By Natalia Huang, for the Straits Times | May 8, 2015
Consider this familiar scene. A shopping centre with all the characters we know: shoppers, shop assistants, maintenance men and security guards. Everyone knows his role well and does what he needs to do: buy from this shop, sell to shoppers and keep the place running well and safe.
We’ve developed this system over many years, shed roles and actions we don’t need, and kept those we do, so we can have a functioning shopping centre.
Then one day, a security guard in a pink uniform turns up. He scares off our security guard who’s not used to his ways. He still keeps the place safe so nobody notices anything for a while. More pink-clad guards start to appear. Suddenly one of them snatches food from a shopper. He tries to sell shoes. Scared shoppers run outside for safety. Upset maintenance men stop fixing things. Confused sales assistants stop selling.
Some shoppers can handle this strangeness and continue with their day. But the pink guards have changed the characters and roles, and soon the shopping centre becomes unrecognisable. It no longer provides the services it was meant to provide, and may eventually crumble in a state of disrepair.
Some shoppers flee to other shopping centres, but each centre can hold only so many shoppers and some are left outside with nowhere to go.
In this scene, the shopping centre is our ecosystem and the characters our native species. Singapore’s native flora and fauna have evolved alongside one another for many years, with each character playing its own important role in the ecosystem upon which others rely.
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