This video shows the incredible biophilic innovations taking place in Singapore. It is an exemplary and truly inspiring model of urban greening.
For me, the most striking features of Singapore’s accomplishments are the commitment and ambition of their visionary leadership. In the United States, we talk often about the transformations that might be possible, if we had the political will to make them happen. But our political system is a buyer’s market, and the 1% aren’t buying transformation. We get more of the same.
In contrast, we see serious commitment, grand ambition, and firm political will in every facet of the Singapore case study.
We see it in the language: the fact that their National Parks department administers their urban greening program, as if to say, “our city is a cherished place, worthy of stewardship, dramatically beautiful, and full of life.”
We see it in the scale: whole buildings, whole blocks – a whole city – overflowing with green.
We see it in the people: the pride, the excitement, and the intrinsic understanding of the three pillars of sustainability.
As this article by Joe Berridge brilliantly captures, the Singapore model can be hard for westerners to wrap their heads around. It’s a different sort of political and social structure, and the late Lee Kuan Yew, founder of the nation-state and Prime Minister for three decades, was a different sort of leader. I must admit, even seeing the spectacular results, that the “soft dictatorship” Berridge describes makes me nervous.
I do believe that western elected officials can show the same sort of iron will we see in Singapore and Lee Kuan Yew, because I believe the green wants and needs of their constituents will demand it. With the money in politics, it’s hard to say when those demands will be heeded. But that’s a topic for another day.