The haze is back, no thanks to raging forest fires in Sumatra caused by farmers and corporations who employ slash and burn methods to clear land. This has been going on for years but it’s the first time PSI (Pollutant Standards Index) levels have risen to such dangerously high levels. It registered the insane figure of 401 at noon today, the highest the nation has seen since 1997. This coupled with the seeming reluctance of the Indonesian government to address the issue, has gotten Singaporeans in a tizzy. Illegal logging, precedence of business interests over human welfare, disregard for the environment, high corruption and poor law enforcement have all contributed to this sorry state of affairs. I won’t go into the details and statistics as they have been covered extensively and more eloquently elsewhere.
I’ve been waking up to eerie scenes reminiscent of Silent Hill where I can barely make out the blocks in my neighbourhood due to the thick blanket of fog. There is a distinct acrid burning smell. Breathing is harder, headaches throb a little more intensely and the bad air is causing my eyes to water like crazy. However my problems are but a minor side effect of the haze. There are far more urgent issues to think about such as the long-lasting and likely irreversible effects of deforestation and the many wildlife species at risk of extinction. It is truly heart-wrenching to think about the poor animals whose homes and habitats are being destroyed. Closer to home, there are fears that the haze might have adverse health effects on our four-legged furry friends.
Amidst all this gloom, Singaporeans are taking the opportunity to express their creativity in the form of 9gag memes, haze-related puns, hilariously-photoshopped pictures of Singapore landmarks combating the haze and flaunting their N95 masks like it’s the next hip accessory. It’s a haze-pocalypse out there but we’re sure making the best of the situation.