David Ou highlights NEA’s role to safeguard, nurture, and cherish our environment.
I was wearing a different shade of green, camouflage green to be exact, when I received the welcoming news of attaining the NEW Scholarship back in 2009. I can still recall grinning for a good hour afterwards at the prospect of studying in the United States and having the opportunity to contribute to the work at the National Environment Agency (NEA) thereafter.
At Brown University, I pursued a degree in International Relations but with the boundless benefits that came with a liberal arts education, I dipped my toes in History, Economics, Literature, Classics, Art, Political Science and many other disciplines. I grazed on the endless pastures of academia and went away with a deeper understanding of how the world works. I recall the conversations and friendships forged, the sights and sounds of a foreign landscape, and the seasons in all their natural splendour in an unutterable fondness. Amidst all these I am thankful for the encouragement of NEA, which was not only supportive of my academic choices but was extremely helpful when it came to providing sources of knowledge, contacts, and career guidance.
In the span of three years, I managed to hop over to University College London (UCL) for a brief semester abroad, where I experienced, from the intellectual rigour of 20-page history essays to the cultural graces of British alleyways. I had the good fortune of returning to the UK in 2014 to read environmental policy and my thesis dealt with environmental consultancies and their effects on civil service structures. Throughout this time, the ideas of stewardship of the environment continued to pervade the spaces around me – natural and built. It is through these narratives that I forged an understanding of how the mutual relations of humankind and the rest of nature ought to exist in a manner of sustainable stewardship, in order to prevent tragedies of the commons.
Handling The Haze
An example of this nature unfolded in the summer of 2013 when I was interning in the International Relations Department of NEA. The haze crisis was at its peak then and I was caught in the thick of it. Unfortunately, the phenomenon has become all too familiar in recent years, but my experience working with the team back then to help address the issue of the haze affecting Singaporeans nationwide proved invaluable. In witnessing the man-made disaster before me, I became keenly aware of the deleterious effects that might come from another party’s action – or inaction, and the need for NEA to safeguard, nurture, and cherish our environment.
As I look ahead towards the years to come, I am thankful that I can learn how to apply practice to these principles – of how the elements of enterprise and environment are not, contrary to what many might believe to be, mutually exclusive; and that as an organisation we ought to uphold the creed of sustainable development. Indeed, this is well aligned with my current role in the Industry Development and Promotion Office, where I play a proactive part in fostering industry development in the cleaning and waste management clusters, knowing that sustaining our living, breathing landscapes also means sustaining our collective well-being.
David Ou Ning Fei
National Environment & Water (NEW) Scholarship
Now: Executive, Industry Development & Promotion Office
Attained: Bachelor of Science in International Relations at Brown University, USA; Master of Science in Nature, Society, and Environmental Policy at Oxford University, UK
From: Hwa Chong JC