What we can do to prevent haze in the long term

Dear friends, who else is sick of breathing in smelly, smokey, and hazardous air? Haze happens around this time of the year, almost every single year, since 1972. Did you know that? That’s 4 decades of tolerance. I know that we are quite an apathetic bunch. Too much to do, too little time to care. But come on. 40 years? 

No one, no business, no government and no country has the right to subject an entire nation’s people, animals and plants to hazardous air, whether intentionally or not. Especially not on an ongoing basis. We should not accept it as an annual occurrence. Yet, it has somehow become a yearly affair because of smog that gets blown to Singapore every year, due to illegal slash and burn practices in Indonesia. This year is the worst of all, with PSI readings as high as 400 which is in the Hazardous range.

A-gong Laksa, this is not child’s play anymore. 400 is no joking matter. 

Map1Our entire country covered in haze.

Why are they burning down forests?

If you have ever been on a day flight and lucky enough to get a window seat, you might have noticed vast areas of plantations of starburst shaped trees. They look really pretty from an aerial view, in their neat little rows and uniformity. But don’t go oohing and aahing over these seemingly wonderful fields of starburst shaped trees. These are monocultures of palm trees, the culprit of the haze that we have been forced to endure. Forests are burned down to make way for acres and acres of these “money” trees each year. 300 football fields of rainforest is cleared each hour to make way for palm plantations.

palmplantationaerialRows of palm trees in Sumatra have replaced acres of forests. Photo credit: Planetark.

Why are they called money trees?

Palm oil that the palm trees produce is used in food, cosmetics, body products, and cleaning agents (foaming agent Sodium Laureth Sulfate is derived from palm or coconut, so anything that foams is likely to contain palm or coconut oil derived ingredients). People all over the world use these products everyday, including me and you.

palmoilproducts Besides everyday consumer products that have been in use for decades, palm oil is now being used in biofuel. Producers of palm oil must be laughing all the way to the bank. Besides eating it, putting it on our skin, bathing with it, we can also use it as fuel for cars??? We gonna be rich as the Arabs!

Photo from: Arabianbusiness.com

Over 80% of the world’s palm oil comes from only 2 countries: Indonesia and Malaysia, with Indonesia topping the charts.  Imagine being the world’s largest supplier of the world’s most sought after edible oil. Yup, I heard the kachings!

Did we unintentionally cause the haze?

If we used and bought products with palm oil derived ingredients, then unfortunately, we did indirectly cause our detriment. Most of us are unaware of the cause and effect, just like me before researching for this post. But now that we know, it is not too late to stop this from happening next year (being optimistic) or the next decade (still being optimistic). Yes, palm oil products have become pervasive and it is difficult to avoid using them, but we can do it. Many people around the world have done so, even when they were not directly affected by the haze. We, as Singaporeans who bear brunt of it, should take responsibility in saying no to palm oil, no to deforestation, no to hazardous air.

What can we do?

1) Look at the ingredients label before you buy anything that may contain palm oil derived ingredients, like shower products and food. Palm oil is high in saturated fats which is not great for health,  and the foaming agent – sodium laureth sulfate is known for causing skin irritations. In any case, you’re better off without them. Corporations are always monitoring our consumption habits. Every purchase that we make or do not make is telling them what we want and what we do not want. As long as demand exists, supply will always rise up to the occasion. We need to reduce the demand for palm oil, which would decrease the demand of deforestation for palm oil plantations, which leads to a decrease in slash and burn practices, which finally leads to a decrease in haze!

2) Demand clear labeling of palm oil products so that we as consumers, can make an informed choice. Most of them hide behind names like vegetable oil, palmitate, sodium laureth sulfate(can also be from coconuts), glycereal stearate and stearic acid. The EU has established new labeling rules which will require palm oil labeling. Singapore is so much smaller than the EU. If they can do it, we can do it too.

3) Say no to Biofuel made from palm oil as it is one of the most damaging sources of biofuel. Encouraging the use of biofuel made from palm oil is driving deforestation even more rapidly. Besides, palm oil biofuel causes almost as much carbon emissions as crude oil when including indirect land use change. So in addition to polluting the air with carbon emission, we are also encouraging loss of rainforests together with its wildlife and diversity. Not to mention, our yearly haze episode. “Before 2007, the usage of palm biodiesel was close to zero. Today, worldwide, 10 percent of palm oil is directed into biodiesel, so it has grown significantly, and it’s actually supported by all these government policies”. Could there be a link between the worst haze situation that we have had in years and the increase in demand of biofuel?

suspiciousBut I really do love Hello Panda and Yan Yan!

Besides avoiding palm oil completely, we can also ask corporations that use palm oil to find sustainable alternatives by writing in to them. Many corporations have stopped using palm oil or have opted for sustainable palm oil in their products as a response to consumer’s demands. That was partly how Nestle finally got the point.

nestleGreenpeace activists campaigning against Nestle’s use of unsustainable palm oil. Photo from: Adland.tv

Sign as many petitions as you can:
The Body Shop: Stop using palm oil in your products
Nutella: Stop using Palm Oil in Nutella. Save the Orangutans!
Oreo- Stop Putting Palm Oil In Your Cookies
Arnott’s: Stop Using Palm Oil
McDonalds Restaurants: Stop using Palm Oil and Palm Oil derivatives
John Bryant, CEO of Kellogg’s USA: Use traceable sustainable palm oil only !

Share what you know with as many friends as you can. Share this post!

The Bigger Picture

When we look at the big picture, the haze that envelopes our nation for several weeks each year pales in comparison to the other problems that it brings. Indonesia has 10% of the world’s rainforests and by 2001, 99 million hectares are lost to deforestation. By burning down these forests, gigatonnes of carbon dioxide are being released into the air. This causes irreversible climate change. The weather will get hotter and even more unpredictable than it already is.

For those who care about animals and other people (i.e. those who do not care only about themselves), within the rainforests are the homes of many endangered animals like the Orang Utans, tigers and elephants. With deforestation, their homes are destroyed, with many of them being killed or burned in the process. Indigenous people who lived in the rainforests and depended on the biodiversity for their livelihood are displaced by such practices. Many cannot survive without the rainforest and are forced to get jobs as labourers in the plantations.

Click here to watch a 6 minute video which would give you an idea of the scope and scale of destruction that unsustainable palm oil brings. Image from: Paneco

Why would anyone do this?

Of course, no one would tolerate such unethical practices legally. But illegally, when there is money to be made and kickbacks to be received, some people can shut both eyes and burn an entire forest down. Half of the fire hotspots detected are in areas that should have been protected by Indonesia’s forest moratorium.

hotspotsDespite a decade of campaigning by Greenpeace, one of the largest and most visible environmental organizations in the world, and the Indonesian president’s pledge to protect the forests, the number of forests legally protected under the moratorium continues to decrease. There are problems unique to Indonesia that the entire world can see, but unless there is strong support within the government and the local enforcement agencies, the situation is unlikely to improve. It seems that the only way out is to drastically reduce the demand for palm oil products.

KKNImage from: Pojok Hukum Management

This is far from being all-encompassing and conclusive.

It is only my best effort at a summary of the haze issue that we are facing now. Hopefully, it sheds some light on the hazy situation and inspires us to do more to improve the situation. We don’t have to suffer helplessly. Even though it is unfair, unconscionable, and unwarranted, we cannot control where the winds blow. We can only do what we can, within our means to show them that this is not a joke and that we are not playing around.

Quotes by Agung Laksono:
Singapore shouldn’t be like children, in such a tizzy.
“Indonesian citizens also need to be looked after, there are hundreds.”
“It’s not what Indonesians want, it’s nature,”
“If there are, some are owned by Indonesians, Malaysians, Singaporeans,”
“We will take action if they are found responsible. But there must be a process.”

By the way, here is an interesting news article about (the now ceased and license revoked) Adam Air Agung Laksono founded. “Agung Laksono didn’t invest any of his own money into the airline, instead using money available to him through his official government position. This gave him the unfair advantage of receiving heavily regulated licenses and airport landing rights.” This airline and its shoddy management caused the death of all 102 crew and passengers onboard flight 547. I honestly do not think that anyone who has a shred of conscience would allow this sorry excuse for an airline to exist, much less become the founding person. Would I trust what someone like this says? Not a chance.

Quote of the day: “Denial, repression, projection, and blaming others are defense mechanisms, which help you try to avoid feeling guilt and shame. Blaming another person instead of looking at your own part of the problem is called projection

If you want to find out more, please take a look at the websites listed below:



A word about procrastination…

As I am typing this, I am also procrastinating from studying. Yes, I am writing about procrastinating while procrastinating.

Why do people procrastinate? The general consensus is that people procrastinate because they don’t like the task that they are supposed to do. Maybe it makes us nervous, we are scared of doing it, we are afraid of not doing it well enough, etc. Kind of like parachuting out of an airplane. At least, for me. For adrenaline junkies, kind of like going for a 3 hour long speech that you know you can’t leave till it’s over. If I were on that plane, I will not be ready to jump, and I will never be ready to jump. If I can hold on to that door frame for a second longer, I will make sure my hands are glued to it. So we push this dreaded task back, as far back as we can, hoping that maybe if we hold it off long enough, maybe we don’t have to do it?

Since we know it’s just in the mind, due to the fears and feelings of dread that we have, why don’t we JUST DO IT?

For me, I just can’t do it till I really really really have no other choice but to do it. The only thing I procrastinate about is studying. I can pretty much do everything else right away. I can get out of bed once the alarm rings (usually), I can go out for a run, do my workout, get my chores done, all without procrastinating. But. I. Just. Can’t. Study. Without. Procrastinating. WHYYYYYY!!!??

Let me try to psycho myself into getting started with my revision for corporate finance. Man, those 2 words make me shudder already.

I am delaying revision for corporate finance because:

I hate maths. / Yes, I hate maths but it still has to be done.
I am terrible with numbers. / I usually end up doing alright in the exams.
It is too difficult for me. / I could understand the lectures so far, it’s difficult but not too difficult.
I don’t have the foundation for it. / That is why I have to start revising now and catch up.
I just don’t want to do it! / But I have to!!

OK. With that, I’m off to continue with my revision.

The Paradox of Our Time


So I came across this wonderful piece of writing on Facebook and did a quick google search about the person who wrote it, just to see if he has other works like it, and also because I like to google. A lot. About everything.

On Facebook, it was credited to comedian George Carlin, who did not write this essay (can’t trust anything on Facebook) and in fact, slammed it, stating that it is a ‘sappy load of shit‘.

It was actually written by Bob Moorehead who was a pastor and that makes much more sense than to think that a comedian, who regarded large human catastrophes as entertainment, came up with this. 

Well, I happen to like this load of sappy shit.

“The paradox of our time in history is that we have taller buildings but shorter tempers, wider Freeways, but narrower viewpoints. We spend more,  but have less, we buy more, but enjoy less. We have bigger houses and smaller families, more conveniences, but less time. We have more degrees but less sense, more knowledge, but less judgment, more experts, yet more problems, more medicine, but less wellness.

We drink too much, smoke too much, spend too recklessly, laugh too little, 
drive too fast, get too angry, stay up too late, get up too tired, read too 
little, watch TV too much, and pray too seldom. We have multiplied our 
possessions, but reduced our values. We talk too much, love too seldom, and 
hate too often.

We’ve learned how to make a living, but not a life. We’ve added years to 
life not life to years. We’ve been all the way to the moon and back, but 
have trouble crossing the street to meet a new neighbor. We conquered outer 
space but not inner space. We’ve done larger things, but not better things.

We’ve cleaned up the air, but polluted the soul. We’ve conquered the atom, 
but not our prejudice. We write more, but learn less. We plan more, but 
accomplish less. We’ve learned to rush, but not to wait. We build more 
computers to hold more information, to produce more copies than ever, but we 
communicate less and less.

These are the times of fast foods and slow digestion, big men and small 
character, steep profits and shallow relationships.

These are the days of two incomes but more divorce, fancier houses, but 
broken homes. These are days of quick trips, disposable diapers, throwaway 
morality, one night stands, overweight bodies, and pills that do everything 
from cheer, to quiet, to kill. It is a time when there is much in the 
showroom window and nothing in the stockroom. A time when technology can 
bring this letter to you, and a time when you can choose either to share 
this insight, or to just hit delete…

Remember, to spend some time with your loved ones, because they are not 
going to be around forever. Remember, say a kind word to someone who looks 
up to you in awe, because that little person soon will grow up and leave 
your side.

Remember, to give a warm hug to the one next to you, because that is the 
only treasure you can give with your heart and it doesn’t cost a cent.

Remember, to say, “I love you” to your partner and your loved ones, but most 
of all mean it. A kiss and an embrace will mend hurt when it comes from 
deep inside of you.

Remember to hold hands and cherish the moment for someday that person might 
not be there again. Give time to love, give time to speak! And give time to 
share the precious thoughts in your mind.”

― Bob Moorehead


Lots of things to be happy about.

So I’m sitting here at my desk, feeling extreeeeeeeeemely excited. Almost hyper. And I’m rarely hyper.

Firstly, I am excited about my purchases from Sephora. I got the Too Faced Shadow Insurance, Bobbi Brown Corrector for undereye, MUF HD Microfinish powder and Clarisonic! All of which I loooove. Also found the PERFECT pair of leopard print peep toes from New Look. They are the perfect height, perfect fit, perfect prints, perfect peep toe opening, perfect color, perfect everything! Every girl needs a pair. Sexy shoes that won’t kill you. The color is really rich in real life. New Look must have HDR-ed their photos.

Secondly, I am going back to Singapore in a few hours for 3 days of fun, fun and more fun. There’s gonna be a photoshoot for Catwalkclose which I really miss doing, meeting up with my old pals, Wee and Janis. Meeting my favorite girlfriends for major catch up (full attendance!) and crazy partying!

Thirdly, will be going to LA for the first time. More shopping??

Lastly, after my LA trip, wil be heading to Melbourne for my 2 weeks of bliss!

So I’ve been crazy packing like a mad woman. Packing for 3 different countries in a day is no mean feat! And while packing, I decided that it would be wise to finally pack my closet so that I can finally find my clothes with minimum difficulty. My clothes were literally lying in a heap at the bottom of it because I had no space to hang them. Now, they look like this:



Mia Clarisonic

Just bought a Mia Clarisonic in Sephora last week and it is so wonderful that I have decided to blog about it right away! It costs USD$119 for the Mia (single speed) and mine is in Mango Tango, a bright orange hue which looks so pretty in my turquoise bathroom.


I really wasn’t expecting anything amazing. I’ll admit it. It was bought on impulse. And like anything bought on impule, you usually expect to regret the puchase. But NO! I love the Mia! I love how its orange and bright and cheery and how it gives me smooth skin, a good reason to be cheery about! I’ve always had problems with black heads and white heads around my nose. Especially the sebum plugs on the sides of my nose. They look like white heads but I don’t really know what they are. I could actually pick them out with a pair of tweezers. They always come back a few hours after washing my face. But after using the Clarisonic for just a few days, the rough areas around my nose appear much smoother and the sebum plugs are much smaller and stay away for longer. 

The cleanser that I’m using with it is Sukin’s cream cleanser. Before Mia, I was using it with a cotton pad to remove impurities on my face if I had makeup on. But that would leave my cheeks a little red after cleansing. With the Mia, it did not leave any redness at all, but at the same time, it cleansed really thoroughly. I did get a few new tiny bumps on my forehead though. We’ll see if they go away in a few weeks.

SO HAPPY with my purchase. I was planning to get a facial when I return to Singapore, but now, I feel like I don’t need it!


Off to Melbourne again!

It’s 1.20am and I’m on standby from 6am to 12 pm. Pleasepleasepleasepleaaaaaase do not activate me for any flights. If everything goes smoothly, i’ll be off to Melbourne on Monday morning for ONE WHOLE WEEK! I am so thankful that my flight to Shanghai has been removed and 3 additional off days has been given, in addition to the 4 days off that I originally had. 7 days would make my very long and arduous trip more worthwhile. 

As much as I hate to admit, it has become a monthly routine, jetting off on a 16 hour journey to Melbourne to visit The Boyfriend. It is an expensive, time-consuming, and back-breaking (economy-class seats) journey. But oh well. The perils of long distance relationships. We have been long distance for 1 year and 2 months, and I must say that we have done pretty well. No major fights so far. At least, not that I remember!


Here’s a photo of us after our first flight with him as the pilot. 

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Thai Princess Makeover

On my last trip to Bangkok, I did something incredibly lame and cheesy. It was something I have thought about for a while but never did because I knew everyone would judge me. (Which is true. If you want a makeover, you’re gonna be judged. For sure.). The first time someone told me about it, I was like, *rolls eyes* wow that looks great! But I was thinking “Hey, they made you look like a tranny.”. The second time I saw someone doing it, I was thinking “Still looks like a tranny. But this could be fun.”. I’m talking about the Thai Princess makeover! It’s gonna be fun, or at least somewhat interesting. Plus, it’s cheap. 2000 baht for makeup, hair, costume, some prints, and a CD with digital copies of all the photos. Compared to the Maiko photo-shoot i wanted to do in Kyoto, this was a steal. So while on my way to the dermatologist for a facial, I walked pass the shop and gave them 2000 baht. And that was it. Facial to be done later, to get rid of the stage makeup.


A scrawny teenage boy came over and very politely handed me a kimono and an elasticized skirt to change into. Must be the assistant, right? Then he sat me down at one of the benches and started clipping my hair up. And then he whipped out an old-looking fluffy face brush and started to scrutinize my face. And then I realized. Oh hello, makeup artist. Immediately, I grabbed my makeup pouch and handed it to him. “I brought my make up!”. He didn’t understand a word of it, but he understood my intentions. So we got started with the makeup and I tried to place as much faith in him as I could. He turned out to be really professional and dedicated. Halfway through, he started to use his own eyeshadow brushesblush brush and LIP BRUSH. I tried to hide the horror. But in my head, I was so sure that I would get an eye infection or lip infection of some sort. Thankfully, I would be going for a facial right after this and hopefully the damage would be under control. Besides, I have my foundation underneath which hopefully acts as a barrier. He caked on so much foundation and powder that it has to be thick enough.


After the makeup, it was time for a princess-y up do. My fringe was center parted and twisted up. The rest of it was in a bun. Doesn’t look like princess up do yet. Then he placed a little crown on the top of my head, and topped it off with a bunch of curly hair and Ta-da! Princess hair! He was clearly enjoying every bit of it because he was so enthusiastically adorning me with costume jewelry in every possible way. And the outfit he chose for me was so much more than over the top. It seemed like he really enjoys his work. Picking out different fabrics and trying out different combinations, carefully pinning everything to make sure it’s all in place… I was happy to have him style me. The other person available was a lady boy who constantly had a look of annoyance and arrogance. I’d prefer the scrawny teenage boy anytime.


The photographer was also great and professional. But his style is definitely not modern nor artistic. His was more eighties-style yearbook or wedding style photography. But it kind of suits the theme of it. He was friendly and told you exactly how to pose. Just follow his cues and you’ll get the perfectly clichéd eighties look. 🙂 The backdrop had so much bling on it, no wonder the outfit has to be even more bling in order for the subjects to stand out. And of course, there were props like fans, musical instruments, umbrellas etc. to complete the look. By the end of it, you’d be impressed and completely flabbergasted that something so cheesy and yet so awesome exists. And of course, while these photos may not be proudly displayed in the family living room, at least you’ll have an image of how you look as a Thai Princess.

Thai Style & S.Samngao Studio
MBK, Level 2
Tel: 02-611-7136, 02-620-9496
2000 baht for 20×24 = 1 pc; 8×10=2 pcs; 4P=3 pcs; CD-ROM of all images