AC Press’ Beach Cleanup 2023: Giving Back to Mother Nature

The 14th of May this year was nothing short of a remarkable day. It was a Sunday, emphasising on the word ‘sun’ as we were greeted with cloudless blue skies and a slight prickle of the heat. It was also Mothers’ Day, when families worldwide connect and express gratitude for their mothers. With both of these pleasant conditions to the day, it was only befitting for the AC Press to host its annual, signature event, which is none other the beach cleanup at East Coast Park.

However, this year’s beach cleanup was special. With the ease of COVID restrictions, the AC Press has opened up and extended this project to students outside of the club. This decision has proven to be successful, as we have managed to engage many like-minded students to play their part in protecting the environment. 

The AC Press has also prepared multiple games and activities with prizes to be won for its participants. We included a bingo game, in which volunteers (in their groups) can check off as many of the listed trash items as they can. The quickest group to do so would win an exclusive box of Blackpink-edition Oreos. We also had other individual contests, such as for those who picked up the ‘most unique’ piece of trash, as well as the ‘most dangerous’ — both of which rewarding a $10 Muji gift card. With all of these fun additions, both the CCA members and student volunteers alike were incentivised and even more motivated to embark on their cleanup.

And so, on a warm and breezy Sunday morning, the AC Press members and student volunteers gathered at East Coast Park, ready to begin their services. On site, the AC Press distributed tongs, gloves and trash bags to everyone, effectively equipping all with the necessary materials to carry out an efficient and thorough cleanup. As soon as the attendance was taken and the materials have been given out, everyone split off into their designated groups and dispersed, heading towards different directions and starting their cleanup.

During the cleanup, it was to our surprise that there was significantly less trash on the beach than last year’s cleanup. We learnt that just the day before, another institution had also sent a large group of volunteers to clean up the coasts. It was heartwarming to know that efforts have been made to help the environment by not just us, but other people in society too. However, this did not mean the beach was spotless. We still found traces of trash buried in the sand and scattered all over the grass. As much as action has been taken to mitigate the conditions of the environment, the truth remains that consumerism and human negligence still pervades. In saying this, we have managed to find quite a few interesting samples of trash during our cleanup. Below are a few examples:

Firstly, we have a found a doll cast aside onto the dry grass patches. It had brittle, strawberry blonde hair, which made evident that the doll had suffered from natural conditions. Perhaps it was left behind by a child who was playing along the shore, dragged away by the waves. This won the title of ‘most unique’ trash!

We found candles, multiple of them. We think it is possible that they were the remnants of someone’s birthday celebration.

We also found an (emptied) oil cannister that rested in the thick, moist clumps of sand. It is likely that its contents have been poured out into the ocean, reminding us of the realities of ocean pollution. In fact, this won the title of ‘most dangerous’ trash!

Apart from non-living objects, we have also managed to uncover ‘once-living’ objects — the carcass of a jellyfish that was strewn along the white shores.

After hours of picking up traces of trash all over East Coast Park, the AC Press members and the student volunteers gathered back at our initial meeting spot and prizes were awarded accordingly to the students who have clinched the titles of ‘most unique’ and ‘most dangerous’ trash, and we did some reflections on the day. Some of the students gave their feedback on the event, as well as the lessons they have learnt.

Overall, it is important to realise that a one-off effort of cleaning the beach is not sufficient to bring about true benefits to the environment. For as long as humans live, consumerism will always be a threat to the planet. Therefore, it is all the more paramount that people remain conscious that the choice to reduce the negative impact on earth is in their hands. Efforts like this must not be done only once, but committed to and sustained over longer periods of time. 

As much as Sundays do have ‘sun’ in it, the overwhelmingly high temperatures reminds us of global warming. And when we think of ‘mother’ on Mothers’ Day, we think of the female familial figures that have raised us. However, we must also remember that there is a just as important ‘mother’ figure that has always been, and will in fact continue to remain in our lives — Mother Nature.

Having a Hard Time in JC? Here’s a Survival Guide

By: Raye

“The hardest two years of my life” — is exactly how I would respond if someone were to ask me about my experience in junior college (JC). As appalling of an answer as that might sound, I believe it is a statement that some JC students may resonate with. 

Rest assured, this article is not going to be reduced to a mere rant session from my end. I am almost halfway into my second (and final) year of JC, and I have definitely come a long way from where I was as a naive J1, fresh out of secondary school. Having gone through some of the toughest days and periods during my JC life, I have found ways of coping and learned valuable lessons. Some of these coping mechanisms did in fact prove to be effective, while others fell short. We’ll be looking at just what these mechanisms are in-depth, with some personal anecdotes as examples, and briefly discuss any takeaways. Through this, I hope fellow students who are reading will be able to resonate with the issues addressed, and not have to suffer unnecessarily as I did.

Before we get into the mechanisms and lessons learned, it is important to first know the root cause of the problems. So, let us take it all the way back to the first day of school.

What happened, and what was the impact?

Admittedly, I had quite an idealised perception of what JC life was going to be like. I held the same expectations of my academic performance in secondary school, despite knowing that the subjects I would eventually take were of a far higher caliber. I was often told by seniors that failing was ‘normal’, and should not be too big of a concern. So, I took their words to heart and was not very hard on myself when I flunked my first few papers. However, as the months went by, I noticed I was still failing a few subjects, quite terribly at that. Around this time, the ‘smarter’ people also started making names for themselves — whenever we’d think of a specific subject, there would be a classmate in mind who excels in it. In the same vein, I thought it would be nice to be ‘known’ for doing well in English Literature or General Paper (GP), as I had confidence in my linguistic skills. Yet, with the D and E grades I would usually see, it became clear to me that that was impossible, and a ridiculous pipe dream. 

A student who failed her test. Credits: iStock

Time was slipping through my hands. The promotional examinations began to approach. And there I was, still failing the same subjects. The straight As I was used to seeing in secondary school were now replaced and cemented with U, S and E grades. It was around this time that it finally hit me, the possibility that I may have overestimated myself. I became paranoid about never being able to excel as some of my friends did, being left behind at the bottom of the class while everyone progresses. It felt alienating and somewhat terrifying. As a result, the stress began to find its way into my life. I soon became an insomniac, getting little to no sleep almost every school night as thoughts about my academics (or just about anything else in life, really) kept me up. I was in a rather self-destructive state, and it really took a toll on my own self-perception and mental health. Fortunately enough, I managed to pull myself together by the time the promotional examinations came around. Although I did not do exceptionally well and still ended up failing the subjects I usually did, I performed well enough to promote to my second year. In fact, I am doing incrementally better now in my second year. Even though I had a rather rough experience as a J1, there were many valuable lessons and other things that I learned from surviving it – including coping mechanisms.

So, what went wrong?

Coping mechanisms can come in all forms, varying from person to person depending on their character. However, I believe one of my favorite psychologists/theorists of all time, Sigmund Freud, categorised them rather succinctly. Therefore, I’ll be referring to some of the terms, should they apply to the following mechanisms I am about to discuss below – the ones that were unsustainable and failed me.

Sigmund Freud’s theory on the 12 defense mechanisms. Credits: Kevin Everett FitzMaurice
  1. Denial

This was very likely the first mistake I made – refusing to acknowledge that I was in an entirely different educational institution and that of course, things were not going to be the same, or as smooth sailing as secondary school. I knew the sheer rigor of JC, but I somehow believed that if I just stuck to whatever brought me the grades previously, nothing bad would happen. After all, why fix something that is not broken?

Well, after getting back those first few test papers I mentioned earlier, I realised the vowels I had on my report card did not include ‘A’, but ‘E’ and ‘U’ instead. Still, I kept telling myself that it was no big deal since the seniors did say that failing tests are completely normal. And so, I chucked my papers aside, not even checking through the scripts or making an effort to understand what went wrong.

Why you shouldn’t do this: By principle, denial already connotes a refusal to acknowledge that something has happened, usually something negative. This is innately harmful, as you are not even processing what has physically occurred in your life. If you do not accept your shortcomings in the present, or prepare yourself for the fact that not everything stays the same (in this context), you obviously cannot progress into the future. Denial will only stunt your personal growth.

2. Rationalisation

This is somewhat related to my point on denial above. After doing rather terribly on my first batch of tests and sitting on the problem over the weekend, I began to really theorise about what could have gone wrong. Certainly, the feeling of flunking an examination while your classmates celebrate their first taste of success is not the greatest. Therefore, I chose to encourage myself with rather dismissive affirmations, such as the following:

  • “It was your first test, you were probably just getting used to it! It’s no big deal, you’ll know what to do the next time around.”
  • “Don’t worry, you just have to read the notes again for clarity.”

In hindsight, I was essentially grabbing at straws and coming up with whatever conclusions I could for my failures, instead of actually reflecting on practical factors like my methods of studying or whether I really understood what was going on. I simply could not put my ego aside, that I would no longer be the most ‘academic’ person in JC like I was in secondary school.

Why you shouldn’t do this: Downplaying an unpleasant situation is not always effective, especially if there is something you can do to improve your predicament. Although you still should not be too hard on yourself, it does not mean you should give up on understanding what went wrong altogether, either. Once again, that would lead to no actual progress.

Alright then…so what worked?

Although the mechanisms I discussed above were innately unsustainable and unhealthy, I have managed to cut myself free from them and instead, adopted ones that were sustainable and have truly helped me. Some of them may not necessarily be directly related to my academics, but they definitely played a part in improving my mental health.

*Note that a few of the following mechanisms may not strictly fall under Freud’s categories, hence I will simply name the mechanism as it is.

  1. (Positive) Identification

When I finally got around to seriously preparing for my promotional examinations, one thing I found difficult was maintaining the motivation to study. On some days, I would focus for hours and complete my self-assigned tasks. However, on other days, I could not bring myself to the desk and the mere thought of spending hours working on a subject I do not necessarily enjoy already tired me out. Understandably, it can be hard to feel that drive sometimes, despite those capitalistic influencers telling you ‘not to wait for motivation’. Although I think there is a degree of truth to that, I think it is more important to give yourself a long-term goal and pace yourself from there.

A picture of a signboard reminding one of their motivation/purpose. Credits: Unsplash

As JC students, it is obvious that our long-term, final goal is the A-Level examination, the one examination that everyone loses their heads over since it practically dictates our matriculation into university. Therefore, you can reframe your mindset with this. For instance, the reason why I choose to study every day, even though I may not feel like it, is because I now associate studying with the opportunity to improve my final grade at the A-Levels. This gives me a sense of power, that I am taking charge of my ultimate ‘destiny’ and doing what I can to make the day of my results collection as potentially pleasant as possible.

2. Finding a positive stimulus

‘Positive stimulus’ can refer to a wide range of things, as long as they are activities that engage with your five senses and are beyond studying. In other words, your hobbies. For example, my personal favorite forms of positive stimulus are listening to music and watching my ‘comfort’ films.

Music: Listening to music is quite an integral part of my life. In fact, you will rarely see me without my earphones in. I believe music adds so much vibrancy to the world and helps us feel a wide range of emotions that we may not even realise we are capable of feeling. In this case, though, I have actually been listening to music far more in JC, as I find it puts me in a good mood for the tiring school day ahead, and calms me down once it ends.

A photoshoot of The 1975, for their most recent album, ‘Being Funny in a Foreign Language’ (2022). Credits: The Guardian

One of my favorite bands of all time (which some of you reading this may be familiar with), is The 1975, an English pop-rock band. Although some of the lyrics in their songs make no sense and leave me scratching my head at times, I absolutely adore the instruments in just about all of them. The instrumentals usually consist of electronic synths, which can either be reminiscent of 1980s retro music or convey a dreamy, idyllic feel that is slightly more modern. As a big fan of the synthwave genre and modern alternative/pop music, The 1975 is just the perfect combination to put me in a good mood, or even get me awkwardly tapping my foot to the beat on the train. My personal favorite albums from them include A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships (2018), as well as their self-titled one (2013).

Films: Besides music, I also enjoy watching movies and I find that doing so is rather effective in making me forget about the stress I experience in my daily school life. Although I watch just about any movie (as long as the plot interests me), there are specific films I can watch over and over again, purely because of the sheer happiness and comfort I feel whenever I go back to them. One such film for me is Ratatouille, a Pixar classic made in 2007.

A scene in Ratatouille (2007), showing the beautiful setting of Paris. Credits: Pixar

I remember watching it for the first time as a child and purely enjoying the film for its animation, yet not really grasping what was going on. However, watching this film again when I am older evokes a whole new range of emotions – from nostalgic childhood memories, to the warm and cozy feeling induced by the inviting Parisian setting of the film. The movie’s most iconic song, Le Festin (which translates to ‘The Feast‘ in English), never fails to calm me down with its melodic vocals and familiar guitar strums.

These are just some examples of positive stimuli – they can vary for everyone! I know of people who enjoy cooking on the side or playing chess to engage with their intellectual side of themselves. It is highly useful and beneficial to find something you enjoy doing since it ensures you have things to look forward to doing whenever studying is out of the picture.

3. Talk about it when the going gets tough

Sometimes, a problem may not always have an immediate solution. This can be because you simply are not in the right headspace to formulate one, or because you are unable to even process your own emotions. In times like those, I talk about it to close friends and family, obtaining objective second opinions to help find my way out of the problem, or simply having someone to listen to my worries.

A woman providing a listening ear for her friend. Credits: Shutterstock

By default, I am someone who prefers to solve her own problems instead of burdening other people with matters that do not even involve them. However, I soon found that bottling everything up was very unsustainable and was only destroying me internally, which made me realise that I had to voice my concerns to my loved ones. In fact, it is rather cathartic and takes a lot off your shoulders. So should you ever hit a wall, do not hesitate to talk about it to people who care about you and have your trust. Do not feel guilty for ‘burdening’ them. Put yourself in their shoes. If your friend approached you for a listening ear, you would most likely make time for them!

4. And lastly, have a good work-life balance

Finally, some practical advice to end the article. The importance of a ‘work-life balance‘ is not foreign to us, as everyone, even some of the most successful people, constantly talk about how it upkeeps our general happiness despite working hard at our jobs. Perhaps, some of us believe the constant preaching may have caused the message to lose its meaning, but I am here to reaffirm that a work-life balance is indeed, paramount to maintaining your sanity and happiness.

Let’s be honest, nobody likes to spend their entire day studying away at the desk. However, it can be hard not to get carried away in our work when we see people around us spending seven to eight hours at the library, cramming information from their notes, or doing test papers. The truth is though, the people I have seen doing just that, tend to be very unhappy once they actually get their studying done. They are just so drained from forcing themselves to sit at the same place for hours on end and resisting the fatigue that is slowly built up within them. I can verify this, as I myself was one of those people. Even though I have technically ‘studied’ for seven hours, I was barely pulling through as the words on my notes began to blur. I was not actually processing anything, and if I did end up falling asleep on the desk, I would feel guilty about it and study again later into the night. I believe this ramped up my brain activity, hindering me from falling asleep and leading me further into insomnia.

A student intending to study for long hours. Credits: WikiHow

What I think more people should recognise instead, is that if you truly cannot keep studying anymore, do not force yourself to. In theory, it is greatly counterproductive. Shake off the feeling of loss aversion – in such a case, you would be better off taking a power nap and then waking up to continue your work. Moreover, you do not need to study for seven hours a day. While you should make the effort to study as many of your subjects as you can to ensure you do not neglect any of them, I do think pacing yourself is very important. For example, my daily study routine is simply to spend 1 to 1.5 hours studying for two subjects each, bringing my total study time to 3 hours. It may not be a lot in numbers, but I find it to be effective as I am able to concentrate better for shorter periods of time and I am actually able to retain the information. Then, on days in which I simply am too drained to study, I do not touch any books and head straight to bed once I reach home and wash up. This way, I can at least recharge myself for school the next day, and not miss out on anything during lessons.

Clipart of a family spending time together. Credits: iStock

As such, studying at more spaced-out intervals grants me pockets of time in between to do what I like. This includes some of the positive stimuli I mentioned earlier but also encompasses the time I spend with my family. I would go out for lunch or dinner with my mother, or follow her on her shopping trips. Spending quality time with my family helps remind me that there is more to life beyond academics (as sad as it sounds), and many simple things in life that bring happiness and peace. Having this kind of work-life balance really helps keep me on track, and prevents me from being overly engrossed in a tunnel vision of studying.

Final notes

At the end of the day, recognise that all I have shared above are based on my own experiences. Everyone’s lives are obviously different, and what worked for me may not work for you. In saying that, I believe the lessons I learned may be helpful, and the challenges I faced resonate with some. And if those do not hold true, then I at the very least hope that this inspires other people to keep going.

Hold your head high, kid.

Deforestation – Its Impact on Climate Change and Why Is It Happening?

Written by: Kyra Phan (2AH) 

Many of us will be familiar with the concept of climate change, given its prominent effect on every society in the world, be it in the form of natural disasters such as earthquakes, or the slow decline of arable crops in recent years that will impact global food security. Countries have recognised this issue and have tried to reduce its impact via cutting down carbon emissions and pursuing cleaner energy sources, while individuals and organisations have rallied the support of millions of people for a cause to procure better lives for future generations through ensuring that the world is still habitable for many years to come. 

However, despite all these efforts, have we truly done enough? 

The causes of climate change can be attributed to 5 main factors, consisting of manufacturing goods, generating power, using transportation, producing food, and most notably, cutting down forests. 

Deforestation, which refers to the purposeful clearing or thinning of trees and forests, typically for urbanisation and agriculture purposes, is arguably the most significant cause that contributes to the worsening of climate change, given how it accounts for up to 20% of all carbon emissions. The importance of keeping our forests intact lies with the fact that trees are responsible for absorbing a significant amount of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide that are released into the atmosphere through human activities. Without the presence of dense forests, the atmosphere would be more saturated with greenhouse gases which would absorb more heat, thus leading to global warming, which is considered a form of climate change. 

Credits: IUCN

Furthermore, efforts to address deforestation have been largely unsuccessful, as seen from how an average of 10 million hectares of forest were cut down each year, with countries such as Brazil being the most heavily affected. In fact, Brazil reported that more than 13 thousand square kilometres were destroyed in 2021, the highest figure reported since 2006. This was despite efforts made by international organisations such as the European Union (EU) in the form of a legislative proposal for a regulation on deforestation-free products which aimed to reduce deforestation by setting targets for commodities linked to a high risk of deforestation, such as soy, beef, palm oil or coffee.

Why Is deforestation occuring? 

Industrial agriculture is the key reason for deforestation, and accounts for approximately 85% of the clearing of forests worldwide. With the world’s population expected to increase by nearly 2 billion persons in the next 30 years, there is a need for greater food production to ensure that people are fed. However, this has subsequently led to a rise in demand for agricultural products which has resulted in the conversion of forests into land for cattle ranches and plantations. 

Credits: Mongabay 

However, there is still hope. Every action, no matter how small, is another step towards our goal to attain a world where there is still a tiny glimmer of hope in restoring and sustaining the Earth for future generations. 

One way we can help is through collaborating with and supporting the efforts of organisations such as the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), while others can consider cutting back their own carbon footprints. Whether we like it or not, each generation has a critical responsibility in passing on the blazing torch of progress and life for our children. It’s our responsibility to ensure that those who will come after us will have the opportunity to lead better lives without the fear and uncertainty of what natural disaster to expect the next day, and although it may seem daunting, all it takes is a small step, and maybe, the future will be a little brighter. 

Fast Fashion – To Be Trendy or Thrifty, To Which Harms or Helps The Environment?

Written by: Divyesh Balakrishnan (2SA6) and Vera Teo Hui Zhen (1SA1)

With a massive number of 8 billion people living on earth today, the number of fashion styles are bound to keep increasing, ranging all the way from streetwear to formal clothing. This has enabled an increasing rate of fast fashion brands to pop up in the market to produce extensive amounts of clothes and cater to varying styles.

[Names of several fast fashion brands. Image: Brightly]

Let’s first define what fast fashion means exactly – the inexpensive clothing produced rapidly by mass-market retailers in response to the latest trends. But why is the clothing so cheap? How are the retailers able to produce clothing so rapidly? And how exactly does fast fashion lead to environmental and labour issues? 

Fast fashion brands, such as Zara and Shein, mass manufacture new designs almost every single day. To be able to produce at such a fast rate, retailers leverage the use of cheap and low quality materials, like synthetic fibres. They also employ workers in less developed countries that work in sweatshops with unfair and unhygienic conditions. The exploitation of these factors have affected not just us consumers, but also the environment and these garment workers.

1) Consumers

Even though these clothes are cheap, the quality of them are hardly substantial to keep for weeks, let alone years, before they start disintegrating. Sometimes, the quality of them are so poor that they can only be worn a few times before holes start forming and cotton starts piling up, and they are thrown out. This means that consumers will have to buy an increasing quantity of clothes to compensate for the ones they’ve disposed of, leading to a continuous and unhealthy cycle of buying and throwing away cheap clothes. Overall, consumers will fall into the rabbit hole of spending their money on cheap clothes, forgetting that the increase in quantity bought has incurred a greater loss for them.

To save more money in the long run, and to protect the environment, the idea of slow fashion comes into play. Consumers can buy their clothing from thrift stores, that sell second hand clothing, so as to reduce the toxic cloth waste, produced by fast fashion, from being thrown into the landfills and the ocean. 

[Photo of a thrift store. Image: TIME]

2) Environment

Due to the huge number of poor quality clothes being thrown out every day, and the toxic materials that they are made out of, carbon emissions and toxic chemicals are being released into the atmosphere at an unprecedented rate, with fashion waste being a key factor. Landfills are also filling up very rapidly from the heaps of fashion waste. For example, the Semakau landfill is expected to fill up by the year 2035. There is also the insidious by-product of many fashion products – microplastics. “Textiles are the largest source of primary microplastics, accounting for 34.8% of global microplastic pollution”, according to Boucher, J. and Friot, D. (2017) Primary Microplastics in the Oceans: A Global Evaluation of Sources. IUCN.  While tiny in size (less than 5mm), its impact on the marine environment is colossal. They can end up in the bellies of the entire marine life food chain and hence also be ingested by humans!

[Fishermen walking along the ocean littered with waste from fast fashion. Image: Bloomberg]

3) Garment workers

A lot of fast fashion clothes we buy are sourced from less developing countries, including China, Cambodia, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Vietnam. This is because labour there is very cheap. Fast fashion firms, just like every other firm, are profit-driven, and hence, will make clothes there to cut costs. For countries like Bangladesh, the minimum wage is only 20 cents a year. Unfortunately, the conditions for clothing factory workers may be very inhumane. In such factories, the actions of workers are greatly monitored and restricted as they fear their clothes are stolen from the factory.

[Garment workers and their working conditions. Credits: A.M. Ahad/Copyright 2018 The Associated Press]

Fortunately, there are ways to solve the fast fashion predicament. For one, we could start renting clothes instead of buying new clothes. Look at the company Rent Runway’s approach to fashion. Customers can rent clothes for 8 days and return it afterwards instead of letting the article of clothing rot away in their closet after a one-time use. By adopting such approaches, I hope we as a society can resolve the fast fashion crisis.

Space Tourism — Should The Sky Really Be The Limit?

By: Raye Yap 2MD3, Zhao Zijian 1SA6

As kids, some of us may recall watching ‘Little Einsteins’, an animated television series featuring four kids that go on trips in their ‘favorite rocket ship’. In one particular episode, they go on a mission to outer space to return a ring to the planet, Saturn. I remember watching that as a child and becoming fascinated with the prospect of going to space. After all, at that time, it was still a considerably new practice.

The Little Einsteins in space, from the episode ‘Ring Around the Planet

In fact, the origins of space travel go just several decades back to October 4, 1957. The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (U.S.S.R.) launched Sputnik, the first artificial satellite to orbit Earth. This happened during the period of political hostility between the Soviet Union and the United States, otherwise known as the Cold War. 

Photograph of a Russian technician putting the finishing touches on Sputnik 1, humanity’s first artificial satellite. Credit: NASA/Asif A. Siddiqi

In the present day, we see space travel far more frequently for a wider range of purposes. While scientists are still sending out astronomical satellites to observe planets and galaxies, we are also beginning to see an introduction of ‘space tourism’ – the act of traveling into space for recreational purposes. One recent example would be the American multibillionaire, Jeff Bezos, who made a short trip to space as part of his own (growing) space tourism company, Blue Origin. 

Jeff Bezos, the founder of Blue Origin. Credit: Blue Origin

But, what is space tourism really for, anyway? Is it really an activity only reserved for the most extravagant, wealthiest people with nowhere else to channel their money? 

Some have proposed that space tourism would greatly contribute to scientific research. Though the most recent flights were perhaps not long enough to offer enough insight, we may be able to see longer space flights in the future. Then, we would have the opportunity to study long-term physiological changes in humans as a result of being in space. There are also chances to carry out small-scale experiments on these touristic flights. For instance, on the recent Virgin Galactic flight, plants were taken on board to see how they would react to microgravity. 

A Virgin Galactic spacecraft, providing suborbital spaceflights to space tourists. Credit: British GQ Magazine 

Others have proposed that space tourism is to prepare for the creation of a colony on the moon or Mars for research purposes, or even as a backup plan should the Earth eventually become uninhabitable. While a lot of this research and preparation will need to be done by scientists and astronauts, it’s still true that for this to happen, more ordinary people will need to be able to visit space. In this way, space tourism could be a great starting point.

However, we cannot ignore the elephant in the room when it comes to space tourism, or space travel in general – its detrimental effect on the environment. One of the key impacts discovered in a study by scientists at UCL, MIT, and the University of Cambridge was emissions of black carbon (otherwise known as soot), from rocket fuel combustion. Soot is a huge contributor to climate change, which absorbs solar radiation and heats the atmosphere, accelerating snow and ice melt. 

A launching spacecraft releasing loads of pollutive gas. Credit: SpaceX/ZUMA Wire/Shutterstock

The study also acknowledges the need for further research on the impact of commercial space launches on ozone levels. Pollutants from solid-fuel rockets and debris are particularly harmful to stratospheric ozone. Despite there being little impact on the ozone layer so far, predicted growth trends for space tourism indicate that the combination of these emissions could cause significant damage to the ozone layer in the future. This is truly quite concerning, as it has been almost two years since Jeff Bezos kickstarted the billionaire space race, and thousands of seat reservations have already been made for the first commercial flights into space.

So, what can be done to make space travel more environmentally friendly? Although not currently viable, the answer lies in the realm of science fictions.

Illustration of an orbital elevator, Mobile Suit Gundam 00

Featured in countless sci-fi imaginations, the orbital elevator is one of the most promising contestant for an eco-friendly space-traveling opportunity. Using electricity generated from renewable sources such as solar, wind and tidal power, the orbital elevator can transport people and goods from the ground to a height of around 2000 kilometers of elevation, where take-off of space vehicles is much easier, conserving fuel and carbon-dioxide emissions.

Another option is ion engines. Ion engines are different from conventional engines that are most commonly used in the space industry as it consumes a lot less fuel to reach the same speed. This is also believed to be the reason for ion engines to be used on space missions where fuel are limited, such as the Deep Space 1, a satellite which NASA launched to orbit the sun. 

Deep Space 1, NASA. Credit: NASA

With every strength, comes a weakness. Although ion engines are highly efficient, it is difficult for ion engines alone to launch a spacecraft into space. Thus, more research and development is required.

In the future, when our children gaze into the boundless night sky, perhaps they will too dream about space travel like we did a hundred years ago. The only difference is that this time, their dreams would not remain as dreams, but something that they can achieve.

Chen Xiang Yun: Passion and Positivity

By: Raye Yap 2MD3

Edited by: Megan Tay 2MD2 

Image: Mr Mark Ng

Tough and filled with resolve, Xiang Yun has proven herself to be a highly competent student. As the captain of the girl’s tennis team, she has shown her strength and determination in guiding her team to victory in their matches. At the same time, she has managed to attain excellent grades and executed her student duties skillfully. In this article, we explore more of her student life and how she has managed to get to where she is today

  1. What is your subject combination?

H2 Physics, H2 Chemistry, H2 Mathematics and H2 Economics.

  1. How did you feel, before and after you received your results?

Before collecting my results, I felt quite nervous. In some sense, I was anticipating my name to be called, since I had confidence I would score in certain subjects. As the ceremony went on, I could feel the atmosphere becoming increasingly tense and stressful. However, just before I could feel too down, I finally heard my name being called. I think that confirmation felt super surreal, as I went on stage to collect my results while my friends cheered. It was rather relieving to finally know how I performed.

  1. What made you want to join tennis in ACJC?

I actually started playing tennis at a young age. I had experience from primary school and secondary school, and I really enjoyed playing the sport. That was primarily what drove me to join tennis in ACJC too. I am able to have a lot of fun playing this sport.

  1. We heard that tennis trainings are rigorous. How did you manage to finish all your schoolwork, while attending sessions?

I believe it would be a huge emphasis on time management and consistent studying. Since tennis trainings are often long and end late, I did not have ample time to sit down and spend hours studying. However, I still made it a point to at least spend a few minutes every day to browse through my notes and attempt a couple of questions on my tutorial worksheets. I think with a busy schedule, you do not have to study loads every single day, but ensuring that your memory stays fresh is important – and you can do this by studying for just several minutes a day.

  1. Describe your AC experience.

‘Fun’ and ‘interesting’ are the first two words that come to mind. I have learned a lot while attending this school, especially from the Scholarship Development Programme I was enrolled in. I remember listening to many career talks, which provided me with a clearer idea of what I may want to do in the future. The school also invited public speakers to share tips on acing interviews, by paying attention to what most interviewers would look out for in their candidates. Having gained such enriching experiences like these from AC, I feel I am equipped with useful skills that will be beneficial.

  1. What is one favourite memory you have of AC?

I believe it would be from my CCA, tennis. I really liked how the entire team was really bonded and everyone got along well, both on court and off court. That sort of warm environment was always a nice reason to look forward to CCA sessions.

  1. Was there any time you felt like giving up? And what did you do to overcome this?

Definitely. It would be somewhere around February to March last year when I had many commitments. I was an Orientation Group Leader, and I missed out on multiple lessons due to my duties. When I came back to class, I did not have enough time to catch up on my work and consequently, did not perform as well as I thought for my tests. It was around this time that tennis was also beginning to prepare for our seasonal games, so the workload only got heavier from both academic and non-academic ends. I remember feeling quite demotivated as a result. However, going back to what I said earlier, time management and consistency in studying is extremely important! In fact, they were what got me back on track for my academics. 

  1. What are some things you did to de-stress?

I actually really enjoy eating as a way to de-stress. My favorite snack to munch on would be Meadows’ truffle chips. Sometimes, I also scroll through TikTok and watch videos for a while. I also find exercise to be a great way to relieve stress. Besides tennis, I do play basketball at times too. I find that exercising takes my mind off school work and tires me out, which actually helps me get better sleep at night and ensures I am well-rested for the upcoming days.

  1. Do you have any other interests/activities outside of school?

As I mentioned earlier, I enjoy playing basketball from time to time too. It was a sport that I learned casually in secondary school, although I still do personally prefer tennis. For activities, I remember taking part in a VIA project with my classmates in J1. We worked with a childcare center and prepared games, arts and crafts and other fun activities for the kids there. However, I do remember it being a bit challenging, as it was all done via Zoom and it was difficult to fully engage with the children. In saying that though, the experience taught me to persevere and learn to resolve problems on the spot, as I had to think of ways to handle the children cordially and effectively.

  1. What is some advice you would give to your juniors?

Your mental health is most important, above everything else. When you are not in a good state of mind, you cannot expect to perform up to standard. Learn to find time to do things that you like, instead of spending all your time studying. Too many of us force ourselves to study for long hours every day in hopes of feeling productive, but I think that if your mind is just not in the right state to do so, then there is absolutely no need to force yourself. That would only make you feel very unhappy. Study when you can, but if you really can’t, go easy on yourself and find ways to relax! This will serve you well in the long run.

Xiang Yun is certainly an inspiration to all her juniors and batchmates. Congratulations on your A’s! 

Muhammad Elyas Amir Bin Suhardiz: Dedication and Tenacity

Main writer: Divyesh Balakrishnan (2SA6)

Contributing writer: Sitinur (2SB4)

Elyas is a multifaceted, capable student who has demonstrated the values of tenacity and great leadership. He has shown great commitment to all three of his CCAs — Rugby, Students Council and Malay Cultural Society, while maintaining stellar academic performance. In this article, we sit down with him to find out how he managed to attain all of these stellar achievements. 

Image: Mr Mark Ng

1. How did you feel prior to the results collection?
I felt quite calm because I felt that I had already tried my best, and that I had really put in all of my effort into A Levels, and that whatever I get is the reflection of my best effort. So, I am okay with it. I have no regrets with my examinations as I was also calm and collected. I also dedicated everyday to studying, dedicating all my life to consultations, going to the library, from morning to night, cramming in all that information.

2. What is some advice that you would give to students struggling with their studies?
Do not give up. The JC curriculum is not supposed to be easy and is very challenging, and since we are in a higher plane of education than from the O Levels, there must be that challenge and a higher level of thinking, which takes months and months of cultivation. For example, my Chemistry, from a U grade in my Mid-Year Examinations, flew to an A grade in the A levels. So you really have to not give up. Even if you keep failing, it is all about the tenacity to not give up and keep trying. For me, I spent every waking moment of my time on Chemistry in order to improve. All the leisure time that I had was spent on Chemistry: on public transport, during recess time, and even while using the toilet. I could dedicate so much time to Chemistry because I knew my other subjects were already of an A or B standard. Hence, after my Mid-Years, I went to search for extra help by going to tuition as it served as an outlet to let me ask my questions.

3. We also heard that you are in Exco Positions for 3 CCAs, so how did you manage all these commitments?
To be honest, sometimes I could not manage these commitments as I tend to burn out and lose motivation. However, it is important to realise that you would need to get back up on your feet after losing motivation or energy, because, from a position of leadership, I cannot afford to just give up on the way because I would be leaving my 10 to 20 CCA mates behind, and they are all relying on me as the Head. It is important to realise the importance of the position given to you and understand the weight of your leadership position and when to come to CCA and put a face of determination on. I got back up from the lack of motivation with the support of my family and friends. Without their encouragement and pushing, I definitely would not have survived JC life. I know that some of these roles were either given to me or sought out by myself, but I needed to know that I had to execute the role to the best of my ability, and also had to understand the fact that this work not only affected me but also other people, like my teammates, or my school (for council events). I have been given the responsibility to step up and take initiative wherever I go. In order to manage my schedule, every weekend, I would set aside time for lectures, council work, ad hoc, CCA, and just give a bit of leeway in my timetable so that if something happens I am able to push back my schedule as I know that being too harsh on myself will not help me and I would need to constantly give myself chances to try again and again. I didn’t really have time to rest except for time to sleep.

4. What is one core memory you have of all 3 CCAs?
For Student Council, it would be as a Public Relations Head and giving out constant CCA updates and the stage. For rugby, it would be the competitions. And for the Malay Cultural Society, the play Suata Perjalanan Sebuah Peta Sebuku Roti, where I had the chance to bond with my CCA mates while creating the play.

5. We also heard that you have taken part in a lot of VIA projects, what is one that you treasure the most?
The rugby VIA, where we sent hot food to people who are less fortunate or with mobility issues where they were unable to go out and purchase food for themselves. As a team, we went to Bukit Batok and distributed food to the elderly and sent the food to their houses for 2 to 3 weeks.

6. How did you manage to find the time to have a vibrant social life in ACJC?
I think that for me, I am very sociable, but I needed to understand who should be in my close circle, and who are “hi-bye” friends. After being able to make that separation, it is easier to manage your time. For closer friends, you invest more time into them.

7. What core values have you learnt from your time in ACJC?
Tenacity. As I was in 3 CCAs, my schedule was packed from 2pm onwards to 8pm; I was constantly lethargic and I really needed to constantly push to be able to perform well in my CCAs and academics.

I also found it important to give back to society whenever I could as I do not really get paid for all the work that I do and do it for and with other people. For example, in rugby, I can play for myself, but I cannot win with just myself, as I would also have to rely on my teammates for victory. For the council, it’s the embodiment of giving back, as we are constantly planning school events, and for the Malay Cultural Society, though we are not very busy as a society, I kept going for the CCA. I went because I actually enjoyed being there. I had to take myself out of the focus on the tasks at hand but rather zoom out and focus on the wider picture, and understand what is the main cause for going to these CCAs.

8. Throughout your time in ACJC, who would you like to give thanks to the most in ACJC?
I would say my level head, Mr Calvin Choo. He actually takes the time to sit down and listen to my classmates about our problems and challenges, having someone to be there to listen to you from an adult’s perspective. Knowing that adults constantly shut you down due to more years of experience, Mr Calvin actually tries to sit down and understand our point of view and gives professional advice that comes off very nicely, and he has given me the most advice in life.

Elyas’ story is a truly inspiring one, a testament to the importance of tenacity and dedication.

ACJC Open House 2023 – An Event of Pride and Welcoming New Faces

Th new year has arrived. The 2022 batch of students had just one mere day left before the collection of their ‘O’ level results. It definitely was a time of great anticipation, especially for those who are slightly lost in what comes after receiving their certificates. However, ACJC decided to host its Open House just a tad bit earlier than other junior colleges in Singapore, almost as if to assure them that there is a worthwhile institution they can consider. Surely enough, this year’s Open House was a massive success with many prospective students of Class of 2023 turning up, as well as other curious visitors and supportive parents.

ACJC Open House 2023, taken from ACJC’s official Instagram page

However, how did this event even manage to become so successful?

Let’s take it back to the very start, when Open House 2023 was at its initial planning stages. Every CCA needed to have its own booth, and the necessary materials and overall setup required the approval of our teachers. Thus, all CCA leaders had to work out a rough blueprint of what they wanted their booth to look like. Some got creative and wanted to create a specific aesthetic for their booths, bringing fairy lights, matching tablecloths and self-made poster boards for an artistic effect (that would include us, AC Press)! Others wanted to showcase their impressive achievements, bringing out trophies or hanging up their jerseys to express their pride as a team. All in all, every CCA figured out what best represented their club best and expressed it effectively in the presentation of their booths.

The rough sketch of AC Press’ CCA booth, 2023

Then came the day of Open House 2023 itself. After one last logistical check on the day before, CCA leaders had to come to school early to begin assembling their respective booths. We were given approximately 45 minutes to get everything started up, so everyone had to work efficiently. We had to delegate different people to fetch the necessary items, such as bamboo poles to keep the banners up and tables for the main section. Thankfully, we worked rather quickly and managed to accomplish our tasks a little ahead of time. This meant that ACJC was ready to be open to the public early.

AC Press’ CCA booth, physically assembled

Just 10 minutes before 11 am, the OGLs (Orientation Group Leaders) ushered the visitors in and showed them around the school campus, before leading them into the hall where all our booths were located. At this juncture, people at the CCA booths started doing their team cheers or simply giving a warm welcome to the prospective students, adding to the fervent environment of our school.

OGLs welcoming visitors to ACJC, taken from ACJC’s official Instagram page

As the Vice President of AC Press, I spent most of my time being present at our booth and talking to interested visitors with my other CCA members. Besides sharing about our club and its particulars with them, we also got them to complete a trivia quiz, in which they could earn prizes if they obtain at least a 3/5 score. Through this opportunity for interaction, we were able to get to know our visitors better as people, further than the basic visitor-host dynamic. This allowed us to engage with the students on a more personal level, which we hoped would leave a lasting impression of our CCA.

However, looking beyond our CCA and others, a large group of other OGLs would arrive in the hall in a massive Conga Line sporadically, walking past the booths doing enthusiastic cheers and marching to the beat of their drums (quite literally). In moments like that, it went to show that the pride and happiness we felt were way more than what we felt for our respective CCAs. It was a communal school pride, the pride of being an ACSian and being part of the school’s rich culture and history. And, judging from the smiles of the visitors present that day, it sufficed to say that our warm and vibrant school spirit had reached them, too.

And just like that, Open House 2023 started out with a bang from 11 in the morning till 5 in the evening. It was a long and tiring day for all participants and having to dissemble our booths felt both equally exhausting and relieving. However, looking at all the prizes and flyers we had given out was tangible proof that this year’s event was a major success. Speaking personally on behalf of AC Press, I am very pleased with how Open House 2023 turned out for us. We had all done our best to present our CCA in the most interesting and interactive light and managed to reach out to our audience in an engaging, light-hearted way.

Students from the General Paper department, engaging with their interested visitors

All in all, even though it only lasted for a day, Open House 2023 taught us as CCA leaders and OGLs important lessons and life skills. Firstly, we learned how to communicate effectively with people, be it through engaging in mini-games or using visually-appealing props to attract them to our booth. Secondly, we were given the opportunity to work with our CCA members and learned to coordinate with them in order to get things done as efficiently as possible. However, most importantly, we all managed to convey our electrifying school pride and culture to our visitors, which transcends being in our respective CCAs. All of us, in our own ways, came together to show our audience what ACJC was really all about, and I am confident that even with just 6 hours, we were able to leave a good impression on the guests that would last for a long time.

ACJC Open House 2023

Uncovering The Hidden Truths of Chinatown

Singapore, a country small but rich in history, has had many regions undergo gentrification and modernisation to better suit the changing preferences of modern society. Suppose we were to ask just about any teenager for their opinions or existing knowledge of Chinatown. In that case, some responses we may expect to hear could pertain to the many ‘aesthetically pleasing’ cafés within the area, or the many historical landmarks known by both tourists and the locals. Interestingly enough, there are also cafés built under older buildings as well, attracting a multitude of visitors with their rustic charm.

Sweetea Caffe 一杯夏日, an ‘Instagram-worthy’ rustic café located in the heart of Chinatown.

However, as the people today flock to all these locations, exactly how many of them are aware of Chinatown’s true history, way before their favorite spots to visit even came to exist? This is when we take a brief walk down memory lane – although admittedly, the journey may not necessarily be 100% sunshine and rainbows.

  1. Pagoda Street Was Opium Central in the 1800s

Named after the pagoda-like gopuram of Sri Mariamman Temple, the largest and oldest Hindu temple in Singapore, we know Pagoda Street as a stretch of road located in Chinatown linking New Bridge Road and South Bridge Road, converted into a pedestrian mall to Chinatown’s MRT station at its New Bridge Road end. However, the street was known for its opium smoking den and also as one of the coolie trade stations between the 1850s and the 1880s.

In Singapore’s earlier times, the highly addictive properties of opium hit both the rich and poor alike. Arriving at these poorly-maintained shophouses from their juxtaposed, luxurious mansions, the rich were used to smoking high-grade opium in exclusive private rooms.

The vast majority of smokers, though, could only afford to smoke using shared common pipes. In fact, many of the aforementioned Chinese coolies were regular smokers. Spending away their wages to purchase opium, they were left with little to no money to remit back to their families in China. While such rampant opium usage was turned a blind eye to by British authorities, the drug was eventually banned in 1946 anyway.

Today, the shophouses remind us of the dual nature of Chinatown’s beauty – one that is the tangible beauty we know today of sacred temples and bright colours, and the other that is the slightly darker slice of history, where the scent of opium once lingered in the four walls of those buildings.

Pagoda Street, Chinatown, likely back in the 1900s.
Pagoda Street, Chinatown, today.

2. As Above, So BelowSago Street’s unrevealed, morbid backstory

As the name suggests, Sago Street got its name from the many sago factories that were there in the 1840s. Half of the street was converted into a pedestrian mall in 2003, mainly serving as a tourist attraction that houses food outlets, bars and retail shops today. It is also common to find the streets lined up with pushcarts that sell a variety of souvenirs and street snacks. For all these activities available in this one given area, Sago Street is unsurprisingly Singapore’s largest historic district as well.

However, what people do not know is that the street was also referred to by some as ‘Sei Yan Gai’‘Dead People Street’ in Cantonese. It was known for its Chinese Death Houses. People who were given prognoses with just days to live and the terminally ill would be deposited at one of these death houses. The houses each consisted of living space on the ground floor, and a funeral parlour beneath it. It served as a home for people living their final days, since it was a belief that death shouldn’t take place within a home. Otherwise, it could bring bad luck to the other inhabitants. Eventually, these houses were banned in 1961 and the houses were demolished.

Sago Street, Chinatown, today.

3. Secret Police Bunkers Lurk Within Chinatown

As we unravel the many secrets hidden within the streets and explore the dingier back alleys of Chinatown, we chance upon the hidden police bunkers. These police bunkers doubled up as bomb shelters, and also served as operations rooms for multiple police activities. While we may never know exactly where some of these hidden bunkers lie, one of them has been rediscovered and officially opened to the public. Perched on Pearl’s Hill Terrace in Chinatown, amid HDB (Housing Development Board) flats and the People’s Park Complex, lies a top-secret police bunker.

This windowless one-storey building has certainly witnessed many monumental moments in history. Go back in time, and you will find that many major incidents such as the 1956 Chinese Middle School rights, Konfrontasi, and the 1969 racial riots were dealt with and resolved in this very bunker. As time went on, the bunker also served as a space where just about all of Singapore’s 999 calls were answered. Referred to as the Combined Operations Room, it served as the nerve center for police communications from 1956 to the 1980s.

The once ‘top-secret’ bunker in Pearl’s Hill Terrace in Chinatown, opened to the public.

With all the above being mentioned, it suffices to say that Chinatown most definitely does not have the most innocent background. However, this does not make the location any less beautiful today. Neither does it stop attracting its visitors that arrive every day. After all, history is history, and considering how well-preserved and integrated the fundamental pillars of the past are, Chinatown will continue to remain in a special crevice of our hearts.

57 Years Ago, Another 57 Years Forward

With the swift passage of time, Singapore is 57 years old today. It is almost impossible to believe that war and periods of tribulation were less than a century ago. A little over 57 years ago today, people were struggling to survive and pull through the World War. Many lives were at stake and even the future was uncertain back then. However, most fortunately, we managed to make it out and are now able to live a peaceful comfortable life in today’s world. We managed to rebuild the city from scratch and our resolve was strengthened through our experiences of hardship. From then on, as we progressed into the future, we never once looked back.

Picture of Singapore in the 1960s

It is common knowledge that every year, we celebrate National Day. When I was younger, I viewed National Day celebrations in school as this mere occasion where everyone wears red and sings the National Day songs. We also had to recite some recollections and listened to a brief overview of Singapore’s history. To me, National Day was simply a day where I get to have fun with my friends and head home early from school. It wasn’t until very recently that I finally realised that even though, National Day Celebrations are still just as fun as ever, the core meaning of it all is something I’ve overlooked for the past few years.

National Day Celebration (in my primary school)

Sometimes, I look at what I have today and I realise that none of this existed just over 57 years ago. The comfort of life in Singapore today has been accepted by most of us as normal, but we fail to remember what the country had to go through to even come close to what we have today. I think beyond the balloons, loud music and chanting from the crowd, National Day is truly a benchmark of history. It serves to remind us what the earlier generations had to go through, the changes the country has undergone and most importantly, how far the country will continue to go on.

Singapore before (left) and Singapore today (right)

If I could, I would like to implore that people look beyond celebrating National Day as some sort of routine that happens annually, and instead view it as an opportunity to really process the progress of the country, considering the sacrifices that had to be made to get here. With each passing day, we are one step further into the future. All we have is now. Even when National Day is over, we shouldn’t forget all that has happened and take things for granted. Because speaking personally, I think I’m rather fortunate to be able to live comfortably in Singapore with the people I love, and I trust that in spite of unforeseen circumstances that may arise in the upcoming years, Singapore eventually find a way to cope with it and to pull through it, just like what we did not too long ago.

This year’s National Day Parade (2022)