Published 16 March 2020 ● Last Updated on 15 June 2021

Secondsguru’s Readers’ Corner is our regular feature where eco warriors from Singapore share with us a book on sustainability that inspires them. We hope this series will leave an imprint on you as it did on them. Here’s another one to add to your must-read list!

This month, we put the spotlight on Cheryl Cadeline Lee, a youth environmental advocate who believes that ‘doing good is contagious’ and whose projects encompass the areas of environment, women empowerment and community. (You can follow her blog and portfolio here!) Her work has won her several accolades – including the the EcoFriend award (2018) and the HSBC/NYAA Youth Environmental Award (2016). An active member of many initiatives – Up2Degrees, Singapore Eco Film Festival, Youth for Climate Action and C thy World to name a few – she is an omnipresent voice in Singapore’s eco circuit.

Cheryl’s book recommendation is The Opposite of Loneliness. This collection of essays were penned by Marina Keegan while a student at Yale – the title essay being her farewell note as part of the graduating class of 2012. Unfortunately, Marina lost her life in a car accident mere days after the piece was printed in the Yale Daily News; the posthumously released book touches a chord with many for its wistful, hopeful eye in the future.  

Cheryl Cadeline Lee
Representing the Singapore youth perspective, Cheryl has been at several UNFCC COP talks. Pictured here in Bonn 2017.

In Conversation With Cheryl Cadeline: 

SG | Tell us a bit about yourself and your work.

CC | I am a youth environmentalist. I wear different hats for different communities in promoting climate action and sustainable communities.

SG | Can you recommend a book – fiction or nonfiction – which centres around our planet or our environment – that you love, or are inspired by? 

CC | The book that inspired me most is a book that I bought before coming back to Singapore – The opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan. It’s not a book on the environment or around the planet per say but I feel that environmentalism or sustainability isn’t a stand alone topic. I often feel that these issues/ causes are driven by our values and growing up experiences in our community.  

Marina Keegan The Opposite of loneliness

SG | Your version of what the back cover should read to convince everyone to pick it up right away! 

CC | The world wasn’t ready for Marina and when it was, she had already left.

SG | When did you first read this book? Do share one or few lines from the book that strike a chord with you. 

CC | I first read this book when I landed back in Singapore.  

“We have these impossibly high standards and we’ll probably never live up to our perfect fantasies of our future selves. But I feel that’s okay. We’re so young. We’re so young.” 

This struck me as it was an excerpt from the chapter in which she did a valedictorian speech. We all have these impossible goals and ideas of what should be and where it should be but if we don’t start with the small steps, this impossible future will not make any difference. 

Cheryl Cadeline Lee
Cheryl Cadeline, taking her first TedX talk.

SG | If you were the author of this book, is there anything that you would have done differently? 

CC| I would insert small background write ups/notes of the stories mentioned in the chapters.

SG| If you could change the title of the book, it would be called …

CC | The Opposite Of Loneliness –  I wouldn’t change it to any other.

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