A Catalyst For Change

MEN 'S FOLIO Singapore|July 2020

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A Catalyst For Change
The basis for change occurs when one moves out of their comfort zone. However, for that to happen there needs to be a spark or a push.
Asaph Low

It was half a year ago when our daily livelihoods felt “normal”, not least till the coronavirus left its indelible mark on the human race. Closures on unprecedented levels were enforced across the world as countries went into lockdown. Disruptions and chaos ensued and amidst the COVID-19 discomforts, conversations about complex issues deeply entrenched within humanity took place.

The pandemic we are facing may well be the catalyst needed to effect change.

“Food sustainability. Because it impacts gemerations to come.” - Lennard Yeong


As the world continues to globalise and shrink, the impact of environmental and social issues increases.

When humans were forced to stay at home the last few months during enforced lockdowns, scientists reported a decrease in pollutants from smog-choked metropolitan cities.

One party suffered while the other flourished — nature seized the opportunity to recover in whatever ways it could. For the first time in almost three decades, the Himalayan Alps were visible from the Indian state of Punjab. Pictures of thriving wildlife brought optimism while research studies have reported that the reduced economic activity has helped to decrease global warming as well as air and marine pollution.

Temporary as it may be, they were nevertheless a glimpse into how the environment can further benefit if stricter climate policies can be implemented and regulated.

However, the bleak truth remains — nature will continue to bear the brunt of human prosperity and advancement.

Closer to home, the boom in COVID-19 transmissions among migrant worker communities led to investigations and scrutinies. Questions were raised about the poor living conditions after pictures of dormitories circulated among the public.

Experts believe it played a part in the aggressive transmission of COVID-19.

That can be said of similar situations abroad as the coronavirus rips through squatter settlements, refugee camps and slums. As evident from the pandemic, those living on the margins of society were hit hardest when diseases and disasters strike.

Surely more can be done in the years to come.


Why did it take a crisis to highlight the ongoing struggles that the world face?

A simple answer — the pandemic is a shock to the status quo and the discomfort motivates action. The consequences of the outbreak are dire and the dangers require immediate action.

Contrastingly, the evidence of climate change threats does not evoke the same sense of distress. The impression that it is a problem future generations will experience dilutes the urgency to combat climate change head-on.

On the social front, the Black Lives Matter protests aim to combat racism and discrimination that have been normalised and marginalised by the white supremacy. After the brutal arrest of George Floyd, thousands took to the streets to march in solidarity despite the dangers of COVID-19.

They were willing to risk their lives to fight for equality after hundreds of years of oppression and the disease that racism is.


The response to the pandemic shows that people can still work together to fight for the right thing. There is still hope that wrongs can be made right as people strive for change. Discomforts and disruptions will come, though all is worth it for a better tomorrow.

The coronavirus made a mess in our lives but perhaps this is a storm we have to weather for a better tomorrow for future generations.

This is the story of three men who have been thoughtfully, truthfully and tactfully reshaping the world around them — one action at a time.



After the government enforced the Circuit Breaker — Singapore’s version of a lockdown — human interaction have been kept minimal where possible over the past few months. Yet for Sanjeev Shanker, contact with humans skyrocketed no thanks to his profession — an emergency physician, or a doctor to the layman.

The last time we met Shanker in January, he made a statement that struck us.

“I started (as a doctor) wanting to save the world, but now I feel happy saving one life at a time.”

Although circumstances have drastically changed over the past five months, his ethos remains steadfast.

“Even though I have an administrative duty of looking after large numbers of patients during this pandemic, I still treat each patient as a unique individual,“ shares Shanker who shuttles between a public hospital’s emergency department and a Community Care Facility.

“Each patient remains my priority; we ensure they receive the best medical care and cannot afford to let even one patient slip through our fingers.”


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July 2020