My first Asian environmental crisis


I always felt helpless when Buenos Aires was struck by a natural disaster. Whether it was flooding that turned my street into a river, or ash from a Chilean volcano.
Besides the overwhelming presence of government announcements on radio, TV and newspapers, everyone, of course, became suddenly an expert in the current oppressing matter.
This over abundance of information seemed to just fill a space and bring no certainty as to what to do. Did life have to go on as usual even if we were covered in Chilean ash? Furthermore, there always seemed to be a reason to call all activities – work, study and others – to a halt.
This week was the first time that a natural – or not so natural – disaster struck me in a foreign country. Ever since I moved to Asia I like to say that all end of the world catastrophe pandemic movies start here, and I was half joking. Much has been said about the horrendous cloud of smoke that invaded Singapore this week, a cloud that threatens to block our sky and lungs for a longer time than anyone expected. I guess I never had considered the possibility of having to need instruction from a government that I was not familiar with. I was all too comfortable laughing at how taxi drivers were experts in river currents and trash removal to worry about how a country that functions so well and never faces drama could deal with unexpected trouble.
The result was a quite disturbing radio silence. No know-it-all government official giving grandiose statements, but most of all, no help at all. No guidance. This was a huge disappointment and a realization that I may have been raised to believe that governments have to know how to deal with the unexpected.
If I think of it, I don’t know what I prefer: a government full of words and statements or one that pretty much leaves it to its population to figure it out. Maybe the first made me feel like someone knew or cared about the issue, even when throwing theories in the air; whereas the latter just leaves us hanging, looking at a miserable number that the official environmental agency threw at us civilians with red eyes, sore throats and big concerns.
Furthermore, the realization that I am not half ready for a zombie apocalypse. Nor that we have the reflexes to act fast.

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