constructive comment contributors and many other 'silent' individuals who have shared the post (presumably because you agree with the points listed), a sincere note of thanks to you! Some of you have even taken the liberty to rebut certain flawed arguments, in defence of my original post! Thank you very much! :)

Thanks for supporting NRSC!

As some readers have rightly pointed, the PSI has hit another new record-high of 401 this afternoon, so we should be thankful that a weekend is around the corner and some of us can be spared the commute to work. Stay indoors and stay safe, everyone.

Now, let me address some other categories of comments received.

Type of comment #1: "The haze problem is NOT SO serious/ not a national crisis"

Can't believe that there are still Singaporeans downplaying the seriousness of the haze when the PSI is constantly in very unhealthy or hazardous levels. Please have a look at this article so that you have a clear idea on exactly how serious and dangerous the haze is. News on the haze has also been picked up by international news sites like BBC. If you do not believe it is serious, you can just take a stroll outdoors at PSI 300-400 ok? Since it is not serious to you. Or you can join the Hello Kitty queue.

"I don't care what you say! The haze is not serious!"

Type of comment #2: "The haze is not worse than SARS"
In comparison to SARS (in Singapore), there are 2 main aspects to consider. If you consider severity, then yes I would think that the symptoms of SARS will generally be more acute to sufferers (unless you have asthma or other chronic respiratory illnesses). However, if you consider the health impact, then clearly ALL the 5 million++ people affected directly by the quality of air now is significantly worse than back in 2004, when only less than 1000 people in Singapore was infected with SARS.

In addition, we know that SARS caused an economic downturn back then. Right now, the haze is also likely to cause an economic downturn in Singapore. SARS can be contained and WAS successfully contained back in 2004. Try containing the haze now. 

Which is 'worse'? You be the judge. We can agree to disagree. I am not always right, but I reserve the right to air my opinions on my blog.

Type of comment #3: "The world doesn't revolve around you/ get a grip / all you do is complain"

What can I say? Haters gonna hate. A small minority of contributors simply drop hate comments with zero constructive/intelligent feedback of any sort. Because there are simply too many comments to attend to, I will only focus on contributions with substance.

Gotta move on.

Type of comment #4: "Talk is cheap/what are you doing about the haze"
Everyone knows it is easy to say what you want without action. Millions of facebookers do it everyday worldwide! Blogging, however, is an intellectual exercise. People who make comments as such, obviously do not blog constructively. I have posted a coherent blog post to spread awareness so that something can be done on a national level to help my fellow Singaporeans. What have YOU done, besides telling me 'talk is cheap'? Moving on...

The purpose of the previous post was not to whine and complain about the government. It was written to highlight what our leaders have done so far, according to news sources. It was written to spread awareness about what can be done immediately to mitigate the haze which cannot be contained. Yes, I was very frustrated because I felt that despite my best efforts (staying indoors and whatnot) I was being poisoned by the air I breathe. That explains the tone of the previous post. In my simple mind, I extrapolate my own wheezing and breathlessness to the 5 million++ people out there (presumably including these haters) who are breathing the same smog. I entitled my post what CAN be done. I listed workable ideas (many of which are contributed by a relative, Mr X, who happens to be a successful lawyer btw) to move forward so as to make breathing a little easier for everyone, while the authorities sorted out their diplomatic issues over the next few days/weeks. 

You can call me simplistic, naive or whatever other names. Name-calling is so primary school. Judging by how viral the post has gone, what was said has obviously struck a chord with many Singaporeans. All of us are breathing the same crap, after all.

Type of comment #5: On Singaporean Community Spirit

Some readers have correctly pointed out that as of today, mask distribution is currently underway. That is great news! I have also read on the online Straits Times (posted 7am this morning, 7 hours after my haze post was published) that ordinary Singaporeans have taken the initiative to collect and distribute masks as well as opened their homes for homeless strangers to stay in.

KUDOS to these inspirational Singaporeans who have shown selflessness in this time of national crisis! We salute you!

Food for thought: If ONE ordinary Singaporean can mobilize 10 volunteers to help collect and distribute more than 2000 masks, imagine what our leaders can do if they mobilize the civil service to distribute the purported 9 million masks in storage. Where are these 9 million masks anyway?

N95 masks, probably the most wanted commodity in Singapore now. Where are the 9 million masks?
On the other end, we also have Singaporeans who purposely inflate the prices of the N95 masks to make a profit out of others' misery. I shall withhold my comments on this and you can read what others have to say about such behaviour by clicking on the link above.

Type of comment #6: On the Stop-Work Order

The final point of contention amongst readers is with regards to the Stop-Work order. I realize that many readers interpreted my point on stop-work-order as absolute stop work for the entire nation for all work types, because I did not elaborate on exactly what I meant.

In my (albeit simplistic) mind, a stop-work order should be issued to inform the nation and/or respective ministries on exactly what types of work and services should be stopped and/or regulated when PSI/PM2.5 reaches certain levels. Click here for the closest thing to a Singapore haze action plan I have managed to find so far. S has called the Government out on their inaction in his earlier post, and I too find it overly-general in its descriptors. Perhaps more enlightened readers out there can let me know whether any specific haze plan has been issued?

OF COURSE we don't stop EVERYTHING because of the haze. I thought that was commonsense enough, even if I didn't elaborate thoroughly in my previous post. One does not simply close all hospitals, government offices, our military, the airport, the supermarkets and shut down public transport. These are examples of essential services (a term I used in my previous post), and those serving in these essential services should be the first to receive N95 masks so they they are protected and can continue their work.

However, the leaders CAN close all schools (like they did during SARS) as well as set guidelines for all non-essential outdoor services (hawkers etc). OF COURSE this takes time, but at least people become aware so that such measures can be made sooner rather than later. OF COURSE the economy will suffer because of the haze. Some of you mentioned that stop work could equate no-pay leave and possible economic downturn etc etc. Even with no haze to complicate matters, the national topic concerning economy vs work-life balance has already been discussed to death. There is no solution, because people (including Singaporeans) want their cake and eat it. Every cause has an effect. Each of us must make a choice based on our own circumstances. 

Eat or don't eat? Choose one.

I can already predict haters and skeptics saying things like if I have so many ideas why not I come up with this so-called stop-work order? I am all-talk-no-action blah blah blah. The simple fact is this. At this moment, I believe only our nation's leaders have sufficient insider knowledge, manpower details and experience to know how to draft a workable haze plan/stop-work order. They are in the best position to determine exactly what constitutes essential and non-essential services and how best to regulate work accordingly. Not to mention they are the only ones with sufficient manpower to mobilize and implement the plan on a national level. Common folks like you and me are simply not in the position to even begin to draft this plan. Many of us only have ground level knowledge and too many blind spots.

I shall end this post with my favourite comment so far. 

I suggested these in Minister Shanmugam's fb page few days back as he wants people to stop complaining but start giving solution. I suggested deploying soldiers all over the island to distribute masks and provide fast medical emergency response to those in need. I called for mandatory provision of mask and reduced work hours for outdoor workers if stop-work is not possible for essential services.

You know what I got? I got banned from posting in his fb account.

Hmm. Telling, I should say. What do you think?

- A

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