Here's to the crazy ones - striving for a better world
In my first draft of this column, I wrote of being a crazy man for trying to protect the environment, even though huge problems remain and I have not become rich. I also asked you to join in this crazy pursuit, but was perhaps not clear enough, as the editor asked for a revision.
Since that first draft, I have come across this quote from billionaire builder Sir Gordon Ying Sheung Wu, proponent of projects including the Hong Kong to Zhuhai and Macau Bridge, and the Mega Tower in Wanchai: “Those environmental groups are crazy. You can’t force everyone to like birds even though you like them.”
And for the title of this column, I have drawn from a famed Apple Computer advert that included: “Here's To The Crazy Ones... The ones who see things differently… the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world - are the ones who DO!”
So, what does it mean to be a crazy environmentalist? Well, I can’t speak for everyone, but can tell of some of the things I’ve done in the past month – in addition to more regular work for businesses.
As a resident of Cheung Chau, I have become involved in establishing a new environmental group, Living Cheung Chau. It’s small so far, with only around ten members – but there is enthusiasm and determination to be active. Some of us joined with two members of the Alliance for a Beautiful Hong Kong, in visiting a Cheung Chau park along with a team from the Leisure and Cultural Services Department. We mainly went to complain about excessive new railings. Though it turned out these were put up to follow stipulations in a government rulebook, the outing did result in rather fewer railings in this park, and perhaps might help with limiting such features in city parks across Hong Kong.
Noticing the park’s plantlife was mostly just one species, without flowers, I remarked that planting there seemed to take no account of biodiversity: it could have a far better mix of flowers and trees, in turn attracting birds and butterflies and making the park more attractive to people too.
I was also among three Cheung Chau people who met a small team working on the Civil Engineering and Development Department’s Greening Master Plan. Again, I spoke of biodiversity – even commenting that some of the plants in urban areas might as well be made of plastic for all their value to wildlife! The greening team can do far better; and could help by planting trees that will provide some shade for streets where many people walk, and at a place elderly people like to sit and chat.
Biodiversity was the theme of a meeting organised by the Environment and Nature Bureau. This concerned preparations for a Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan for Hong Kong. It was an excellent opportunity to learn and reflect on the value of such a strategy and the obstacles that will face it – such as building tycoons like Gordon Wu! Plus, I briefly spoke on some aspects of interest to me: even in government departments there is low awareness of biodiversity and its importance, too few Hong Kong people have contact with the natural world, and city parks can be of immense value in helping people appreciate our plants and animals.
My own contact with the natural world included a short trip to shoot video of a wetland on the China coast, and its abundant birdlife. It was rewarding, especially being out on wide open sandflats surrounded by hundreds of plovers, sandpipers and other birds. But eventually, I hope the video will help encourage people to support conservation of this and other wetlands – so we can do a better job of sharing the world with wildlife, and making our way of live just a little more sustainable.
I have also continued ongoing efforts to oppose plans for the Shek Kwu Chau incinerator. This recently included emailing information to people such as government officials, legislative councillors, fellow greenies, and the media: one article quoted me as saying the incinerator would be “a glorified bonfire”.
Other writing has just included a piece on air pollution. You have surely seen this in the news lately, especially given the horrendous filth over Beijing and other Chinese cities. Hong Kong’s air is less appalling, yet still terrible.
I’m sure you want clean air and clean water, and you probably want to keep sharing the world with a rich mix of plants and animals. Even Gordon Wu reportedly liked skiing and yachting, and had at least one house in a splendid part of California – so enjoys the benefits of the natural world even as he lambasts those trying to protect it.
But, what are you doing to safeguard our environment? Issues like dire air quality and wilder world weather show the situation is critical; this is no time to be passive, sitting on the sidelines. Our world needs you. If you are not already active in some way as an environmentalist, I hope you will participate, and join the crazy ones. And then, who knows? We might just change the world.
Written for Ming Pao Weekly; Chinese version (see below) appeared in February 2013.