"If we do not care for mother earth, there is only one earth, if we lose it, if the environment becomes unsuitable for living, that’s the end for everyone and everything that is alive.” – Dr. Ho Eu Chin
As the world awakens to the growing threat of climate change and the urgent need to do something to protect the environment, it is more common to see green practices nowadays not just from individuals but also from businesses. However, eco practices are still insufficient when most people think that environmental protection is merely about recycling and cutting down on the use of plastic wares. To Dr. Ho Eu Chin, an ENT specialist cum Tzu Chi International Member Association (TIMA) member, environmental protection is a full-time commitment.
Awareness is one thing, doing it is another
During his 17 years living abroad in England, one of his favourite activities was going for nature walks in the parks or forest, and that hobby has nurtured his love for nature. Being aware of climate change and the need to protect the environment, he realized that the richer communities in the world are contributing more to climate change than the poorer communities because the richer countries are consuming more of the world’s resources. However, the people who suffer the consequences of extreme weather the most are the poorer communities who have no means to escape the extreme weather. For Dr. Ho, despite being aware of the need to do his part to protect nature, most of his green practices only started after he listened to Master Cheng Yen’s teaching.
“I first discovered Tzu Chi and Master Cheng Yen’s teachings about 7 years ago, and that got me to put my interest and my knowledge to action. I realized that I needed to do the right thing and not just think about it,” said Dr. Ho.
Making environmental protection a big part of his life
Dr. Ho opines that joining a recycling activity once a month is a good start, but it is not enough to help mitigate climate change and reverse the environmental damage caused by human activities.
“We need to embrace the whole concept of environmental protection into our daily life, so that in every part of our life, and whatever we are doing, we are helping to reduce the impact on the environment,” he said.
To put thoughts into action, Dr. Ho designed his new home to be an eco-friendly house with several eco features that help to conserve water and reduce power usage. With the aim to become carbon negative, Dr. Ho has installed 72 solar panels which produce more than 3 times the amount of energy the household consumes. While the solar panels can generate approximately 2000 kwh per month, his family only uses around 600 kwh per month, the surplus power is exported to the national grid. Besides having solar panels to generate clean energy for his home, he has also installed a separate solar thermal system that heats up the water without using the electricity generated by the solar panels.
Water is a precious natural resource in Singapore and the government places great emphasis in ensuring that the management of water usage is sustainable. To conserve water, Dr. Ho installed a rainwater harvesting system at home to collect rainwater for watering plants and cleaning up the porch. With such a system in place, the household saves 2000 to 3000 litres of water each month. Besides reusing rainwater, Dr. Ho also installed eco toilet with a basin on top of the tank where water can be used for handwashing before it flows into the cistern of the toilet.
Apart from conserving water and power, Dr. Ho also practices the 5Rs of environmental sustainability, namely “Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Repair and Recycle” in his daily life. Before arriving at recycling, Dr. Ho first tries to reduce buying things, for example, he would wear his clothes and shoes for as long as possible and repair them when they are torn. Contrary to common practice where most people would prefer new furniture for their new homes, Dr. Ho has no issue with using second-hand furniture which he found online and continue to use old furniture he moved from his previous residence. He and his wife also keep some food containers in their office so that they could take away food without using any disposable containers and plastic bags. His effort in preserving the environment is also supported by all his family members where each and every one of them would take public transport to school or to work despite having a car at home.
Dr. Ho is also a vegetarian not just out of compassion for animals but also for the many positive impact it has on Earth. Studies have shown that opting for a meat-light or meatless diet could help reduce greenhouse emissions, save large amount of water, avoid environmental pollution, reduce deforestation, it can even improve on global food security as lesser resources are needed to feed the livestock.
Inconvenience is nothing when you think about others
One of the reasons why environmental protection is more of a trend than a norm in most parts of the world is because modern day people are used to the convenience provided by technology, making it difficult for many to overcome the inconvenience that inevitably comes with eco practices. It takes a great deal of discipline and determination to make environmental protection part of our life. However, to Dr. Ho, he is immune to the inconvenience which he must endure for choosing an eco-friendly lifestyle.
“The easiest way is to go by what Master Cheng Yen has taught us, to always think about other people. I just feel that it is impossible to walk the bodhisattva compassionate pathway if you don’t constantly think about other people, the people that you know and you don’t know, who are suffering because of your action or inaction. So, this is my biggest motivation, this is how I practice compassion. So, the inconvenience is nothing when you think about it that way,” he added.
Getting more people to go green together
While governments play an important role in enacting effective environmental policies and taking the lead in raising awareness of sustainable issues, looking after the environment is our shared responsibility. In 2018, scientists have warned that we have only 12 years left to keep global warming under control. This can be achieved by keeping global temperatures from rising not more than 1.5 degree Celsius. Failing which, the world will see even more extreme drought, flood and heat around the world which could worsen poverty issue and claim more lives. Urgent changes are needed to pull the brake before we cross the point of no return, the question is, how to get people started?
Dr. Ho’s answer to this, is to start from ourselves. He said, “I think there is only one way to influence other people, you lead by example. Nobody likes it when you lecture them, in fact it is better to keep quiet first and you do it. You do it, then hopefully other people observe. And when they observed what you do, they ask you questions, you take that as an opportunity to tell them.”
Environmental protection is for survival
Scientists have been telling us for many years through their scientific findings that climate change and global warming is happening with solid data showing that the amount of carbon dioxide has gone up, worldwide temperature has risen, ice is melting at the earth’s poles and sea levels are expected to rise as a result of the massive melting of iceberg. Even without the scientific data, we are seeing more news of extreme weather reporting from around the world. That is why, environmental protection is not something that can wait.
With trust and hope in humanity, Dr. Ho said, “By myself alone, I cannot bring down the temperature of the world, I am just one of the 7 billion people in the world. But if every one of us does a little bit, all these are little raindrop, it will fill up the whole bucket, or even the swimming pool, it adds up. And if I can have a carbon neutral, or better still, a carbon negative lifestyle, and if you all do the same, I think human beings can save mother earth.”