Conservationist Jane Goodall takes a hands-on approach to environmental matters, so it might not be surprising that her advice on air pollution and cleaning up the harbour is in line with that thinking. If the government is not meeting expectations, make an effort yourself, she suggests. Given the scale of the pall often hanging overhead or the murkiness of the water in Victoria Harbour, this method may seem somewhat out of reach of individuals. But as with all issues to which Dr Goodall devotes herself, it is grounded in a well-thought-out logic based on the close-up study over more than 45 years of the behaviour of chimpanzees, our nearest related primate. In a nutshell, her belief is that individuals working together can make a difference. This is sound advice for residents of a city which does not have full electoral democracy, but which allows opinions to be freely expressed. A petition or street march is the obvious way to let the government know that people are unhappy with a particular matter; the latter has, at times, proved particularly effective in getting the attention of authorities. Pollution is not so straightforward a matter, though; while it is the government which legislates for change, our society is mostly to blame for the problem. Much of our air pollution is produced by power stations generating the electricity we use, the vehicles we take to get us around the city and factories on the mainland, many of which are owned by Hong Kong citizens. Using Dr Goodall's approach, we should walk more instead of driving or taking public transport (perhaps not something we may initially want to do considering how polluted the air may sometimes be), buy more efficient electrical appliances and conserve energy whenever possible by switching them off or turning them down. Through a combined effort, these first steps will be more effective than sitting down and complaining how bad the air is and criticising the government for not doing enough. When the government realises through such action how concerned the community is, it will, hopefully, also try harder. If that fails, we should find more persuasive means to tell authorities what we want. As Dr Goodall indicated during a visit to the wetland park in Tin Shui Wai, the government is quite capable of making an effort when it wants to. She was impressed by the reserve, near public housing high-rises yet an oasis for wildlife removed from urban pressures. That the park has met its first-year target of 500,000 visitors in just five months indicates something even more impressive: that we care about our environment enough to want to spend a few hours in a pristine place. Air pollution and the state of the harbour are obviously issues of a bigger magnitude, but with concerted community action and government leadership, there is no reason to believe that a considerable difference cannot be made. Sars, for one, showed that we are capable of working together. Confronted by the deadly virus and initial official confusion about how to respond, many of us took matters into our own hands, exchanging information and taking precautions as best we knew. Later, the call to wear masks was widely heeded and, armed with new-found knowledge, we cleaned up our streets and buildings. If there are still doubters, the case of Australian environmentalist Ian Kiernan is pertinent. Disgusted by the state of Sydney Harbour, which he had lived beside all his life, he organised with the support of a committee of friends a cleanup drive in 1989 to which 40,000 people showed up. Australia-wide interest was shown in the simple, yet effective, community-inspired idea and word spread; now, it is an international event, bringing together 40 million people from 120 countries annually to clean up their environments. There is no reason why such a simple idea cannot be modified to deal with our environmental concerns. Using Dr Goodall's philosophy, only through working together with a common goal can we bring about change.