Green Talk

Interview with People’s Movement to Stop Haze

People’s Movement to Stop Haze (PM Haze) is a non-profit organisation which focuses on outreach, research and advocacy haze-related concerns. Its mission is to “drive a global movement to stop the haze by empowering the community with the knowledge, means and values to do so”. This is achieved by steering consumption patterns towards sustainable palm oil and paper as well as assisting Indonesian and Malaysian farmers to create a sustainable livelihood.

We had the opportunity to talk to Co-founder, Tan Yi Han, to find out more about the organisation.

 

TSP: What inspired you to start People’s Movement to Stop Haze?

PM Haze: After experiencing haze since I was in Secondary 1, I felt frustrated why the haze had not been solved after so many years. In 2013, I decided to see for myself who was burning and volunteered with Global Environment Centre, a Malaysia-based organisation, which was tackling the root causes of haze.

When the record-breaking 2013 haze hit, we went to ground zero, where we saw areas that were burnt out as far as the eye could see. At one such location, we spoke to local farmers who shared that they had lost all their crops when the fire spread in from neighbouring land. Despite the tragedy that had befallen them, as we interviewed them, they still served us coffee and nuts. Touched by their simple kindness, I vowed to do what I could to prevent their suffering from fires and haze. After I came back to Singapore, I spoke with friends about trying to do something from Singapore to stop haze. Thankfully, some of my friends believed in me and together we formed People’s Movement to Stop Haze.

 

TSP: Can you tell us a few challenges you faced when carrying out activities for People’s Movement to Stop Haze?

PM Haze: Over the course of these two years, we have spoken to about a hundred eateries, from small hawker centre stalls to large eatery chains. Most of them use palm oil, but even after we shared the issue with them, many were not inclined to switch to sustainable palm oil. They cited barriers such as cost, preference for certain oil or supplier as well as convenience in getting the oil as part of a package of dry goods from a wholesaler. Thankfully, we managed to reach out to some eateries whose management were already environmentally conscious, and so once they learnt about sustainable palm oil, they switched within one or two weeks. It was very encouraging.

 

TSP: Since the launch of People’s Movement to Stop Haze, what is the general response from the public?

PM Haze: We are fortunate that the haze problem is one that people in Singapore relate to, so we do get lots of opportunities to give talks or set up roadshow booths. We also do get a steady stream of volunteers of about 1 or 2 a month. Of course, when there is no haze, it is hard to get mass support for our campaigns, so we are looking to broaden our message to stay relevant.

 

TSP: Can you share with us a few statistics on the impact of People’s Movement to Stop Haze over the years?

PM Haze: In 2015, we came up with a PSI based on hourly-PM2.5 readings, which were more accurate than the 24-hour average PM2.5 that the official PSI readings used. As a result, we had a flood of 30,000 visits in less than a month (27 Sept – 1 Oct 2015). Together with media and civic pressure, the government eventually created bands for their hourly-PM2.5 readings to allow people to interpret the hourly-PM2.5 readings more easily.

This year we have gotten 3 eateries to use sustainable palm oil as a direct result of our outreach. We have also supported youth advocates to do outreach campaigns in SIM and nationwide.

 

TSP: For those who are interested in getting involved with People’s Movement to Stop Haze, can you share 2 to 3 quick and easy steps to get started?

PM Haze: Start by learning about this complex and yet fascinating issue through following us on Facebook and signing up for our monthly newsletter via pmhaze.org . If you’re keen to join us in taking action, you can sign up as a volunteer at pmhaze.org/volunteer or look out for our ad-hoc volunteering opportunities via our Facebook or newsletter.

 

TSP: How has the government been contributing to your organisation’s aim to combat the haze issue?

PM Haze: The government has been supportive in terms of giving verbal encouragement for sustainable palm oil and complimenting the work that we do. We also have frequent closed-door meetings to exchange knowledge and ideas.

 

TSP: What are some of your future plans for the People’s Movement to Stop Haze? 

PM Haze: Next year we will be building on our existing work on sustainable palm oil but also moving into the field of responsible finance, where Singapore can play an even bigger role. Responsible finance at its minimum means avoiding lending or investing money to companies which engage in unethical and unsustainable practices. We hope to work with other organisations to raise public awareness and demand for responsible finance and move the financial institutions in Singapore further along this road.

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