Monday, February 05, 2007

A reply

Feb 3, 2007
STINews: Covered walkways and air-con make for softies

THERE are more covered walkways at LRT stations and schools are being built in Punggol. Are we making life too comfortable? Surely, some rain and sun won't hurt, especially for the students?

A covered walkway is a small matter. But is it the tip of the iceberg? Is making life easier and more comfortable our society's goal? If so, then we are heading for disaster.

Click here to read the full story.

I refer to Mr Khoo Swee Chiow's letter, “Covered walkways and air-con make for softies” (ST, Feb 3), in which he lampooned the material comforts afforded by covered walkways and air-conditioning as the cause of our nation's youth becoming weak.

Well, isn't this a happy case of damned if you do, damned if you don't.

After championing the government to build covered linkways between housing estates and train stations and major bus stops, it seems that the commutering public is now faced with the threat of obesity, among other things.

Covered walkways and air-conditioning do not cause obesity. Such a connection is tenuous at best. Obesity is a clinical condition caused, in varying degrees, by overeating, a sedentary lifestyle, genetic and neurobiological factors, certain medications, underlying illnesses and even ethnic predispositions.

These modern conveniences remain just that, modern conveniences. It is how we use them that ultimately determines their impact on our lives and, in the case of air-conditioners, the environment. When a person has stabbed another to death with a knife, do we blame the knife or the assailant? It is up to us to use our air-conditioners judiciously and lead a responsible life.

I, for one, applaud the government's efforts in continuously improving our public infrastructure. Besides providing welcome respite from inclement weather to commuters, particularly expectant mothers and the elderly, covered walkways also make public trains and buses a more attractive method of conveyance by increasing accessibility and convenience and minimising hassle. A successful public transit system decreases road traffic congestion and reduces greenhouse gas emissions from unnecessary private car transport, which in turn alleviates global warming.

I am by no means advocating parents to encourage in their children an overly sheltered life. But creature comforts in and by themselves will not make our youth weak, not in a hyper-competitive, meritocratic society driven very much by performance and results, and where it is mandatory that all young men are subject to two years of rigorous military and physical training in National Service. A comfortable life isn't necessarily a less resilient life. A strictly regimented upbringing doesn't always make a tougher person either.

It is perfectly alright to be environmentally conscious, but it is neither accurate nor fair to demonise material comforts as the root of the world's larger problems.

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