Hand-drawn signs by environmental activists put up at beaches to protect intertidal habitats

Minister for National Development Desmond Lee with one of the signs designed by environmental activist duo, Ms Dorcas Tang (left) and Ms Woo Qi Yun. PHOTO: TING WAI KIT

SINGAPORE - Stories of horseshoe crabs being flung across intertidal beaches and sand dollars being impaled by sticks were the trigger for Ms Woo Qi Yun, 25, a climate activist and sustainability consultant, to take action and offer help.

After e-mailing Minister for National Development Desmond Lee about her concern for the intertidal habitats, Ms Woo and another environmental artist, Ms Dorcas Tang, 22, were asked to design six cartoon signs to be placed along Singapore's inter-tidal coastline.

The signs were unveiled at Changi Beach Park on May 21, with each sign communicating essential intertidal etiquette while being paired with a cartoon of hand-drawn native intertidal fauna.

A total of 48 signs will be progressively installed by the National Parks Board (NParks) at Changi Beach Park, Changi Boardwalk, Pasir Ris Park, East Coast Park and Sungai Dekar.

Ms Tang said the idea to use cute drawings of animals on signs came after the both of them realised the punitive tones of existing signage turned people off from appreciating wildlife.

Ms Tang, who runs the Instagram account @earthtodorcas, which posts infographics about the environment, said: "We wanted to invite people in to learn and have first-hand experiences while also knowing how to take care of these creatures."

For example, some intertidal animals like nudibranchs - commonly known as sea slugs - cannot be taken out of the water because they breathe through their skin and rapidly dry out in open air.

She added: "Having the signs be animals speaking for themselves and speaking in first person is the way to reach the hearts of people."

Ms Woo, who also runs the climate communication Instagram account @theweirdandwild, said the visuals of the cute animals would capture people's attention and make the signs more effective.

The environmental artist, who also posts hand-drawn climate cartoons online, said: "As a predominantly digital artist, being able to create a physical artefact and attract the attention of people in real life and directly affect their behaviours is surreal to me.

"I am really grateful to NParks and Minister Desmond Lee for giving us the opportunity to contribute."

Despite their contributions to Singapore's environmental efforts, the duo, like many other environmentally minded people, remain plagued by their worry for the environment.

Mr Sankar Ananthanarayanan, 27, a teaching assistant with NUS, said he had spent countless sleepless nights after reading extensively about the fires in the Amazon rainforest in 2019.

The co-founder of the Herpetological Society of Singapore, a volunteer group dedicated to the study and outreach of reptiles and amphibians in Singapore, said: "When it got especially bad, I would feel guilty about things like turning on the aircon on a very hot day."

Recent news has also not helped, with this year's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report - the world's foremost authority on climate science - announcing that present effects of climate change are already widespread.

Some impacts, such as sea level rise, have become irreversible over hundreds to thousands of years.

Ms Woo said: "Some people may say that you're over-emotional and taking this personally, but it is scientifically proven that these things are going to get worse with more thermal discomfort and issues with food supplies."

In May, CNN reported that a deadly heatwave radiating across India led to the loss of wheat harvests in Punjab. More than 500kg of wheat per hectare was lost to this heatwave, which marked an average 7 deg C increase from usual temperatures in April.

To combat the constant inflow of cataclysmic news about the climate, life science undergraduate Karl Png, 25, believes that the way to quell eco-anxiety is to hold on to small improvements and be proud of each step forward.

Mr Png, the co-founder of Singapore Youth Voices for Biodiversity, which is part of an international network of youth with the goal of preventing the loss of biodiversity, said: "My actions will never be enough. There will always be something to improve, but I am proud to take such a step in the first place."

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