Hong Kong’s pollution worries won’t be solved by running away

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 28 October, 2017, 10:17am
UPDATED : Saturday, 28 October, 2017, 10:42pm

Hong Kong residents are becoming increasingly concerned about the city’s environment. They worry about air and water quality, waste disposal, traffic, noise and light pollution, and the waste of resources. So much so that some even want to escape.

But escape where? These are also worldwide problems. Scientists warn us about global warming, the melting of the polar ice caps and severe climate change.

Our generation is now staring at unprecedented political, economic and moral challenges. Politically, we lack leaders who can enforce stricter laws protecting our land, air and water, and who will punish polluters. We have to stop demanding ever-increasing production and GDP levels. We have to see our Earth as our only home, to be shared and conserved by us all, not a free-for-all bazaar for corporate or state exploiters.

Paradoxically, some of the biggest obstacles are knee-jerk conservatives. Whether in mainland China, Hong Kong or elsewhere, such people instinctively oppose change. Like the proverbial frog in the heated pot, they ignore oncoming danger. They reject new information and ridicule ecology advocates.

Examples of this perverse mindset in Chinese history are the pro-Qing dynasty officials who opposed reforms and kowtowed to effete Manchu autocrats, rather than accept their countrymen as progressive and democratic rulers.

Their stubbornness weakened China at a crucial time in history, leaving the country open to external aggression. If they had modernised in time, China would have been spared the suffering of the ’30s and ’40s and the agony of civil war.

Another example of harmful conservatism is seen among military men, such as the naval strategists who wasted massive amounts on huge warships when submarines and aircraft were the real threat. Tradition locks military men into a dead and dying past. They are too afraid of losing power, too fond of big weapons and playing “war games” to seek a less violent world.

When conditions change, people have to change. Nations cannot deal with looming ecological threats by brandishing more missiles and warships, wasting energy, erecting more lavish structures and consuming more.

The Hong Kong SAR is an important part of China and we must work together to safeguard our environment. United, we can minimise the damage done to our earthly home by outdated ideas and flawed policies. Our Hong Kong people, especially the young, are well-informed, intelligent and eager to move ahead into a healthier future. Let’s hope that the ultra-conservatives will step aside and let them do the job.

Jason Kuylein, Stanley