Primatologist Andie Ang Wants To Effect More Positive Change For Earth Thanks To The Rolex Perpetual Planet Campaign
When legendary oceanographer Sylvia Earle and famed marine photographer David Doubilet came to Singapore in August for the Rolex Perpetual Planet Symposium, they shared their thoughts and experience at the symposium held at National Gallery Singapore, met with academics and undergraduates to discuss about research-related issues and joined a diving enthusiasts' forum to talk about the oceans. Earle even took time off to meet with various government bodies to iron out the details of the possibility of identifying the Sisters Island Marine Park as a "Hope Spot" under the Mission Blue initiative. (Mission Blue is a non-profit founded by Earle in 2009 to raise awareness of marine areas that require protection and conservation.)
Despite their busy schedules, the two Rolex Testimonees spent time with five Generation T honourees from the region, who are also champions of environmental sustainability themselves. In an exclusive arrangement, Malaysian social entrepreneur Rashvin Pal Singh, Thai social entrepreneur Peetachai Dejkraisak and Indonesian environmental activist Farwiza Farhan, together with Singapore’s primatologist Andie Ang and marine ecologist Neo Mei Lin, flew into Singapore for the symposium and exchanged ideas about climate change with the two luminaries.
Inspired by what the Rolex Perpetual Planet campaign seeks to achieve—drawing public attention to how fragile the planet is and supporting scientists, explorers and brave individuals to seek answers to the issues Earth is facing—and the thought-provoking exchanges with Earle and Doubilet, both Andie and Mei Lin feel even more encouraged to continue focusing on their research work.
This week, Andie, who holds a doctorate degree in biological anthropology and researches specifically on the ecology, behaviour, and population genetics of Asian colobines such as langurs and odd-nosed monkeys, pens a heartfelt note about her work as a researcher, her experience with the Rolex Awards for Enterprise and the recent Rolex Perpetual Planet campaign.
As I write, forest fires are raging across Sumatra, Borneo, Africa, and the Amazon. These fires have claimed lives in Indonesia, destroyed homes in the Amazon, closed schools in Borneo due to the associated haze, and killed countless plants and wildlife. We are in the midst of a global environmental crisis, and these fires are just the tip of the iceberg.
According to the United Nations (UN), approximately 83 million human beings are added to the world’s population each year. Along with better health care and nutrition, our life expectancy has also increased. Human overpopulation is, in fact, the environmental concern. Exponential human population growth exerts pressure on our planet’s limited natural resources such as water, food and fuel, resulting in the loss of biodiversity through the need to clear forests to make space for homes, and also contributing to a higher carbon footprint.
It is clear that we need to find solutions to the pressing environmental issues that we are facing and that is why I'm glad that the Rolex Perpetual Planet campaign has embraced exploration as a key mechanism to preserve our natural world, something which deeply resonates with what I truly believe in. Quoting Jane Goodall, founder of the Jane Goodall Institute and a UN Messenger of Peace, she said: “Only if we understand, can we care. Only if we care, will we help.” In order for us to make the planet perpetual, we have to first understand our planet, through exploration and data collection. Only after we understand our planet, we can begin to appreciate it and recognise what it takes to preserve it.
(Related: Rolex Perpetual Planet Campaign Inspires Marine Ecologist Neo Mei Lin To Do More For Planet Earth)
The launch of the Rolex Perpetual Planet campaign has driven home a strong message that the watch brand cares deeply for our planet and is committed to long-term efforts to learn about and protect our planet. It encourages and supports young people to pursue the protection of our natural world and eventually they will be empowered by knowledge gained to make a positive difference to the current environmental crisis. The campaign has also inspired me to continue to pursue my work in primate research and biodiversity conservation as our individual actions can bring about positive change to our planet, which is valuable and irreplaceable.
Part of the Perpetual Planet campaign is the Rolex Awards for Enterprise (RAE), which I had the opportunity to be part of in 2014. Then, I proposed to use aerial bridges to reconnect populations of endangered Indochinese silvered langurs, whose habitats were destroyed by limestone mining in Vietnam, and quantifying the success using field and genetic data.
It can get depressing to see how bad the state of our natural world is when we witness the unsustainable exploitation of the environment and the atrocious acts done to wildlife. It can become difficult to keep doing what we do. When that happens—and it will happen—talk to friends, go for a holiday, and come back to this line of work refreshed.
—Andie Ang, primatologist and Generation T 2018 honouree
The selection process was meticulous. It started from the application stage to the selection phase, and from the interviews via Skype to the final face-to-face round.
I flew to New York City to join the round of the final 22, and that was the first time I got to meet with the finalists. It was an exhilarating couple of days interacting with young experts from various fields such as science, environment, exploration, and cultural heritage.
(Related: Singapore Tatler Editor Terence Lim Shares What He Learnt From The Rolex Perpetual Planet Campaign)
It was a fulfilling experience but my most valuable takeaway from the RAE was that we can’t work alone, and we shouldn’t. Everyone’s environmental conservation work, though might seem disparate and unrelated at first, is ultimately interconnected, whether it concerns science, culture or even technology. Like what Tommy Koh, ambassador-at-large at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, once shared with me, biodiversity is best protected when partnerships between individuals, agencies, and institutions can be forged, and especially between countries and across borders, as nature has no borders. Only when we work together and collaborate can we all achieve even more.
My advice to everyone, who is keen in doing their bit to protecting this fragile planet of ours, is simple. It can get depressing to see how bad the state of our natural world is when we witness the unsustainable exploitation of the environment and the atrocious acts done to wildlife. It can become difficult to keep doing what we do. When that happens—and it will happen—talk to friend, go for a holiday, and come back to this line of work refreshed. Stay positive and hopeful.
- Photography Benny Loh
- Make-Up Nikki Fu