Name: Paul Melsom Age: 49 Occupation: Horticulturist / Eco-educator Young Post: Why did you become a horticulturist? Melsom: I've loved plants since I was very young. I was lucky to have a garden in my house in the UK, where my parents would let me grow vegetables and fruit trees. I feel at one with plants, and enjoy being surrounded by [them]. YP: What does your job involve? M: Over the years, I have worked with more than 20 schools teaching students about the natural environment. The principals and environmental teachers at the schools are very supportive of my work in spreading green messages to students. I also take children out on eco-tours to country parks where I teach them how to identify different plant species, plant trees and understand habitats. Teaching children environmental issues, such as erosion and deforestation, is also a part of my job. Four years ago, I set up my own company, EagleOwl On Lantau. In collaboration with other companies, I help design camping trips and set up conservation projects on Lantau. YP: Do you think Hong Kong has the potential to develop eco-tourism? M: Hong Kong has a quarter of a million plant species, 400 of which are native species. In comparison, the whole of UK has only 33 native plants. Hong Kong also has a sub-tropical climate which is conducive to the development of beautiful and exotic gardens. The fact that travellers have easy access to green areas also makes the city a unique place, where stunning landscape is only less than an hour's ride from the city centre. However, many local people and officials fail to grasp the opportunity to make Hong Kong a haven for eco-tourists. YP: Why are local green resources wasted? M: There are not enough well-trained eco-guides. Unaware of the harm they can do to the delicate environment, some eco-travellers throw rubbish and disturb wildlife in sensitive green areas. Verdant hills are also denuded of trees during the annual Ching Ming Festival, when careless grave-sweepers leave burning ashes after paying tributes to their ancestors. The reckless development by officials also encroaches on natural habitats. The construction of Disneyland and the cable car spoiled much of the wilderness of Lantau. The proposed building of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge and a natural gas terminal by CLP could also spell the end for Chinese white dolphins. I'm saddened by all these proposed developments. YP: What can local people do to reverse the trend? M: All Hong Kong people should see the movie An Inconvenient Truth by Al Gore. They should be made aware of the dire situation we are in. Green education should also be strengthened at schools. With all young children aware of conservation, I hope that their enthusiasm in protecting nature will rub off on their parents. I taught my three-year-old son, River, to plant trees [when] he was six months old. It's important to let young children get in touch with nature.