Climate change

Tsang should stop kidding on air pollution

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 04 February, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 04 February, 2007, 12:00am

It is difficult to believe that many will have confidence in the election platform claim by Donald Tsang Yam-kuen that he will improve air quality in Hong Kong.

This comes just weeks after he wrongly but emphatically claimed that our levels of pollution were not a health threat. One salient problem for the public in assessing progress in air pollution control is the government's use of contrived and seriously overstated claims that roadside and other air quality measures have improved.

This misinformation even found its way into your otherwise excellent leader on January 31. The chief executive needs independent advice if his future interpretation of environmental trends are to be plausible, transparent and consistent with a public health approach.

Let's start with January's figures for Central. On every day we exceeded the WHO 24-hour guideline for particulates (50 micrograms/cubic metre). The advisory is that this should happen on not more than 35 days in the year; we have already had our quota. During this month Central roadside particulates averaged 88 micrograms per cubic metre compared with 30 in London, which the Economist this week describes as among the dirtiest cities in Europe.

The astonishing peak levels in Central for nitrogen dioxide (290) and sulfur dioxide (126) indicate that street level pollution from traffic is out of control. But this is the same part of town in which Mr Tsang plans to increase traffic flows. The highest levels of particulates associated with serious harm to the health of children and women in medical studies in the US, recently reported in your columns, are so low in Hong Kong terms that we only achieve them on less than 10 per cent of days in the year. Meanwhile the government procrastinates, arguing it needs more evidence on health effects.

ANTHONY J. HEDLEY, Department of Community Medicine, University of Hong Kong

Plenty of fuel sources left

The article ('That's oil folks', January 28) in the Sunday Morning Post did a disservice to a rational discussion of the future of energy supplies.

Three major factors were omitted: there is enough coal to last for hundreds of years as automotive fuel if the coal-to-liquid technology is pursued. This process was invented in Germany more than 75 years ago and was utilised by both Germany and South Africa in times of petroleum shortages. The governor of Montana has already urged the adoption of the process and pointed out that his state is amply supplied with coal and that the by-product carbon dioxide could be pumped back into the ground. China is undoubtedly considering this source.

Canada has immense supplies of oil and tar sands which can be processed into liquid fuel. The technology is in its infancy, but with the incentive of high petroleum prices improved refining efficiency should provide a fuel that will be competitive.

Research in the technology required for 'carbon capture' holds great promise. Carbon dioxide can be returned to the earth, disbursed in the ocean or trapped as a carbonate of serpentine ore.

The application of these methods will permit processes with high CO2 byproduct production to proceed without contributing to global heating. It may well be that technology will be the answer to the world's 'addiction to oil'.


Officer a credit to police

I am writing this letter to publicly thank a police officer for the kindness he showed me. I have also sent a letter to the police's website complimenting him on his behaviour. I strongly believe that Hong Kong people should know what a fine officer they have in their midst and one who sets such a fine example.

I emigrated to California 21 years ago but came back to Hong Kong after a loved one died. My father had died in the early hours of the morning last week in a home for the elderly. I had to go to a mortuary to identify his body and I was exhausted and saddened by his death.

The officer (PC 108) showed great sympathy and understanding and treated me like a professional social worker would. By the way, I am a clinical social worker.

Having been born in Hong Kong, I could not believe he was a local policeman. My recollection of the past was that policemen in those days did not have good communication skills.

The universal goals of law enforcement are to protect and serve. This police officer skilfully demonstrated his commitment to these goals. The Hong Kong police force should be grateful to have such a person as a serving member.

MARK CHEUNG, Los Angeles

US and all that jazz

I have to disagree with letter writer J. Charleston's views on jazz ('Jazz roots in Africa', January 28). Any musicologist will agree that jazz is a fusion of African and Celtic-European idioms, which could only have happened in the United States.

Therefore, to say it is not western is purely semantic, as (a) Africa is southwest of Asia, and (b) jazz is the only real art form of the 20th century that can truly be said to have originated in the US.

There was absolutely nothing like jazz in Africa or Europe (or anywhere else in the world for that matter) before. In fact, jazz is probably the only really positive cultural development to emanate from the US.

Mr Charleston seems to think that jazz began and ended with the so-called 'Dixieland' or 'Trad' style, in which case we'd have no Charles Parker, Miles Davis, John Coltrane or Antonio Carlos Jobim to name some more modern musicians.

Jazz has always been truly 'fusion' music, right from the beginning, a mixture of different styles and influences (and nationalities-cultures) that continues to evolve even now, and does not remain stuck in the early years of the 20th century.

Of course, in jazz, as in all art, everybody is entitled to their own opinion regarding different artistes. Eugene Pao is truly world-class, as evidenced by the number of world famous jazz musicians who have asked him to perform with them both in the studio and live, such as Jack Dejohnette [drums], Mike Brecker [saxophone], Eric Marienthal [saxophone], John Patitucci [bass], Marc Johnson [bass], Eddie Gomez [bass], Kenny Wheeler [trumpet], Jimmy Witherspoon [singer] and countless others. If Mr Charleston doesn't want to see or hear him play then that is his choice, and his loss, unlike the thousands of people throughout Asia who will see Eugene play this year, and consider his talent to be, in a word, staggering.


Stop student pressure

I agree with Hannah Silverstein's sentiments ('Give teen pupils a break', January 28) about the pressure that parents can put on their children. Coming from an American high school to a large international high school in Hong Kong, I was amazed by how much pressure was put on my Asian friends.

Being a senior now, I see the immense pressure that is being put on my friends to get into a good college with a 'good reputation'. It seems as if the main criterion in the college search for the Asian world is the reputation of the college, with people's lives turned upside down because they didn't get into this or that Ivy League college or had been wait-listed. It is even more heartbreaking to hear the reaction of some parents.

I believe that you can receive a good education anywhere, as long as you put your mind to it. Parents should realise this when students make applications to colleges.