ENVIRONMENT AND CIVIL SOCIETY IN SINGAPORE
2014/2015, Semester 1
Non-Faculty-Based Departments (College of Alice & Peter Tan)
Modular Credits: GEM2906 ( 4 ) / SSU2005 ( 4 )
How ‘green’ is Singapore and how should we preserve biodiversity on this island?
This GEM explores the rise of the conservation ethic in Singapore. It traces the scientific, social and economic conditions that gave rise to the global environmental movement, and to its various expressions in Singapore.
Students will engage with stakeholders (scientists, officials, civil society) to understand the conflicts and collaborations between advocates of development and conservation. They will initiate their own conversations and give feedback.
The class will make field trips to evaluate state-civil society partnerships, participate in the International Coastal Cleanup, and debate choices and dilemmas for the future.
There is no pre-requisite for the module.
This module is currently open only to students of the College of Alice & Peter Tan, University Town
By the end of the module, students should be able to:
- Achieve basic scientific literacy on environmental issues relevant to Singapore (esp. biodiversity, water resources, and conservation/development)
- Be aware of environmental news happening in Singapore and around the region, and to understand how it affects the nation
- Engage with stakeholders (scientists, researchers civil society and policy makers) on the value of protecting fragile ecosystems
- Appreciate the economic, social and political contexts of ‘development vs. conservation’ debates
- Take a position on the costs, benefits and wisdom of environmental protection
Small group lectures, combined lectures, tutorials (group discussion, team projects, case studies), IVLE.
There are weekly seminars, three to four guest speakers, and field visits spread out over the first 10 weeks. One self organized field trip to Pulau Ubin is scheduled for module.
There is no textbook for this seminar. Aside from the reading list, students are expected to be actively engaged in following environmental news and debates pertaining to Singapore and the region (both green and brown issues) through resources such as ‘WildSingapore News’ (
Students will also be organized in by Week 2 to smaller groups (of 3-4 students) to research the interests and perspectives of various stakeholders (conservationists and civil society [eg. Nature Society], government [LTA, URA, etc], scientists, property developers…). This will enable them to go deeper into the positions, values and metrics held by each stakeholder.
These small groups will then make presentations and engage in group projects over weeks 3-10, and engage in a simulated negotiation towards the end of semester (Weeks 11-12).
Individual assignments are also given out through the course of the semester.
There will be weekly 2-hour seminars in groups of no more than 15 students from different faculties in NUS. These small-group meetings are supplemented by four combined sessions over the semester, which will provide a platform for guest speakers, practical guidance for group projects and film screenings.
Weeks 1-2: Introduction to Environmentalism and Civil Society
- Role of NGOs and States, Development and conservation in Singapore
Weeks 3-4: Civil Society and the Commons
- Civil society and the environmental ‘cause’
- Marine pollution as a tragedy.
Weeks 5-9: Singapore conservation battles- past and future
- Green and brown environmental issues. Is a balance possible?
Previous and current challenges
- Cross Island Line, Bukit Brown. The Population White Paper; how will this affect our environment?
- Island reclamation and habitat alteration: Pulau Semakau, Jurong Island
Weeks 10-13: Pulau Ubin spotlight
- Costs of preserving, rebuilding and recycling
- Nostalgia and heritage
- Inter-agency, multi-stakeholder discussions on Ubin
Field Trips: International Coastal Cleanup Singapore and a Nature Reserve
We will arrange two fieldtrips. One to Pulau Ubin as participants of the International Coastal Cleanup and one to a Nature Reserve to appreciate conservation areas and the outcome of debates and possible ongoing debates in Singapore.
Field trip dates are fixed. Do not read this module if you are unable to commit to the dates below.
International Coastal Cleanup SIngapore (13 September) [compulsory]
Field trip group 1 (11 October)
Field trip group 2 (18 October)
There is no final examination for this module. Students are expected to submit individual and group assignments throughout the semester.
Written reflections on readings and guest talks:
of the 3 Combined Session speakers -10% each) (300 words each)
(Group) ICCS assignment (Posters & report)
Sungei Buloh Field trip report (500 words)
CAPTISS written assignment
Final reflection (1 page)
(Group) CSO presentation
Workload Components : A-B-C-D-E
A: no. of lecture hours per week
B: no. of tutorial hours per week
C: no. of lab hours per week
D: no. of hours for projects, assignments, fieldwork etc per week
E: no. of hours for preparatory work by a student per week
Read: Grove 1992; Tan MJ 2011
11 & 13.8
Civil Society Organisations (CSOs)
Read: Terence Lee 2002;
18 & 20.8
Group presentations on CSOs 25 & 27.8
Combined Session 1 (Thu 28.8):
“Civil Society” Dr Gillian Koh & A/P Reuben Wong
Read: Ho KL 2000; Koh and Soon 2011, 2012
Tragedy of the Commons
Read: Hardin 1968
1 & 3.9
State of Singapore’s Environment
Combined Session 2 (Thu11.9): ICCS briefing by Dr Joelle Lai
Read: Corlett 2013;
5.2013 (“Wild about Nature”);
Fieldtrip 1: ICCS on Ubin, Sat 13.9
8 & 10.9
CAPT ISS (19-20 Sep):
written assignment on panels
(No class on 16 and 18 Sep)
19 & 20.9
Conservation battles in Singapore
ICCS group report due (4.10)
Read: Geh Min/Lye; PWP 2013; CIL paper 2013
29.9 & 1.10
Singapore’s legal context; Past and Current Challenges
Combined Session 3 (Thu 9.10): Guest speaker on Chek Jawa or CCNR
Read: Population White Paper 2013, Liu Thai Ker
Fieldtrip 2: CCNR, Sat 11 and 18.10
6 (PH) & 8.10
Social media and advocacy
Read: Rail corridor/ CRL/ Forum letters (details tbc)
13 & 15.10
Free and Easy Fieldtrip (Pulau Ubin)
Read: URA 1991; P. Ubin report 1990
20 & 22.10 (PH)
Combined Session 4 (Thu 30.10): Desmond Lee + Faizah Jamal?
Read: Faizah 2013 speech on PWP/Nature; Desmond Lee 2014; Ubin microsite
27 & 29.10
Read: “An Oasis of Nature” (
14); clips on Ubin
3 & 5.11
10 & 12.11