It’s been always nice to come home from an overseas trip. But I must admit homecoming this time was filled with a sense of anxiety and a kind of dread that makes me want to collect my bags and then get a flight out somewhere, anywhere.
With reluctance, I stepped out of Changi airport to the car park with my last lungful of fresh clean air. Even more reluctantly, I put on a surgical mask and walked hurriedly like everyone else as if this place was hit by an epidemic. The air was horrible, felt like being in a chimney with a fire burning below.
The next morning was surreal. After moving around in the past three months, there were mornings when I had to remind myself where I was. But it had been a nice kind of feeling to find a new scene from the window, the landscape beyond and the clear sky above.
But my first morning back in Singapore was as if I’ve woken up in an underground man-made city with muted fluorescents and a broken ventilation system. The lethargic light from the weak yellow circle in the jaundiced sky was all too sickening. Whatever happened to this place!
I heard it was much worst before I returned. Friends were urging me not to come home. Nobody could tell how long this haze will last.
The IMS (not International Monetary System, rather, Indonesia Malaysia Singapore) leaders got together for powwows and debated who started the first fire.
That was over a week ago. The haze situation has improved; in fact the haze is gone, at least for the time being. It has to do with changing wind direction, efforts to put out fires, efforts to stop new fires, cloud seeding, and natural thunderstorms.
How quickly things work around here, especially when the shame started with the listing of organizations that may have played a role in this messy affair of meeting the world’s hunger for bio-fuels. It’s really a situation of marginalizing those lowest in the value chain that has to resort to slash and burn, and of agencies and neighbours conflicted by their own agendas and KPIs. What a tangled web of social responsibilities.
Talking about social responsibilities, the haze demonstrates how integrated and inter-related we are on this earth. If there’s anything good that comes out of this bad situation, it is to remind all of us that the world we live in could be like how the haze has enveloped this region.
Imagine a world when the sun and sky were distant memories and only seen in picture books, and our atmosphere reduced to a thick toxic cloak. And if this haze continues year after year as it has been since the world’s palm oil demand took off in a big way, we should conduct eco-tours to show the impact of global warming. How about holding the next ministerial and CEO meetings here during the haze season with grand outdoor parties for the full effect.
This is getting bizarre. See what the haze can do to one’s head. I’m sure the responsible folks making policies and running corporations will do the right thing to make things right and haze will be the distant memory.