Summary of the issue
The news report discussed the validity of the results of a joint study undertaken by National University of Singapore (NUS) and the University of Adelaide, which ranked Singapore as the worst environmental offender among 179 countries. The study provided two novel metrics environmental impact ranks- a proportional index which measured impact against total resource availability, and an absolute index which measured total impact on global environmental degradation. Singapore was the worst environmental performer in terms of proportional environmental impact. The study implied that the nation’s development was pursued at the expense of its environment.
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b) Mitigation Hierarchy and Biodiversity Offset
The mitigation hierarchy is a descending order of measures in managing biodiversity risk. Its standard is that after all reasonable measures are first taken to avoid and minimize the impact of development projects, biodiversity offset (no net loss or gain of biodiversity) would be the last option for restoration of biodiversity on-site (Business and Biodiversity Offsets Programme, 2010). As mentioned in the article, much of local biodiversity are lost in the urban development process. Nevertheless, Singapore is renowned for being a “Garden City” for its abundance of greenery island-wide. Therefore, Singapore has demonstrated the concept by implementing infrastructure projects in a manner designed to compensate for significant residual adverse biodiversity impacts.
c) Environmentally Sustainable Development (ESD)
The concept of ESD is defined as “the integration of human activities into natural systems with ensuring the long-term sustainability of these systems” (Sustainable Development Theories, 2012). As a subset of sustainable development, ESD focuses on environmental impact in the use of urban ecosystems while maintaining a fair balance of environmental quality against the use of resources (Weiland, 2000). As a small nation-state with limited natural resources, sustainable development is the key approach in tackling Singapore’s future challenges in ensuring continued growth. The “Garden Approach” is Singapore’s strategy to sustainable development, which was well ahead envisioned by the government in 1968, before the term was given political legitimacy in the Brudtland Report, 1987.
Assessment of supporting data/evidence
The article has cited supporting evidence from several creditable environmental studies and agencies. The joint study by NUS is peer-reviewed by PLoS ONE, which is an open access online scientific journal, published by the Public Library of Science (Wikipedia, 2013). The results of the study are backed by the findings of Energy Information Administration, where Singapore is ranked a high emitter of greenhouse gases. One point to note is that the data was taken in 2006, the latest 2010 data saw an even worsened ranking, 30th highest emitter (The Guardian, 2012), as compared to 33rd in 2006.
The article presented a more complete picture by quoting a relatively positive environmental rating received by Singapore, which was the Environmental Performance Index (EPI). However, the latest ranking in 2012 revealed a decline in ranking to 52th modest performer with 56.36 points (EPI, 2012), in contrast to 28th strong performer with 69.6 points in 2010. Therefore, it seems that most evidence is pointing Singapore to the negative end on the environmental scale.
Key assumptions and influence of contexts