Taking more resources from a business, society or our planet than are returned is ruinous. This leads businesses into bankruptcy, societies into revolution and the environment into rapid and hostile changes. Sustainability is spearheaded by vision and underpinned by education.
Nowhere is this more apparent than in Singapore. Right from independence in 1965 the first prime minister initiated visionary sustainable policies. Trees, shrubs and most of all orchids now populate this city in profusion. They screen buildings, reduce traffic noise and pollution, offer shade and encourage bird life. Admittedly the tropical range, colourfulness and absence of species seasonality make horticulture easier.
Recently, the exuberant Gardens by the Bay project has reinforced Singapore’s city in a garden image. Although man-made, it adapts natural processes for resource recycling. Water reuse is especially important. Achieving a self-sustaining water supply is one of Singapore’s key objectives. As a result, they are now world leaders in water science and technology.
Huge economic benefits accrue for this city as an attractive centre for business and for living. Education ensures that Singaporeans understand and support their sustainable environment and the horticulture by which it is achieved.
Applications of science and technology are now big contributors into the city’s economy. It is no accident that the National University of Singapore ranks in the world’s top 30 for research and educational excellence.
Rescuing the environment and feeding a burgeoning population demands ever greater understanding of plant biology and its application as horticulture. New plants and novel processes are required, some of which will match changed genetic structure and the environment.
Professor Geoffrey Dixon is managing director of GreenGene international