Friday, July 27, 2007

Perils of Graduate Studenthood

Seems that across the pacific and continental USA, the divine bovine is likewise recording down the days of her graduate life in UNC.

Of course, it's in part due to the fact that she is overseas and needs to regularly update her animal friends in Singapore.

Incidentally, she linked this blog on her recent post on her embarking on teaching assistantship. I must admit though that personally I get very excited at the prospects of teaching. It's like the precursor to every tuition kid I used to take on. Sadly I have a feeling it won't be as fun as being in full control of the syllablus. I heard that all I get to do is mark essays and if I'm lucky, once in a while I get to show my face at a fortnightly tutorial session!

Either way, since she mentioned it, there seems to be increased interest in this blog with several visitors coming here from her blog, out of curiousity possibly.

Well either way, hello strangers or maybe familiar strangers. Drop a comment if you wish. The blog is fully RSS-capable for the geekytech-inclined ones amongst us.

Vertical Farms

The Vertical Farm Project - Agriculture for the 21st Century and Beyond

Here's an interesting website that my sister sent me after reading my thesis idea. It does seems to be rather related to the aspect of feasibility of sustainable urban food systems. Worth exploring.


I've finally pin down a topic for my thesis!

Well more or less really. Maybe I'm quite the optimist because I foresee many more changes and need to narrow down my scope. I'm not sure how extensive a Masters thesis can be but here goes:

Feasibility of Sustainable Urban Food Systems in Singapore - a Policy Perspective

Research question:
1) What is the impact of Singapore's high per capita food consumption and lack of agricultural production on the region's environment?
2) Is a sustainable urban food systems in Singapore feasible?
3) What are the potential threats to our food security? Climate change, resource politics, etc.

Objectives:- To highlight Singapore's high food dependency and rare 99.9% national food import.
- To examine the attitudes and awareness of Singaporeans and wholesale/retailers towards their food systems (ie source, production, importation, nutrition, food safety, etc.)
- To study the impact of our food consumption on the environment, particularly in Singapore's unique circumstances (soil, deforestation,water, pollution, chemical, food miles etc)
- To study the current production, supply and demand of local farms versus the dependency of imported food
- To analyse and evaluate the environmental advantanges and disadvantages of imported versus supporting locally grown produce
- To identify the extent to which community support local agriculture can play a part in addition to globalized food systems.

Aims:- To provide a policy perspective for Singapore in tackling these issues
- To provide a reference for the increasingly urbanized and globalized developing countries with potentially crippling dependency on a shrinking rural population worldwide.
- To examine or provide other nation states with a case study of high food dependency as means of comparison.

I've chosen food production because:
1) Singapore is extremely vulnerable in terms of food dependency, resource politics and climate change.
2) Being a high per capita consumer, our impact on the environment is also high without seeing direct impacts which is another driving force in my choice of topic.
3) At the same time the presence of the "singapore rural countryside" enables the exploration of the feasibility of community-supported agriculture in Singapore.
4) I am keen on doing social and urban ecology but from more of a "green" issue than a "brown issue".

What this study is not going to be about:
1) seafood / fishing - keeping this to purely terrestrial agriculture only. Coastal issues would be too diverse.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Jared Diamond

Professor in Geography at UCLA.
Interesting Publications:
Diamond (1999). Dirty eating for healthy living. Nature 400: 120-121.
Diamond (1987). The Worst Mistake in the History of the Human Race. Discover. 64-66

Here's a reminder to myself, always.
From Collapse (Diamond, 2005:9)
"... both extreme sides in this controversy - the racists and the believers in a past eden - are committing the error of viewing past indigenous people as fundamentally different from (whether inferior to or superior to) modern First World peoples. Managing environmental resources sustainably has always been difficult"

A possible factor to consider and remember - Diamond's Five-point framework of contributing factors to understanding environmental collapse.
From Collapse (Diamond, 2005:11)
"...Four of those sets of factors - environmental damage, climate change, hostile neighbors, and friendly trade partners - may or may not prove significant for a particular society. The fifth set of factors - the society's responses to its environmental problems - always prove significant."

A summary of 12 environmental threats in the world:
From Collapse (Diamond, 2005:6-7)
"Traditional Issues"
1. deforestation and habitat destruction
2. soil problems (erosion, salinization, fertility loss)
3. water management problems
4. overhunting
5. overfishing
6. effects of introduced species on native species
7. human population growth
8. increased per capita impact of people
"Modern Issues"
9. human-caused climate change
10. buildup of toxic chemicals in the environment
11. energy shortages
12. full human utilization of the Earth's photosynthetic capacity
I don't quite understand the last point yet but I suppose there will be further elaboration in the book. Point 4 and 5 are similar in essence. I wonder what are the large scale impact of point 6 except for species extinction like the dodo and other Mauritius birds or the Kakapo Parrot of New Zealand? Of course I musn't forget the cane toad at Australia or Guam's brown tree snake crisis.

The spread of Cane Toads in Australia from 1940 to 1980 in 5-year intervals

Teaching Undergrads

When the original sign up sheet for teaching undergrad modules as a teaching asst went around, I was disappointed that several of the classes I wanted was not listed. As such, I signed up for (in priority):

1) Natural Resources
2) GE1101E
3) Ecological Systems

A senior I spoke to asked why I did not take on my supervisor's module. While I'm not really an expert on Southeast Asia, I do not believe it would be too difficult. However, the module I really wanted is Nature and Society, a module taught by a new faculty member who just finished his PhD and returned to NUS to teach. He is really one of Victor's prodigy who has carried out research more or less exactly in my field.

Today, after speaking with the graduate coordinator, I found out she left out 3 modules, 2 of which were ones I originally wanted. Thus, I made a change in my ranking. My new list is as follows:

1) Nature and Society
2) Natural Resources
3) Southeast Asia

Let's hope I get my first choice! I will know next week.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Secrets behind 0700667

First post on a blog is like the first words on the first page in a fresh notebook.

While not expecting much traffic on this website, it's more for my own references to record reflections of readings I come across and my journey in academia.

0700667 is my new userid as a Masters student in NUS. I am still trying to get used to it and I figure what better way than to use the number as my blog address. Already I have confused my new matric number and usenet id more than once today on several forms.

Instead of going to work today, I made a trip to school to submit my form for a module in the MEM program and also to do the required medical checkup.

Next appointment in school will be on 31st July when I meet Victor to discuss my dissertation topic.

Currently reading Jared Diamond's Collapse to get more insights into my topic. Much thanks to Ria for lending me the book.