Sunday, February 04, 2007


If you agree with Herman Wouk who said that tragedy lies in waste**, then you will probably agree with me that Saturdays are ‘tragedays’.

Every Saturday, waste arrives at my doorstep in the form of the Straits Times. And yesterday was particularly ‘tragic’. Right in the front page was this huge headline, Effects of Global Warming ‘unstoppable’. But what was more disturbing was the proud announcement that yesterday’s edition comprised a whopping 274 pages in 9 parts.

I don’t know about other Singaporeans. For me, the 4 sections on Classified Ads and Recruitment usually go straight to our ‘garang guni’ (collector of old newspapers)
pile. That’s a staggering 146 pages which weighed - I don’t know … half a kg perhaps. Each time this happens I would wonder how many trees have to chopped down simply so that I can sell more old newspapers to the garang guni man. With a daily circulation of 400,000 (source: Wikipedia), I suppose that would translate to quite a few tons of paper.

And that’s only for Saturdays. For the rest of the week, there is also the Chinese paper 我报 as well as that useless supplement Urban on Thursdays.

Lest my friend Victor starts to complain (he’s in complaining mood lately) that my posts are more and more about present day issues rather than nostalgia, I must quickly mention that this issue of global warming and environmental pollution raised in the Straits Times is something I have read about 40 years ago.

The year was either 1967 or 1968. I cannot recall if The Price of Progress was the title of an essay that our English teacher asked us to write or if it was the title of a book I happened to read. But I can clearly remember some of the contents of that book.

Among other things, the author

warned of the dire consequences of mankind’s unbridled exploitation of the natural resources and the callous destruction of the environment. Global warming was definitely one of the topics covered in this book. I also remember reading for the first time about a phenomenon known as Temperature Inversion which the author predicted could kill thousands if it occurred in a large city like New Delhi or San Francisco.

Unfortunately, I don’t think many influential people took note of theis book and things have not improved during these past four decades. Let’s hope that, with all the awareness brought about by the report put up by The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), things will be different in the next 4 decades. Otherwise it would be a real tragedy for future generations.

** As usual I am deliberately being misleading here. The ‘waste’ that Herman Wouk wrote about is of a totally different type of course.


Anonymous said...

In the eighties, one day after a meeting with top-bosses, our departmental manager came back, proudly announced to us: "you fellows better prepare for a paperless office. All these volumes of paper files can be thrown away. Electronic filing is the order of the day...and so on" Now after more than twenty odd years, with al these high tech gadgetries, Internet, emails, e-everything - why is the world use of paper still sky-rocketing ? with more and more trees being cut down (world-wide)to make paper. What have the electronic prophets have to say ? Meanwhile newspapers operators are happily churning out volumous copies of advertisement making good money in the process and close their eyes to environmental dangers. In a way we cannot blame them, because there is a huge commercial demand, and as astute businessmen they have to meet it.

Victor said...

I want to complain some more. You may not need the Recruitment and Classified sections but there are probably hundreds of thousands of people who do - those searching for a job, those buying anything from a puppy to a property, and so on. (Internet classified ads for people looking for jobs) may not fulfill everyone's needs and not every employer advertises through a website.

Unknown said...

Yeah the environment and global warming is on everyone's lips these days. At least I feel that it warrants us taking a serious look at our wasteful ways. For a start, I have started to take bus to work every day and frankly, it felt real good not only in terms of money saved but the relatively stress free experience of letting somebody else do the driving.

My take on the environment is >here if you are interested to read about it.

Anonymous said...

Tell me honestly Victor, how many of yesterday's 146 pages of CATs and Recruit did you read?

Victor said...

None. Nowadays, I only read articles like "How to use your CPF money wisely", "Retire comfortably" or "Spend your golden years fruitfully", haha.

But seriously, there are a lot of people who makes use of classified to buy and sell. I have sold quite a few of my previous cars using the classifieds. This was before the Internet became ubiquitous.

Anonymous said...

Many of the ST readers are like Victor and me. Just along the row of houses where I live are 3 families with retired senior citizens; two of whom are widows.

If you have boarded SIA on a Sat morming you will also notice they leave out the CATs and Recruit section - obviously to reduce the extra weight to be carried.

The point I wanted to make is that a sizeable portion of the 400,000 copies simply goes to waste. Exactly how many is anyone's guess.

Of course I am merely pointing out a problem here. I haven't the faintest idea how to solve it.

Unknown said...

Well since we are talking about Classifieds and Recruit, I know a lot of people who look at both sections very religiously week after week. In fact, many people just buy the papers on Saturday so that they can peruse both sections. The fact is that the job market is currently white hot now and there is a lot of movement every where.

Chris Sim said...

The effect of global warming has come to haunt us sooner then we tot. The weather is acting freaky. Half of Jakarta is under water. And snow resorts reported little or no snow. Things don't look very good.

Speaking about trees and newspaper. Aren't our dollar notes made of paper, too? Gimme lor if chopping down the tree bothers you so much... hahaha.

Oh, I forgot... nowadays, the notes also come in "plastic hor. Hee!

Anonymous said...

I'm another one who rarely look at those '146pages'. If there is an option I would not have those sections and pay less I suppose. I can buy an extra copy if the need arises.

Lam Chun See said...

Today (Tuesday) I was 'over-Delled'. 3 identical Dell adverts arrived with my papers. One full page at back of My Paper and Digital Life, plus one colour insert in Today.

Sometimes they even send a fax to my office with the footnote that if you wanted to stop receiving it you shd email or fax a reply. The fax no. was from Penang. I tried to fax them but could not get thro. If only I could install a spam killer there.

Only thing I could do was vow never to buy Dell. Maybe that explains why their sales have suffered and the Dell chairman had to come back and run the company himself.

Anonymous said...

If we put Global Warning aside, maybe the 146 pages of CAT and Recruits is a good news for those job seekers.
But thinking of our environment, it's another long story to tell and alot more for us to contribute. Its not too late to start and not too early either

Anonymous said...

It is indeed frustrating to see a prominent company indulging in such wastage. On the other hand, since we cannot stop them, we might as well look at it positively. The company is in a way spending big money to help our advertisers, printers, delivery people, marketing people, retailers, warehouse owners, even shopping malls and many others. So we can, in a way, make virtue out frustration, not too bad in term of providing business and employment in Singapore.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps the ST could at least start using recycled paper? (i.e. if they aren't already)

Anyway, Mr Lam, I look forward to Urban on Thursdays, leh! Some of it is rather entertaining.

However, since I survived quite well in the years before Urban existed, I'm sure can do just as well without it :-)

Lam Chun See said...

I hope Walter can write something in his blog about the effectiveness of this form of wasteful "carpet bombing" marketing.