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Life as an Arborist in Singapore

In a world where trees have given us nothing but a bountiful amount of sustenance for us to feast upon, where they give us shade and other goods that are beneficial to us for our day to day use. A platform that connects all biodiversity as they seek shelter, food, building a home and allowing species from all scientific kingdoms to expand. These gentle giants have gone through eons, surviving every plague that the world has encounter and yet still managed to stand tall and firm on these lands. Now as we are progressively shifting towards a more urbanized environment, the greens of the earth are at risk and they are being affected massively due to land reclamation, advanced technologies and ever-expanding population. So, how do we ensure that the trees we see here on a day to day basis, are being taken care of and maintained to survive the rough winds of fast paced development in this day and age?

Well, I have been given the privilege to interview one of our local arborists that oversee and preserve the trees in Singapore, and it is none other than Mr. Aloysius himself! Before I constructed the interview questions and proceeded into interrogating him, the purpose of this interview was out of genuine curiosity and to further understand Mr Aloysius core value working as an arborist and how we readers and citizens of the world can integrate these values into our daily lives.

A little bit about Mr Aloysius is that he is currently in his late 20s and has been working in the arboriculture industry for about 5 years now. Since Singapore's national motto is to become a City in Nature , it is vital for trees to be at their best health, considering that they are the main source of oxygen, and who takes care of these big guys if it’s none other than Arborists themselves. Arborists' role is quite self-explanatory and very crucial in ensuring that the tree will grow healthily. They help in conducting risk management, inspection of trees, maintaining the trees overall look and use equipment such as chainsaws, pruners, secateurs, etc. They also work closely with landscape designers and ensure that proposed trees will be placed at their ideal condition and environment. They are basically like a tree surgeon!

M Aloysius has been exposed to living sustainability at such a young age. He once met a professor that told him that the most important things about sustainability is “by taking care of your own shit, from whatever you are eating to your daily lifestyle”. As an environmentally friendly person he is, he uses reusable cutleries and bags to help in decreasing the plastic wastage in his daily life. “If we can reduce plastic in our life, it helps in Sustainability. Small help goes a long way!” One examples that i found so interesting that Mr Aloysius mentioned is that in every 5 years, ropes that were used as harness in tree climbing will be discarded, however that contributes in the wastage of materials which is not sustainable at all, hence he used these ropes and make it into a toy for his pets! Isn't that so cute? So my fellow readers do actively use reusable materials to help in contributing to the zero plastic life! For example by using reusable cutleries, bringing your own tupperware, bringing your own grocery bags, etc. A small help goes a long way!

Working in the Arboriculture industry has always been Mr Aloysius' passion, ever since he studied A Diploma in Landscape Architecture in Temasek Polytechnic. He grew fond of trees and their functionalities, which in due time he decided to turn that into a career!

“Though it is a small pay, or not as high as millions of dollars, if it is something you like doing then it is a win-win situation.”

My curiosity goes beyond how the young trees we see here are planted. NParks are moving towards Nature Way Planting, which means to plant trees, shrubs and groundcovers in the way of how a forest would look like, basically planting in a way of nature’s pattern.My concern grew as Nature way planting can be found within roadsides and since its planted so clumped together it may pose as a hazard to passersby. However, Mr Aloysius told me that in every 4 to 5 years, when the younger trees are slightly matured and big, they will be transplanted out into a conservation area, which can be found in Bukit Timah and Changi. When the new development area is completed, the trees will then be transplanted back into the newly developed landscape!

Regrowing every tree that has been removed. Though i was not aware of this rule until Aloysius himself mentioned it, which is,” when every one tree is being removed, three trees are being planted in - giving back to the environment.”

Arborist role in NParks differ but they will be called upon if there is a complain about a tree being in the way, by harnessing the arboriculture skills and knowledge, the arborist will then plan and think of a way to prevent this from happening, if there is still no solution, and if trees are at risked, which may cause negative impacts to building and the people, they will then be removed

Of course, I am sure that this is part of the 1 million trees movement SG. If you guys are not aware of it, Singapore is planning to plant 1 million trees by the end of 2030, combating carbon emissions that we have produced in the most natural way possible! Now we all can find trees and ever luscious shrubs in our common hangout spots, carparks, Rooftop gardens, indoor buildings and many more! Since trees are the only beings that govern a huge percentage of our oxygen intake and it is literally the reason why we are all alive right now. Singapore is such a small country and yet we produce quite a massive amount of carbon emission and harmful pollutants. Hence, with this natural approach, I believe that there is a beacon of hope for us here! Though globally, I am sure there is an approach that the world leaders are working on however we did not really touch on politics

“So, aside from being a professional arborist, are there any side hustles that you are currently doing?”

To my surprise, Mr Aloysius' side hustles actually encapsulates around arboriculture. He is a well-equipped trainer that teaches new arborists and landscape workers the safe way of climbing trees and using dangerous materials such as chainsaws, different ways of tying a rope, using the harness and other mmore pruning materials! Mr Aloysius also wishes to spread arboriculture knowledge to the new generations, via CCas or Outreach programmes, to let them be exposed to a different side of life and diminish society’s viewing of this job to be a “Bangla Job”. Though in our conscious mind, we all know that is BS! The younger generations are so used to an air conditioned working environment resulting in anything that is out of their comfort zone, they tend to look at it negatively.

Mr Aloysius’s interest actually goes way beyond what he is pursuing right now. He is also interested in finding out more about the medicinal aspects of trees and how he can integrate those knowledge and implement it in his life, such as finding ways to climb trees safely without risking any souls. He is also interested in finding out tree’s diseases and researching ways to mitigate those issues. Herbology is also one of Mr Aloysius interest1

“Lastly, how do you think we can contribute back to the world as an individual?”

“ With the power of technology, it could definitely work hand in hand with arboriculture and help improve the industry”

The ever-so- advancing technologies can definitely help Arborists in many ways! We citizens can also live our ways around nature. For example, we don't always have to call in the authorities to cut down trees whenever it causes a slight inconvenience. “If there are some leaves or twigs found in the house, just pick them up.” - Aloysius. Trees have been living here on this Earth for eeons and we are merely just living. I believe it is about finding a way to live harmoniously with Nature while living in a fast-paced environment! It can be hard but I am sure it is not possible!

All in all, Mr Aloysius has opened my eyes to view the world in a much greater perspective and how we can help in giving nature back via living sustainably and using recycled materials and living a healthy life. For those who would love to pursue Arboriculture, my advice is to go for it and work hard for your passion! One thing Mr Aloysius has taught all of us is that if you love doing your work, it is a win-win situation for you and one thing we can agree on is that trees are everywhere and Singapore is continuously planting and transplanting new trees everyday, so safe to say, you will not go jobless.

I am very thankful and happy to be able to interview one of our local arborists here in Singapore. As a horticulture student myself, i am now well aware of the current environmental issues that are happening around me and just by listening to Mr Aloysius talking about how he love arboriculture and his love for nature makes me even more happier with what i am pursuing right

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