Clear blue skies

The weather was brilliantly clear and cool this morning when I threw open the door to my flat, which was a welcome breath of fresh air (literally). You see, late August in Singapore typically means we’re living amidst a dull miasma of excessive carbon particles.

First, there’s the Chinese Seventh Moon/Hungry Ghost rituals, which require responsible Chinese families to prepare various offerings to their deceased ancestors. My family doesn’t observe this so I don’t know exactly all the inner workings of the rituals, but they do seem to involve a lot of burning of joss paper and joss sticks.

Much of this is done in residential neighbourhoods, in giant brown metal cans designated for this purpose, although the odd row of half-burnt joss sticks may also make an appearance along a road or drain. Needless to say, it does make most neighbourhoods pretty smoky for several weeks, as families take turns making their annual carboniferous contributions to the atmosphere.

Then, there’s that other ritual of sorts: the annual burning of rainforests in neighbouring countries Malaysia and Indonesia. This isn’t wanton arson so much as it is a decades-old (or more) rural slash-and-burn practice dating back to when, well, forests were more plentiful and the “greenhouse effect” not yet a household phrase. On paper, Malaysia and Indonesia have laws against the burning, but they haven’t quite stamped out the practice yet.

Meantime, thanks to Singapore’s proximity to these two countries, we live with the smell and soot of burnt forest that the seasonal winds conveniently waft in our direction. Every single damn year.

Alright, to be fair, the haze hasn’t been too bad this year. For one thing, I didn’t have very many eye infections. For another, the Singapore Meteorological Services didn’t have to release daily Pollution Standard Index reports. In fact, I’m not even certain that the word “haze” hit the news that many times.

None of which detracted from my enjoyment of the cool weather and energetic breeze this morning. If the weather were like this all the time, why, living here wouldn’t be half-bad at all.

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