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.

Martin Williams

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Martin Williams's picture

我在本文的第一稿中自稱瘋子:即使 困難重重、收入不足置富,我也盡力守 環境。我也邀請看倌一同參與,但也許我 辭不達意,編輯提出了修稿要求。
第一稿後,我讀到本港億萬富豪胡應 湘爵士這句話:「那些環保組織都是瘋的。 就算你們喜歡雀鳥,也不可強迫所有人都 一樣。」胡爵士是眾多大型基建的主腦, 項目包括港珠澳大穚、灣仔Mega Tower等。
這篇文章的命題來自蘋果電腦的著名 廣告,其中有這樣幾句:「向那些瘋狂的傢 伙們致敬......他們用與眾不同的眼光看待 事物......那些瘋狂到以為自己能夠改變世 界的人,才能真正的改變世界!」
怎樣才算是環保瘋子?我的看法未必 能代表所有人,但我可說說上個月在日常 工作以外做了些什麼。
身為長洲島民,我有份成立新環保組 織「活力長洲」。組織現時規模尚小,成 員約有十名,但組員都充滿熱誠,決心成 為活躍組織。我們幾位組員和兩位美港聯 盟的成員,聯同康文署職員一同考察長洲 的公園。我們的主要投訴是公園內太多圍 欄。儘管我們最後得知圍欄是根據政府守 則所載而設,這次考察卻真的減少了公園 內的圍欄,甚至可能幫助香港市區內有類 似設置的公園減少圍欄。
我留意到大部分公園內的植物只有 一個品種,而且沒有開花植物,便指出這 似乎忽視了物種多樣化:如果公園內有更 好的花草樹木組合,不但能吸引雀鳥和蝴 蝶,更可提升其對人類的吸引力。
上個月我還與三位長洲居民一起,跟 土木工程拓展署綠化總綱圖小組見面。我 再提出物種多樣化的問題,這次甚至指出 某些市區植物對野生動物根本毫無價值, 不如換成塑膠製品算了!綠化小組可以做 得更好,例如在行人走過的街道、在長者 愛坐下聊天的地方種植遮蔭的樹木。
「物種多樣性」是一場環境局舉辦會議 的主題,會議關乎為香港而設的生物多樣 性保育策略及行動計劃的準備工作。這是 一個絕佳機會,讓我們認識和反思策略的 價值,考慮推行時將會面對的障礙— 例 如胡應湘等地產界巨擘的問題!另外,我 也就一些關心課題的提出簡短意見:就算 在政府部門內,也沒有很深入認識物種多 樣性和其重要性。香港人少接觸大自然, 市區公園能大大幫助市民欣賞動植物,甚 具裨益。
上月我便在一次短片拍攝的小旅程中 親近了大自然。我到了中國海岸拍攝濕地 和裏面精采的雀鳥生態,過程令我獲益良 多,特別是身處野外的沙坪,周圍有過百 隻千鳥、鷸和其他鳥類。我希望短片最終 能鼓勵人們支持濕地保育工作,好令我們 與野生動物一同分享世界 ,更有效地提升 生活中的可持續發展。
我也繼續反對於在石鼓洲興建焚化爐的計劃,努力把相關資料電郵給政府官 員、立法會議員、其他綠色組織和傳媒: 其中一篇文章引述我提出焚化爐將成為
「光榮的營火」。
我還寫了一篇關於空氣污染的文章。 在最近的晨早新聞上看到,大家都應該看 到,北京和其他國內大城市都變得烏煙瘴 氣。雖然香港空氣的驚嚇度稍低,但仍十 分可怕。
我知道大家也愛清新空氣和潔淨食 水,也希望不斷享受物種豐富、擁有各種 動植物的世界。有報道指出,就連胡應湘 亦喜歡滑雪和揚帆出海,在美國加州美麗 的地區擁有最少一個房子,可見他即使會 狠斥誓言保護環境人士,他還是享受自然 世界的人。
大家也有做點什麼來保護環境嗎? 可怕的空氣質素、全球天氣愈來愈變化莫 測,顯示情況已刻不容緩,我們再沒時間 靜坐一角了。世界需要你。如果你尚未開 始熱烈推動環保,我希望你也成為環保瘋 子。天曉得呢?我們可能真的會改變世 界。

 

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