Lai See

Does new position turn the poacher into a gamekeeper?

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 27 September, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 27 September, 2012, 3:25am

A few eyebrows have been raised at Mike Kilburn's decision to change jobs. It's not so much because he is leaving the think tank Civic Exchange, where he was head of environmental strategy for four years, but because he has joined the Airport Authority. There have been murmurings about this being a case of "poacher turned gamekeeper".

In his work for Civic Exchange, Kilburn says he always wrote from a perspective of neutrality, though elsewhere he has written some fairly trenchant articles. In CleanBiz Asia he wrote about the desire of green NGOs and the Legislative Council's environmental panel for a "social return on investment" study on the third runway.

Kilburn highlighted the authority's initial position, which was to do the legal minimum and carry out an environmental impact assessment. He described the authority's stance as "out of touch". People have observed that in offering him a job as senior manager environment, the authority has "taken out" a potentially influential critic.

But Kilburn assured Lai See that this was not the case. The position he applied for was established, he said, to help the airport to become the world's greenest and to manage the sustainability reporting process. He says he won't be working on the third runway project or be involved in the environmental impact assessment. He also says that after years of writing reports on what needed to be done, his new job is a chance to try to implement some of these ideas.

He believes the authority has a platform to do certain things that will have a positive effect on the city's environment. "The fact that it has set itself the challenge of becoming the world's greenest airport creates a driver for change which I am eager to make the best of," he said.

There were similarities between doing policy research and sustainability reporting in that each involved trying to change prevailing mindsets, he added. "The corporate world in general has a great part to play in improving the overall sustainability in Hong Kong. I certainly do not think that the green groups are the only place … where you can try to be influential." He sees it as a different platform to work on the same issue.


Mooncakes block traffic

Our man in Beijing reports that traffic on Tuesday was diabolical even by Beijing's own severe standards. Everybody was complaining and nothing was moving. Naturally this subject was "trending" on weibo and the chairman of property developer Soho China was moved to give his weibo followers his take on why the traffic was so bad.

His view was that it was because everyone was sending mooncakes to their friends before the mid-autumn festival. The situation was extreme in Beijing since it is the seat of government and there are therefore thousands of government officials that need to be shown respect. People have reportedly been coming into the city to shore up their guanxi with mooncakes.


Tea party's over

We see that last year's speculative mania over snow chrysanthemum tea has come to an all too familiar end, according to the newsletter Sinocism. The tea is grown at high elevations and is supposed to be good for one's health. It is said to contain 18 kinds of amino acids and 15 kinds of trace elements that are beneficial to health. To be more specific, we are told it has a beneficial effect on blood pressure, high cholesterol, high blood sugar and coronary heart disease. In addition, it is reputed to be good for sterilisation, is an anti-inflammatory, and helps prevent colds, chronic enteritis and insomnia.

But, these effects alone are not the reason why the price shot up to 20,000 yuan (HK$24,460) per kg in 2011. Some say financial repression policies led to a search for higher yields. As with many of these issues around the world, what goes up eventually subsides. Snow chrysanthemum tea can now be bought for 30 yuan per kilo, though it is still selling on eBay for US$40 per gram.


iPads take flight

Air France has equipped its Boeing 777 pilots with iPads so they can consult technical manuals to prepare for their flights and do flight reports. The airline will offer its Pilot Pad to all 4,100 of its pilots by next summer, replacing around 20kg of paper-based manuals on flight decks.


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