In brief...

I'm a Nature-lover, aspiring conservationist, and wannabe traveller in search of outdoor adventure.
My interests vary from conservation to education to heritage to Nature (biodiversity & wildlife) to outdoor activities to life in general.
They occupy most of my waking moment.
Do read my blogs, follow me on Twitter (@jocelynesze) and friend me on Facebook (subject to my discretion). Visit my Nature blog, Nature Rambles, at http://natureramble.wordpress.com.

UPDATE 2 Apr 2017 - This site is no longer maintained, please visit jocelynesze.wordpress.com if you're interested in more recent writing.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Food, glorious food!

I live in a world of privilege. Half the time, my Facebook wall is filled with photos of food (#Asianstakingphotosoffood). My college provides breakfast, lunch and dinner almost 7 days a week, my room has a corner for wang wang, breakfast/energy bars and various other snacks, and more often than not, I find myself stuffed rather than starving. True, I may occasionally play the 'poor student' card and go for student discount meals and free refreshments at events, but by and large, I am not wanting. The same though, cannot be said for 842 million people out there on this planet (FAO, 2013).

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon launched the Zero Hunger Challenge in 2012, which is aimed at everyone, from individuals to corporations and governments, to do their part to do just that - eliminate hunger within our lifetimes.

The five aims of the challenge. Image taken from United Nations.

The facts

165 million children under the age of 5 have stunted growth as a result of malnourishment in Low- and Middle- Income Countries (Lancelet, 2013)

842 million people go to bed hungry every night (FAO, 2013)

38% of the total land area (World Bank, 2014), and 70% of available freshwater (FAO, 2012) is used for agriculture

2.5 billion individuals in small holder agriculture farms provide over 80% of the food eaten in many parts of the developing world, particularly Southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa (UNEP, 2013)

1.3 billion tonnes of food produced is never consumed (UNEP, 2013)

The problems

Multi National Corporations take over land in parts of the developing world (especially in Africa), to the detriment of local communities and smallholder agriculture farms (Ingwe et al, 2010)

Arable land is not limitless - arable land is a precious and scarce commodity

Individuals lack access to food (because their farms were taken away, because they are too poor to afford market prices etc.)

More than 40% of post harvest loss in supply chain due to poor transport or storage facilities in developing countries. (FAO, 2011)

Developed countries waste more than 220 million tonnes of food every year (UN)

The solutions?

As always, there is no panacea. Food security reminds me greatly of biodiversity conservation. They are linked, of course, by the fact that crops are part of the diversity on this Earth, and that they occupy the same area. Habitat conversion for agricultural purposes is one of the big reasons why we are losing biodiversity at higher than normal rates. And there is no easy solution either.

The foremost issue we ought to tackle should be the distribution and logistical issues of food wastage. Human population numbers are predicted to increase (9 billion by 2050), especially in developing countries, and consumer demands are also increasing - by reducing wastage because of poor infrastructure, more food makes it to those who need it.

This says it all really. Image taken from Food Waste News

Supermarkets, with their advertisement and insidious deals to get you to buy more than you need need to change their profit-driven mindsets to a more sustainable one. I don't know if there is a system that would allow supermarket chains to purchase a more accurate amount that they could sell though, instead of creating wastage.

In the UK, some 1.4 million bananas are wasted every day, 20% of 15 million tonnes of food wasted each year. Eat local (I've decided to give up eating bananas when I'm in the UK, because of food miles), and don't buy more than is necessary. Just cos it's cheap doesn't mean you should get it. Edible gardens are a great idea, as is urban farming.

Agricultural policies can promote land sparing and promote more efficient food production methods, though sometimes government subsidies for agriculture cause more damage (maybe in the long term) than good.

Increasing production and efficiency would help increase available food, without necessarily encroaching on more natural habitat. Biotechnology can help produce crops that can grow on marginal land, and various methods of multi-crop rotations etc. could also help.

What we need is a large scale, systemic change. In the way we define growth and progress. Perhaps only in crises do we think of making radical changes, but by then, it might be too late, and the most vulnerable amongst us will stand to lose the most.

Read more here:
http://www.nationalgeographic.com/foodfeatures/feeding-9-billion/
http://www.theguardian.com/environment/food


Food is so much a big part of our life and culture. We may not be going hungry now, or in the future, but there are others out there who are and will. Image taken from National Geographic.
This post was inspired by a Cambridge Hub Series talk on food security. Also featured was Food Cycle, a national charity that helps to reduce food wastage by supermarkets while feeding those in need.

P.S. Got tired towards the end. There is more than enough information on all these issues out there on the world wide web though, way better than anything I could write. I was just rather struck by the parallels with biodiversity conservation, and how we so often talk about how big a thing food is in our culture (one of the best bonding topics, whether amongst fellow countrymen or meeting new people), yet food security is not something that often bears on our conscience.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

psyche.

Intense. I have definitely long lost that intensity for climbing. Still wish I could go back, and keep training and pushing hard. I'm still climbing, of course, but not to the same intensity or standard. Pushing myself only very gently, one of the things I'm missing the most coming here is probably the lack of climbing partners. Bouldering being the only thing one can do on a usual work week, there isn't really the need for partners. And though there definitely are climbers here, I find that people usually are way above my level, else just beginning (and I usually just end up coaching them). So there isn't anyone about my standard with whom I can train and get psyched with :(

This year though, I am very determined to get myself out and do some traditional climbing at some point, and to consistently do 6c/6c+ indoors top-rope (sigh to think I actually managed to sport lead 6c at some point in my life). Though how I'm going to train high wall is a problem for another time.

Go 'like' the Winnie the Pooh Facebook page, cos it's awesome. Image taken from here.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Passed the first week.

The first week of the first term of the last year is over. It's a strange strange feeling, being a third year. Comfortable, I already know how most things work, and now that we're finally considered members of the department, our cards are activated for departmental access and we can stroll in and out as we please. But at the same time, nostalgia for my first year, and how we were such noobs, and how in some ways I don't feel too much different from first year (probably could still pass off as one?) keeps hitting me. Was sitting in the common room, minding my own business, while this guy was giving a supervision to some 1st year Evolution & Behaviour students. He was on the E&B field trip in my 1st year, but anyway, I was just sitting there half eavesdropping, and remembered how lost I was in the first few supervisions. Not quite sure how much I've learnt over the past two years coming here. Regarding the conservation/biodiversity stuff, I don't feel like it's been that much (apart from being able to recite Terry Erwin's beetle canopy study as an estimate for the number of insect species in the world, cos it's been mentioned like 3/4 times now). But definitely all the palaeontology/animal evolution/earth science-y bits I am now much more familiar with. 

People usually like choices, but being a generalist, I found it rather stressful to have to specialise, though I do like not having to do modules I really don't like. Maybe I just have too many interests, though I think I'm slowly dropping some of them. 

Been keeping with my goals for this year fairly well, sleeping early (before 1am) and not sleeping in too much (before 9am, on days I have no lectures on) and generally spending a LOT more time on academic work than I ever have. Which doesn't say much really, cos I barely spent time on it the past two years, unless it was for supervision/exams were in a few weeks. 

There is also not enough time to read. There are so many books I really want to read, especially those in my college library (that aren't directly relevant to my studies). 

Anyways, have more or less survived the first week, made the choices I had to make for modules, projects and research paper reviews, though I did come down with freshers flu the past few days. Now for the next seven! (Argh.)

Everyone's Got Something - Perrin Lamb
Everyone's got something
Something no one else can do
Something no one else can see

And I want you, I want you to know
All I have is you, all I need is you
All I want is you

Everyone's got something
Darling, I'll let you guide me
Tell me that you want me

And I want you, I want you to know
All I have is you, all I need is you
All I want is you

Mmmmm mmm mmmm x 3

And I want you, I want you to know
All I have is you, all I need is you
All I want is you

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Feel it in my bones.

It's only been the first day of lectures, and already I feel the stress. I honestly have not felt so stressed at the start of the year before. Having to make decisions over what project to choose, over which modules to go for (still on going. Vertebrate evolution or population biology? One's more interesting, one's probably more useful...), over everyone becoming so competitive and hardworking, over the overwhelming self-imposed pressure to do well this year. There's gonna be a project and a research paper review on top of lectures/supervisions/labs for this term. I know, I can already feel it, that it's not going to end well. I can feel the stress happening. Sighs. I hope I get the chance to do enough climbing/dancing/slack-lining to get myself through this term.

Going to climb for most of the day tomorrow in one of the nicest climbing centres I've been to so far, The Castle. Probably the last bit of somewhat guilt-free enjoyment I'll get for a long time to come. Rather psyched (:

Waiting For Superman - Daughtry

She’s watching the taxi driver, he pulls away
She’s been locked up inside her apartment a hundred days

She says, “Yeah, he’s still coming, just a little bit late.
He got stuck at the laundromat washing his cape.”
She’s just watching the clouds roll by and they spell her name
Like Lois Lane
And she smiles, oh the way she smiles

She’s talking to angels,
Counting the stars
Making a wish on a passing car
She’s dancing with strangers,
Falling apart
Waiting for Superman to pick her up
In his arms, yeah, in his arms, yeah
Waiting for Superman

She’s out on the corner trying to catch a glimpse
Nothing’s making sense
She’s been chasing an answer, a sign lost in the abyss,
This Metropolis

She says, "Yeah, he’s still coming, just a little bit late.
He got stuck at the Five and Dime saving the day.”
She says, "If life was a movie, then it wouldn’t end like this,
Left without a kiss."
Still, she smiles, oh, the way she smiles, yeah

She’s talking to angels,
Counting the stars
Making a wish on a passing car
She’s dancing with strangers,
She’s falling apart
Waiting for Superman to pick her up
In his arms, yeah, in his arms, yeah
She’s waiting for Superman...

...to lift her up and take her anywhere
Show her love and flying through the air
Save her now before it’s too late tonight
Oh, at the speed of light
And she smiles

She’s talking to angels,
Counting the stars
Making a wish on a passing car
She’s dancing with strangers,
She’s falling apart
Waiting for Superman to pick her up
In his arms, yeah, in his arms, yeah
She’s waiting for Superman...

...to lift her up and take her anywhere
Show her love, oh, and flying through the air
Save her now before it’s too late tonight
She’s waiting for Superman

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Before the last madness.

It's officially the start of Cambridge term, but lectures don't start till Thu/Fri. Feeling the wham of busy terms already, as my schedule starts filling up with interesting events and gatherings, on top of the intense Zoology requirements for this year (a research project and a research paper review on top of usual lectures/labs/seminars). Been feeling rather stressed, mainly cos there are lecture clashes in topics I'm really interested in and I'm forced to make a choice, cos there are so many interesting projects I wanna do but again have to choose one, and also cos I really want to do well this year and I'm worried I won't. Which is kinda stupid, cos it has yet to happen.

Anyway, mainly to briefly summarise the rest of summer after South America:
1. Norfolk Holt field trip for Part II Zoology
Touched down from London Stansted airport and went straight to Norfolk. It was a fairly cold 10+ days there, being on the coast. Did a project on the brown shrimp Crangon crangon, involved wading into sand pools left by the tide and measuring them. It was great fun, and Le Qin (my project partner) and I went slightly crazy from the cold, the occasional (really) early mornings and late nights.
Fishing for shrimps. 

One of the larger shrimps we caught. Most are about 1-1.5cm.

Rainbow (:


2. Road trip around Iceland
Was nice to have a trip with friends, especially cos it meant I didn't have to be on the ball constantly about where I was going and about safety etc. And of course having great company was a bonus, plus the geology, wildlife and breath-taking scenery. Iceland is a really really pretty place, and I was gutted I didn't get the chance to hike while I was there, especially some of the top places to hike in the world were there.
Faxi waterfall. 

Geysir.

The North American plate :D -ish; it's on that side anyway, rather than the Eurasian plate

They have some pretty awesome graffiti :D

Saw a pair of humpback whales (:

Like seriously the whole place is just a huge coffee table book

Blueberry picking!!

Saw the fissure eruption too :D

View from the harbour at Hofn

3. Chilling around in Cambridge
Had a couple of sedentary weeks, was initially intending to go Spain, but decided against it cos travel buddies pulled out (meant to go climb) and also because by this point I was absolutely fretting over post-graduation and needed time to sort my life out. Great time enjoying summer in the UK, going to the riverside/green spaces (can't really call them parks, they're just common open green spaces...) and reading/studying/slack-lining. Definitely a lot of thinking was done, and I felt much rather calmer for it. Also managed to climb (read: high wall/a bit of leading!!!) a couple of times :D such a rare treat for me.
Yeah okay a bit too narcissistic a selfie, this >< But it was a nice summery day!

Went down to London one day, and checked out this Books About Town event.

Slack-lineeee. For noobs like me.

Kayaking on the river Granta. Hadn't kayaked in super long, was quite rubbish.

4. Hiking/camping part of the Pennine Way
Intended to do the first 3rd of the UK's oldest and most famous national trails, 429km long. Started in Edale, Peak District, and intended to finish at Horton-in-Ribblesdale, North Yorkshire. First day was pretty shit, hadn't carried weights to hike in a loonngggg time, and was probably carrying about 14-15 kg for 26km. Next day was a little better in that it was shorter, just 18km, but our hike was abruptly cut short on the third day by an injury in our group. I was carrying 17kg by then, so I'm honestly pretty impressed by myself :P Will blog more about this later (hopefully!)
Just walk. With your thoughts and flying red grouses around you.

One night we woke up to frost. It was a really cold night.

The English landscape.


In all, summer has been a great recharge for me, with lots of new experiences being in foreign lands and spending time with myself. Missing Singapore for sure, but I'll be back for Christmas and I'm sooo looking forward to it (: This last year though, of being an undergraduate, I do feel the pressure of coping with the work load, wanting to do well, and wanting to make the most of opportunities and do all that I haven't had the chance to do previously. Then again, it's just another Cambridge term.

Taken from: http://whenincambridge.tumblr.com/post/98964087728/fruitcrocs-hiding-from-your-responsibilities

 Which is yet another pretty good procrastination site.