Letters to the Editor, April 25, 2014
Raise extreme weather awareness
I refer to the article by Wang Binbin ("No escape", April 5), and the letter by G. Bailey ("No, we're not approaching apocalypse now", April 12).
Wang Binbin, manager of climate change and poverty at Oxfam Hong Kong, was saying that there was no escape "from climate change, as Hong Kong's freak storms remind us".
The Hong Kong Observatory would like to elaborate on the influence of climate change to the frequency of extreme weather events and the associated risk to coastal megacities.
Despite that fact it is not appropriate to attribute an individual extreme weather event to climate change alone, there is increasing evidence that climate change can indeed affect the frequency of extreme weather events.
For example, an increase in average temperatures and rise in sea levels arising from global warming will likely increase the chance of occurrence of heat waves and severe storm surge events respectively.
Hong Kong has embraced modern city infrastructures and improved natural disaster mitigation measures, against the background of climate change and sea level rise.
However, the potential impact of the increase in extreme weather events on a coastal megacity with a growing population like Hong Kong should not be taken lightly.
Therefore, we should not be complacent but raise public awareness on natural disaster preparedness and take appropriate measures to ensure Hong Kong's safe and sustainable development, not only now but for generations to come.
T. C. Lee, for director of the Hong Kong Observatory
Individuals must fight climate change
G. Bailey ("No, we're not approaching apocalypse now", April 12) advocates that we all bury our heads in the sand and draw up the blinds on credible Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warnings on disastrous climate change and global warming.
No one is conflating extreme weather events such as severe Hong Kong thunderstorms or the landfall of Cyclone Ita on Australia's north Queensland coast to being the direct consequence of anthropomorphic intrusions into the natural world.
What is indisputable is that rising frequency and severity of natural disasters everywhere are correlated with rising global temperatures. Instead of Bailey's reprimand, the press should be commended for highlighting the greatest contemporary threat to survival of all life forms on earth.
While waiting for governments in advanced economies to waken from their inertia to improve their environmental governance, we could adopt personal measures to protect the planet we share. Individual action is required to reduce energy and resource use.
Instead of blaming environmental governance and policy, each of us can act to reduce the size of the footprint we leave upon the natural world.
Regulations need to be enacted and enforced, and we need to vote for leaders who genuinely care about the earth's medium- to long-term outlook.
We can continue to pretend that global warming and irretrievable ecological degradation will not prevail because human beings possess the capability (Bailey's confident turn of phrase is "the ingenuity of man to adapt") to fix our assaults on Mother Nature, but in the end, the laws of physics will prevail.
Bailey claims the global economy will be minimally affected, but when the environment is turned into an economic transaction and political weapon, it does us all well to recall the caution, "When the last tree is cut down, the last fish eaten, and the last stream poisoned, you will realise that you cannot eat money."
Joseph Y. S. Ting, Brisbane, Australia
Innovative transport policy needed
I was delighted to learn from the global Urban Mobility Index report that Hong Kong is regarded as the best place in which to travel.
The study included a review of 84 major cities globally.
Without a doubt, the impressive MTR network, advanced Octopus cards, and environmentally friendly double-decker buses are crucial components in our city's impressive public transport system.
They benefit citizens and tourists alike.
For further improvement, as mentioned in the study, an innovative mobility system is needed.
I welcome the suggestion to introduce new bus routes in order to ease crowding during peak hours.
We should strike the balance between allocating current resources and satisfying the needs of a number of passengers in specific areas. Well-designed express routes are a possible way of doing this.
Having consistent strategies regarding transport policy are necessary.
Human-oriented planning and inter-organisational co-operation are the keys to success.
Charlie W. Chan, Sha Tin
Small-class teaching offers flexibility
Small-class teaching is gaining currency in Hong Kong.
It has been successful when it has been tried out in primary schools and the government should extend it and include schools at secondary level.
Students' individual needs are better addressed in the small-class context. It is difficult, if not impossible, for teachers to attend to every student's individual needs in a large class. This often results in pupils having to join tutorial classes after school to catch up with the tightly packed curriculum.
There is more flexibility in a small class and teachers are able to spend more time with each pupil. Because of this they find their job is more manageable.
This is far better than the present situation when you can have a pupil-teacher ratio of 40 to one, which acts as an obstacle to classroom management.
With a 20:1 ratio, teach- ing and learning efficiency is boosted.
Critics point out that it would be costly in terms of human and financial capital.
As Tung Chee-hwa said when he was chief executive, "Every cent spent on education is an investment, not an expense." That is why we can be even more certain that the possible enormous investment in this regard is clearly worthwhile and rewarding. Small-class teaching is a constructive form of teaching and should be implemented in all our local schools.
It is the best way to meet students' diverse learning needs and teachers' manageability in the classroom.
Ryan Kam, Sham Shui Po
Improve rights for asylum seekers
The report ("Journalist forgoes HK life on breadline for Somali war", April 22) highlighted yet again the appalling circumstances asylum seekers face in Hong Kong.
Forced to live in hovels and often search in rubbish bins for food, Ibrahim Mohamed Hussein, a well-known Somali journalist, has given up on his life of destitution in Hong Kong, where he found no refuge or employment.
There are relatively few asylum seekers in the city and the Social Welfare Department should provide these victims with at least double the allowance for food and shelter they now receive.
Give these people their human rights, which they've risked so much for. The government can certainly afford it.
Hong Kong is a wealthy city with a government that gives tens of millions to victims of environmental disasters in China, where far too much of that largesse lands in the pockets of corrupt officials, but gives only subsistence food and shelter allowance to asylum seekers seeking a life of dignity and productivity. They get neither here.
It is a disgrace that makes a mockery of Hong Kong's claim to honour human rights.
M. Bryan, Mid-Levels
Online tributes during festival disrespectful
It is now possible to make offerings to your ancestors online.
In the days leading up to Ching Ming Festival and on the day, people were visiting the graves of their ancestors to pay tribute to them. Apparently there were others who, instead of going to cemeteries, were making offerings via the internet.
I totally disagree with this method of supposedly paying respect to your relatives who have passed away.
It makes visits to the graveside and graveside rituals seem meaningless. And it runs counter to the whole point of the festival. It should be seen as a reunion where you go to the graves of your ancestors and talk to them.
During Ching Ming it is your responsibility to show your concern and respect for your ancestors. You can only do this by going in person to the cemetery and going through the appropriate graveside rituals. You must do this no matter how tired or busy you are.
I think that the online method was adopted mostly by young people who felt that it would save them time.
These people should give deeper thought to their actions and recognise that what they did, by making their offering online, was not appropriate behaviour.
It is not the right way to pay tribute and express your feelings to your ancestors.
Phoebe Lo, Kowloon Tong