Saturday, March 31, 2012

Earth Hour 2012 - Leave a light on for me, please

Today is the last Saturday on the month of March…so it is Earth Hour from 8.30pm to 9.30pm. March appears to be the ‘environmental’ month, with World Forestry Day on the 21st and World Water Day on the 22nd of March, and Earth Hour, before moving on to April, which is the designated Earth Month.

UPDATE: Here is the view of Kuala Lumpur before Earth Hour 2012 and a few minutes into Earth Hour.
View of KL skyline and KLCC before Earth Hour 2012
About one minute before 8.30pm, with the KLCC Twin Towers and KL Tower punctuating the city skyline.
Lights out on KLCC Twin Towers and KL Tower during Earth Hour 2012
Darling leave a light on for me... Earth Hour 2012 in Kuala Lumpur.

The Earth Hour this year would be the sixth Earth Hour since the inaugural Earth Hour in 2007, started by WWF-Australia. Since the inaugural Earth Hour, the number of countries worldwide that participated in Earth Hour has increased. Last year (2011) saw the participation of 135 countries, where hundreds of million people ‘switched off’ for an hour. It also saw the start of something new, i.e. going Beyond the Hour as to commit to lasting action on climate change. This, I think, is more crucial in doing the right thing for the environment. Whilst the Earth Hour is a very good symbolism of taking action on climate change, there are more things that will have bigger impact that must be carried beyond that one hour. The things that you do in the remaining 8765 hours (taking a tropical year) in a year definitely count more towards climate change.

This year, they launched the ‘I will if you will’ campaign ( This campaign, spearheaded by the founders of Earth hour, is hosted on YouTube. This campaign will see amongst the many ‘I will if you will’ challenges, The Lorax’s moustache turn green if 500 children commit to switch off their lights for the hour (this challenge has been accepted, and his moustache is green in the carousel feature). Some of the ‘I will if you will’ dares are quite funny: for example one goes “I will go around in my underwear for a week if you will wash your clothes at 30oC” whilst another is “I will never open Facebook again if you will eat 50% less meat”. There is even one that says “I will ride my bicycle in my wife’s dress if you will bike to work for a week”.

So regardless of what you plan to do on Earth Hour, think about what you do for the rest of the year and the impact on climate change. If you are celebrating observing Earth Hour, have fun sitting in the dark and… (feel free to use your imagination and discretion to fill in the blanks). If you need a light, go light a candle. Oh, if you do light a candle, make sure that the wax is not petroleum based wax as it is not a carbon neutral thing to burn.

Video of KLCC Twin Towers and other buildings in KL powering down for Earth Hour 2012

Whilst on the subject of lights off, the Earth Hour reminds me of a song by Belinda Carlisle entitled Leave a Light on For Me. Perhaps turning off unnecessary lights (hence unnecessary energy consumption) is like asking Mother Nature to leave a light on for us, for our future.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

The KL Bonsai and Orchid Exhibition 2012

The KL Bonsai and Orchid Exhibition 2012 @ Perdana Botanical Gardens (Pameran Bonsai dan Orkid Kuala Lumpur 2012 @ Taman Botani Perdana)

The Kuala Lumpur Bonsai and Orchid Garden is currently ongoing until the 27th March 2012. The exhibition is located at the KL Lake Gardens, now called Perdana Botanical Gardens. The actual site of the exhibition is quite large, around Jalan Cenderamulia (opposite the gated entrance of the Hibiscus Garden) and the Panggung Anniversari area (by the lake).
KL Bonsai and Orchid Exhibition sign

This exhibition is done in conjunction with the KL F1 Grand Prix week. Hmm, cars and this seems like two totally disconnected events. I guess it is a good event to hold in conjunction with the F1 race as it gives something extra to the tourists who were already in KL for the Grand Prix. I did see a display of orchids in tyres, so perhaps that can be the link that ties the two events together.
Orchid display on wheels
Interesting orchid display, with flowers arranged in tyres.
It is a bonsai and orchid exhibition, so here's a bonsai from the display. A lovely windswept bonsai with jin trunk.

There were beautiful bonsai and orchid show competition plants on display, with the bonsai display being the more spectacular one. Of course the exhibition area had many interesting orchid themed displays as you walk down the road to the lake.
An upside down orchid display. The steps lead down to Panggung Anniversari.
More orchid displays as you walk down (or up) the road.
A yellow slipper orchid on sale as well as some Angraecoid seedlings.

However, there are a few shortcomings of the show, with the most obvious one being the lack of proper signage of how one should view the exhibition. If you start of at the entrance opposite of the Hibiscus Garden, you will need to go down one end of the road to see the bonsai, then double up and back down the rest of Jalan Cenderamulia to see the rest of the bonsai and orchid display as well as the stalls selling plants. This is an easier way to do it. If you have parked your car at the parking lot at Jalan Kebun Bunga, then you got to walk back towards Panggung Anniversari, and go uphill. That is when you will notice the next weak point of the exhibition.
Some of the orchids entered into the show competition.
Ludisia discolor
Ludisia discolor, a pretty Jewel Orchid that is grown more for the leaf colouration than for its flowers.
A large yellow spotted Vanda hybrid.

The stalls and displays were very well-spaced apart. In fact too far apart to the point that if you walk uphill, you would think that you have reached the end of the exhibition area. Then if you persist on, you come to another display group, and then another. I overheard a visitor whom had walked up halfway the hill, and saw the few stalls selling bonsai and said in dismay "Oh, that is all the bonsai on display?". The display thins out until you come up to the entrance of Jalan Cendramulia, where the bonsai competition display tables were located, and boy were they spectacular!
A beautiful group planting bonsai on display. The background (or the lack of) detracts viewers from its full beauty.
A windswept Juniper with 'jinned' trunk.
Wrightia religiosa (水梅) bonsai
This large Wrightia religiosa (水梅) bonsai had so many blooms on the plant. It had already carpeted the table and pot with it blooms, but lots more were still on the tree, giving off a very strong scent.
Another lovely 'jinned' windswept Juniper bonsai.

If you had walked up the hill and then back down to the back portion of Panggung Anniversari, you will see that there are still some ground displays of orchids. The ground displays are so far apart that you wonder if the organiser's intention is not to let people see it.  
The ground orchid displays had been spruced up and are all in blooms. They are spaced quite a distance from one another.

So if you are going there, be adventurous and keep on walking round past the lake, up onto Jalan Cenderamulia, down the Panggung Anniversari area to be sure that you have seen all the displays. Or else you would have to come a second time. Perhaps that is the intention of the organisers...
Two artistically shaped bonsai...almost like out of a Chinese painting.

Another drawback of the exhibition is the way they cordon off the tables where the bonsai and the orchid competition plants are placed, or rather it is the distance of the cordon to the plants. It prevents enthusiast from fully appreciation of the plants as one would not be able to scrutinise or take good photos of them. Plus, some of the backdrops for the bonsai area are just inadequate, thus preventing the bonsai from showing off their strength and beauty.
One large 'twisted' tree and another very windswept one.
A 'bent-over' bonsai. Hmm, perhaps a little 'blue' pick-me-up will straighten the trunk? Now that Autumn Belle has mentioned it, the trunk does look like the long legs of a dancer with his/her head resting upside-down on the pot.
A 'broom' bonsai, with green buds unfurling.

Overall, it is a good exhibition to go to, despite the apparent lack of visitor flow concept for the site. The saving grace I think is the bonsai display, for the orchids were, in my humble opinion, not that spectacular this time. If you just want to buy plants other than orchids, then you might as well go to the Shah Alam Plant Fair that is also ongoing now until the end of the month.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Shah Alam Plant Fair

There is a Plant Fair at Shah Alam again. I was looking for parking to go to one of the shops near the lake and saw the row of stalls that had been set up that were selling plants and orchids. If you've been to the previous Shah Alam floral fest (Pesta Bunga Shah Alam), the stalls are in the same location, with almost the same sellers this time around.
One of the stalls selling orchids and pitcher plants.

After browsing through the stalls, I asked one of the stall workers how long would the stalls be opened there and the answer I got was one week, from 23rd March - 1st of April. So there will be ample time for garden enthusiast to get some plants.
Fruit trees in polybags, many of which are already flowering or have fruits.

One of the orchids sold by United Malaysian Orchid caught my eye. It was the Renantanda Gold Nugget. This hybrid is a Vanda spathulata look-alike. It is a primary hybrid between Renanthera storiei and Vanda spathulata registered by R.E.Warne in 1947.
Renantanda Gold Nugget sold at one of the stalls. The flower looks like one of its parents, Vanda (Taprobanea) spathulata.

The plant looks very much like a Vanda spathulata, save for the thinner stems, closer spaced and shorter leaves, plus reddish purple markings all over the stem, leaves and flower stalk that is typical of many Renanthera. The petals and lip is slightly different from V. spathulata, and the bud and pedicle is covered with reddish markings obviously inherited from the R. storiei.
Orange arrows point to the reddish tinged buds and pedicle, the reddish spotted flower stalk and the narrower red flecked leaves and thinner stems of Renantanda Gold Nugget that is inherited from R. storiei. The flower shape and colour is dead on of V. spathulata.

The reason this hybrid's similarity to V. spathulata is due to the ploidy state of the parent plant. V. spathulata is a hexaploid, whilst R. storiei is a diploid. So V. spathulata has three times more genetic influence than R. storiei. The resulting hybrid is a tetraploid, and R. storiei genes are only represented by a quarter of the total chromosomal material in Renantanda Gold Nugget, hence the likeness to V. spathulata. I have grown this plant before, but it was difficult for me to get it too bloom.

This week is a busy week for garden/orchid enthusiast, for there is another exhibition in KL, namely the KL Bonsai and Orchid Exhibition 2012 at the KL Lake Gardens. I guess when it rains, it pours...and wallets gets emptied fast.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

World Water Day 2012

Today (March 22) is World Water Day 2012. Water is a resource that we sometimes take for granted. After all, we are on the blue planet, covered with  approximately 71% water. Alas only about 3% of the water is freshwater. This freshwater is needed for drinking and hygiene use, irrigation purposes as well as all the modern luxuries that many manufactured goods have provided us. Not only do we need water to bath, drink and wash, but our demand for water extend insidiously into many thing that we have taken for granted.
The UN Water World Water Day 2012 official logo. The logo is available in other languages in their website.

Think about it, besides the water that we drink and shower with, water is needed to make toothpaste and soap, process coffee (how on earth do you think you can extract coffee for instant coffee if you do not use water; the water is removed by spray drying or freeze drying), make the chicken and greens in your salad, the meat in your burgers (cows, chicken, goat and pigs need to drink), the rice and fries, plus stir-fries, chocolate and ice-cream (now you start screaming) bubbly and beer, gin and tonic and lots more other products that we consume, food or otherwise.

Hence it is not shocking to see this in the UN Water World Water Day 2012 website
"statistics say that each of us drinks from 2 to 4 litres of water every day, however most of the water we ‘drink’ is embedded in the food we eat: producing 1 kilo of beef for example consumes 15,000 litres of water while 1 kilo of wheat ’drinks up’ 1,500 litres."

Also from their website, the following recommendations are listed...
Coping with population growth and ensuring access to nutritious food to everyone call for a series of actions we can all help with:
  • follow a healthier, sustainable diet;
  • consume less water-intensive products;
  • reduce the scandalous food wastage: 30% of the food produced worldwide is never eaten and the water used to produce it is definitively lost!
  • produce more food, of better quality, with less water.
Here are some links to pictures from World Water Day 2012 Flickr album highlighting the amount of  'hidden' water in the nice food that we eat. I think it can be very enlightening for those who are unaware of it:
100 gram Rice = 140 L
50 gram Vegetables = 10 L
100 gram other Meat = 1350 L
TOTAL = 1500L embedded WATER
1 tomato, cheese and vegetable pizza (725 gram) = 1246 L embedded WATER
200 gram vegetables = 40L
TOTAL = 40L embedded WATER
150 gram vegetables = 30L
300 gram chicken meat = 1230L
TOTAL = 1260L embedded WATER

On a lighter note, we are very lucky that World Water Day isn't run like Earth Hour. If it is, we would be not using water for a day. That would mean that no shower, no washing, no eating, no drinking and no going to the loo. In jest, I ask my colleagues if doing all of the above is possible. The answer that I got was that complying with the list would not be a problem except for the last item! (no shower - who cares, no eating or drinking - fasting/dieting; no poo poo and pee pee, out of control lah!) So thank goodness no green warrior has gone militant and insist on carrying out World Water Day like Earth Hour!

I guess when we really run out of fresh water resources, then we would be in shit...Well quite literally, for we would be drinking and bathing with shit water NEWater like the Singaporeans do (no offense to Singapore, as it is a good way of utilising wastewater, albeit a very high carbon footprint).

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Golden Shower Tree - Cassia fistula

The Indian Laburnum or Cassia fistula is a medium sized tree with lovely pendulous racemes of yellow flowers. The ones in our apartment complex have been blooming since the end of last year. Now only one tree still has her golden trusses on, and it is dropping fast. The rest of the trees have already produced bunches of long bean pods.
The pendulous yellow flowers of Cassia fistula, the Indian Laburnum tree.

A native of southern Asia from India to Sri Lanka, it is now widespread throughout the tropics. Cassia fistula is naturally distributed in dry deciduous forest at lower altitudes. It is the state flower of the state of Kerala in India, called Kanikonna (where it is native) and is also the national flower emblem of Thailand, called Ratchaphruek. Many parts of this tree have been used in traditional medicine, especially in Ayurvedic medicine. The roots are known to have a very strong purgative effect, hence it is also known as purging Cassia.
Hanging trusses of pretty Cassia fistula blooms.
A close-up on the flower showing the stamens (yellow in colour with darker yellow anthers on the ends) and the pistil (green in colour).

The seed pods look like yard-long beans on steroids - thicker and longer. They start off being green in colour and mature to a brownish black colour. In their native habitat, they usually commence blooming from March to May, and have an importance during the Vishu festival in April. However, the difference in the dry season over here and the changes in weather patterns had made the trees bloom very much earlier. I wonder when the trees will bloom again... Perhaps after another dry spell.
Green and ripened pods of the Indian Laburnum tree.