From a Garden City to a City in Nature, nature in Singapore is most often invoked in her lush urban greenery. However, nature is not only bound in designated spaces, but also interwoven across various layers of society in intricate and often conflicting ways (Heynen, 2014). As explored in the past weeks, nature has been metabolised and contested by infrastructural developments as the city-state find ways to extend and optimise her spatial limits, often at the expense of wildlife mobilities. At the individual level, nature is also intertwined in the everyday realm, being implicated by day-to-day waste disposal and recovery, as well as the treasured joys of durian hunting. In this sense, the city is indeed a ‘hybrid socio-natural’ space, where ‘society and nature, representation and being are inseparable, integral to each other [and] infinitely bound-up’ (Swyngedouw, 1996:65-66).
Look how they bloom
As we reach the end of this blog, I will like to share some blooming surprises that greeted Singapore in the past months.
Wildflowers blooming by the roadside (Source: https://mothership.sg/2020/05/circuit-breaker-wildflowers/)
These wonderful sights were found right in Singapore last April, during the nation’s Circuit Breaker (lockdown) period due to the Covid-19 pandemic. As grass-cutting was halted during this period, wildflowers bloomed along roadsides, bringing pleasant surprises to citizens amidst the tough time. These beautiful blooms have also sparked debates on the necessity of grass-cutting, with many expressing the desire for the frequency of grass-cutting to be reduced to allow wildflowers and pollinators to return to everyday living spaces.
At the wider level, these wild blooms embodied the long-lasting practice of regulating nature in urban spaces. As Philips and Atchison (2020:161) posited via the notion of ‘misbehaving trees’, urban natures are often closely managed under the need for controlling risks. For Singapore, the curation and control of nature is evident by the roadside, where regular grass-cutting is conducted for “pest-control”.
However, as the wildflowers show us, “deregulating” nature is pertinent ‘to consider, invite, and/or honour more-than-human others’ (Philips and Atchison, 2020:164). With that, hopefully Singapore could truly bloom to be a City in Nature.
Heynen, N. (2014) ‘Urban political ecology I: The urban century’, Progress in Human Geography, 38, 4, 598-604.
Phillips, C. and J. Atchison (2020) ‘Seeing the trees for the (urban) forest: more-than-human geographies and urban greening’, Australian Geographer, 51, 2, 155-168.
Swyngedouw, E. (1996) ‘The city as a hybrid—on nature, society and cyborg urbanisation’, Capitalism, Nature, Socialism, 7, 1, 65–80.