Thursday, 9 October 2014

Singapore Airport - and the Consumer Conundrum

For the past few days I've been travelling long-haul, wandering around between flights in the consumer cathedrals that are airport departure lounges.


This is conspicuous consumption, by bored, travel-lagged people, buying things they don't need simply to pass the time, or lured by the 'tax free' label.  It's all very glitzy and overpowering.  It left me feeling guilty and thinking a lot about the carbon miles that drive our lifestyles.


Singapore Airport is definitely one of the world's top airports for comfort and shopping.  I wandered around looking at expensive things I couldn't afford to buy and certainly didn't want and then spent some quite time in the butterfly garden trying to reclaim my soul.


There's also a roof-top open-air swimming pool fringed with palm trees.  But, having picked up a copy of the Strait Times, it was probably a good idea not to go out there.  The air quality in Singapore - front page news - was so unhealthy that elderly people, pregnant women and children were recommended not to go out in to the grey pall of pollution haze that shrouded the city.

Singapore on Tuesday
Hazardous micro particles had reached 153 micrograms per cubic metre.  The safe level is 55 mpcm. In  June the level had reached 400 mpcm.  The Strait Times blamed pollution from neighbouring countries and forest fires in Sumatra (some deliberately set to clear forests for agriculture).  Singapore has introduced laws which allow it to seek compensation from its neighbours for the pollution, but I can't see how they can be enforced or how they will have much impact.

The truth is we share our air around the world and we're poisoning each  other and ourselves.  It makes me feel guilty to be here, boarding another jet that will spew more toxic particles into the atmosphere.  Like everyone else I'm torn, because if I don't travel I won't be able to see my daughter and grandchildren, yet I'm aware that our addiction to travelling is harming the world they will grow up in.
On a really bad day ......
One thing I really don't understand is why we tolerate things that are clearly intolerable.  We are living in cities where the air is too dangerous to breathe, yet people aren't out on the streets protesting, or even doing it from the safety of their homes.  One Singapore resident is quoted as saying 'the air is stuffy but we have to get used to it because we are surrounded by countries with a lot of forests and this haze will not go away.'  Another resident, a mother, says 'it's ok so long as the PSI doesn't go above 200.'   It's clearly not ok.  Where has common sense gone? Why are people walking so obediently and quietly into this?

I boarded my flight.


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