Television host and model Nadya Hutagalung spoke at her first conservation forum in 1996. Back then, many people were skeptical about her concerns for the planet. 

Nadya—now a UN Environmental Goodwill Ambassador—looked back on this moment in the latest episode of our Future of Work, Now podcast series. She is thankful that conservation is not such a lonely space these days, but suggested that moving people from apathy to action remains a challenge. 

Asha Popatlal, host of our podcast, talks to Nadya about why this apathy exists. They also discuss how individuals can move the needle when it comes to issues like the environment and mental health. 

Here are five key questions from the conversation with Nadya:


People are good at sending messages of support [about the environment], but are they going to do anything?

I have been thinking about this for ten years now...trying to understand the behavioural change science behind what will move us into a place of action. [The challenge is] people feel scared because these are big issues we’re facing, whether it is climate change, species extinction, habitat loss, or degradation of water systems and soil. 

It is very hard if you are not well yourself to start engaging in these topics…unless you know where in the solution you can fit into, it is so hard to move from apathy to empathy and action.


How can people get over the fear of these big issues?

Tools of inner resilience and feeling that you can be a creative thinker, be an innovator, and be part of the solution. If you are feeling anxious about all the turmoil and uncertainty going on in the outside world, you have to heal in order to move forward in a productive manner. It’s about being radically aware of your own wellbeing so you can be part of the solution.


What was the lockdown in Singapore like for you? What led you to set up We The Good?

I felt like I needed to be part of the solution, as opposed to sitting around waiting for things to happen. After speaking to a few friends who are philanthropists in Singapore, I thought about the people for whom staying at home was not a safe refuge, including victims of family violence and the elderly. I also thought about possible isolation faced by migrant workers and the mental health of the community. 

I reached out again to my advisers and they agreed these were the pain points. That’s when I set up We The Good, a platform that shines the light on some of the underserved charities in Singapore.


Over the years, mental health has been something that’s been shrugged off in many ways. As Singaporeans and migrant workers start to feel locked up on this island and can’t go anywhere, how are they handling it?

The number one cause of death for males in Singapore between age 10 and 25 is suicide. We need to be hypervigilant and incredibly dedicated to our wellbeing and the wellbeing of our community because this was pre-COVID-19 and COVID-19 obviously put everything in a pressure cooker.

We’re also generally brought up in a way where everyone sets themselves up on a path and off you go on that path and you hit targets A, B, C, and D and that's how life is supposed to be. When something like this is thrown your way, it takes a lot to be agile and to pivot quickly without experiencing a lot of anxiety or attachment to how things were supposed to be.


How do we get past this point [and help those not handling things well]

I think first of all we need to increase dialogue and continue to have these conversations not just on podcasts, but one-on-one with our friends and family. We want people to  know it is perfectly normal to not be feeling okay right now. Once you acknowledge you are not feeling okay, you can say what are the tools I need to deal with the outer reality. The outer reality will be what it will be, so what needs to change is how we deal with it using our inner tools. 

We need increased dialogue on these issues and more resources for those dealing with hardship. We also need tools to know how to support each other, so we know when to listen, know when to answer, know when to ask more, and know when our friends are in need. 


Learn more about We The Good and listen to the entire conversation with Nadya Hutagalung on demand at our podcasts page, Spotify, and iTunes. You can also listen over at the Singapore Community Radio Twitch page, Facebook page, and website

Tune into our next episode featuring Maya Hari, Vice President, Twitter APAC. This episode will be out at 1:00 p.m. SGT Friday, December 4.

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