Air pollution is Hong Kong's biggest problem, and it is the city's young people who will suffer most. So says a leading environmentalist who was in town over the Easter holiday. If the air quality does not improve soon, today's teens will face serious health problems in their 30s and 40s, warned Alan Watson Featherstone, a Scottish conservationist. But although young people will be the ultimate victims, they are also the solution. 'Young people should put pressure on policy makers, and force the government to bring in tighter pollution control regulations,' he said. 'The air in Hong Kong is among the most polluted in the world. People wear face masks and this is not natural. 'The city is rich and has plenty of money, but the government has not put much effort to tackle the problem. There is no excuse not to do it.' Featherstone said. For the past 20 years, Featherstone has been travelling around the world trying to spread his message. In 1988, Featherstone learned of the plight of the Caledonian forest in the Scottish Highlands, where 99 per cent of the trees had been destroyed. He founded Trees for Life, and since then, thousands of volunteers have planted 500,000 trees. Now Featherstone has an even more ambitious project called Restoring the Earth. It aims to restore the planet's degraded ecosystems by planting native trees all over the world. 'We should recognise that nature has a spirit, intellect and consciousness,' said Featherstone. He stressed that nature can heal itself provided that we stop damaging and start restoring it right now. During his trip to Hong Kong, he held talks and events, including a tree planting trip, to promote his new project. He pointed out that Hong Kong's government is setting a bad example for mainland cities and other developing Asian countries, as its attitude suggests it only cares about money. He compared it to London which had very poor air quality in the 1950s. The situation was so bad that the public held a large-scale campaign to force the government to ban the burning of coal. Featherstone's passion has inspired local think tank Civic Exchange to take action. With his help, they have drafted a proposal for a similar scheme in Hong Kong to help preserve native biodiversity. However, Christine Loh Kung-wai, chief executive officer of Civic Exchange, said that so far local people have not caught on to the importance of ecological restoration. 'They care about their health and tackling the air pollution problem. But they don't have the concept of natural capitalism [trends and economic reforms designed to support environmentalism]. 'And the Hong Kong government doesn't have an environmental mindset. Its policies are environmentally unfriendly,' the former legislator said. But she said that young people are keen to participate in various green activities. 'Young people like going out and exploring different places. Take last year's Coastal Cleanup as an example: we attracted a total of 2,615 people to this two-month programme. 'The problem is not a lack of young volunteers, but the lack of manpower to get the message to them.' Helena Wu Yuen-wai from Green Sense agrees with Ms Loh. The Hong Kong University student described how young people are now more aware of environmental protection issues. 'The number of young people joining our events has been increasing every year. For example, the 321 Lights Out event last month, in which schools switched off their lights for five minutes, attracted more than 500 schools.' 'We recruited over 300 volunteers to help promote environmental issues,' said Helena. But there is still a lot to be done. 'Awareness is not enough. The most important thing is to turn it into action.'