Eugene Simonov enjoying himself in the wetlands of the Amur River Basin.
Eugene joined Pacific Environment as the Conservation Science Specialist in February 2013 but his history with our organization goes as far back as 2001 when he was one of our strategic partners and advisors. Although he currently resides in Dalian, China, his scope of work includes China, Russia, Mongolia and the United States. Eugene has a degree in biology from Moscow State University, a Master’s degree in environmental science from the Yale University School of Forestry, and a doctorate in nature conservation from China’s Northeast Forestry University. Eugene has been working on transboundary issues with a special focus on the Amur River Basin, a highly complex watershed of northeastern China, the Russian Far East, and eastern Mongolia. Since 2009 Eugene has been a coordinator of Rivers without Boundaries International Coalition which was formed to address conservation of the aquatic environment of Northeast Asia.
Eugene’s work has shined a light on the devastating impacts of major dam infrastructure projects. His organization has been successful in removing several of the most large scale projects from the agenda, and with the Whitley Award he plans to focus his energy on diverting investment dollars away from more of these dam projects and towards sustainable energy alternatives.
In his acceptance speech on May 2, Eugene imagined taking a boat ride down the river from its headwaters in Siberia through the wetlands filled with cranes and geese and possibly spotting the legendary river monster. Eugene works to make his dream of a free flowing Amur river a reality for his son and daughter.
On April 3, 2013, I met two girls playing outside their rural home in the Xigu District near Lanzhou, in Gansu Province, China. Like most kids, they were playful and full of laughter, but unlike most kids, these girls are only allowed to play outside for a limited time every day. I traveled to Xigu to learn more about the harmful effects of the Xigu Thermal Power Plant, a coal-fired power plant that towers over this community. The children that I met went to school 200 feet away from the plant and are exposed to air pollutants every day because the power plant’s towering smokestacks stand amid residential buildings and farmland.
This map shows the close proximity of the primary school and Xigu Coal Plant.
I traveled with two colleagues at the Waterkeeper Alliance, who we are working with to engage grassroots environmental groups in China on a national campaign to bring awareness to the dangers of coal power. We were also traveling with Green Camel Bell, our partner in the region, whose staff is just beginning to understand the implications of coal power on the water pollution issues that they work on.
Xigu Thermal Power Plant is over 50 years old. It was built in 1957 as part of China’s first Five Year Plan. The capital city of Gansu Province, Lanzhou, gets its power and winter heating from the plant, but residents also suffer greatly under the weight of its toxic emissions. According to the data from the Ministry of Environmental Protection, the average daily Lanzhou Air Pollution Index (API) is 223, which ranks its air pollution among the worst in the nation.
On December 22, 2010 Xigu Thermal Power Plant illegally discharged untreated pollutants directly into the atmosphere; the pollutants quickly spread to the city center, and caused a record air pollution spike. Afterwards, Lanzhou Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau fined the plant 100,000 Yuan (16,000 USD) but the pollution continued. Recently the plant was exposed for violating pollution laws again, and received another 100,000 Yuan fine.
Xigu Thermal Power Plant towers over Lanzhou.
The years of heavy pollution caused extremely high cancer mortality rates; in Lanzhou the rate is 56.02% higher than the national average, and the city has the highest incidence of lung cancer in China.
As bad as this seems, the environmental situation today is actually not as bad as it was during the region’s most intensive development period, 30 years ago. On our field trip to Xigu, we met a 60-year old retired plant worker at the gate of the primary school. He told us “In 70′s and 80′s the pollution was much more serious, the smoke was black and the coal conveyor belt had no cover.” He recalled, “When the wind blew, coal ashes were everywhere.”
He also told us that in 1989 the air pollution was so bad nearby farmers were unable to harvest their crops. The farmers fought for compensation, and they won a small settlement, and some environmental safety equipment was installed. The retired plant worker also mentioned that some of his former coworkers at the plant now suffer from cancer, and there has never been compensation for the grave health problems the workers have suffered.
Warning: toxic coal ash.
During our trip we spoke with community members who were naturally very aware of the soot spewing from the plant and hovering over their homes. However, few were aware of the very serious health impacts that accompany that soot. We spoke with the mothers of the two girls playing outside, who complained to us, “Our children have to change their dirty clothes every day…and the ash is very hard to wash out.”
But even if coal ash can be washed off the surface, this kind of daily exposure has long term health impacts that we can no longer afford to ignore.
In our campaign with the Waterkeeper Alliance we will be working with our partners to shine a spotlight on coal’s health impacts in China.
At the orientation meeting for Pacific Environment’s new environmental law internship program in China this past weekend, I walked with a group of law students down a broad Qingdao street toward dinner. “Maybe we’ll come back to Qingdao to start our own environmental group when we graduate,” one of them said, and the rest agreed with enthusiastic laughs.
Pacific Environment’s law interns Li Jianqiang (left) and Liu Hong (right) with Xu Yangmin, a visionary environmental lawyer and dean of Ocean University’s School of Law, our project partner.
That afternoon, the students met their soon-to-be supervisors at grassroots environmental organizations across China. Not much older than the students themselves, the participating supervisors work hard to protect China’s environment and are partners in Pacific Environment’s ongoing support program. After meeting them, one student said, “They don’t seem jaded like all our classmates who go to work for companies; they still seem young and full of energy.”
Law students in China lack practical experience working with the law; their education emphasizes rigorous training in theory and case law, but schools offer few chances for law students to leave the classroom to work on real live cases. At the same time, grassroots organizations in China increasingly need professional assistance and legal tools to stop polluters, protect pollution victims, and hold polluters accountable.
Groups like the Beijing-based Center for Legal Assistance to Pollution Victims (CLAPV), which has pioneered efforts in this area, know they can’t do it alone. This is one reason why CLAPV’s charismatic leader Wang Canfa was keen to attend our orientation meeting, and provide moral and technical support for the students and their hosts. “Right now, NGOs in China lack staff with legal knowledge; if law students like these can spend time at Chinese NGOs, it will certainly help them a lot.”
This is me with Wang Canfa, founder and leader of Center for Legal Assistance to Pollution Victims, the first organization to provide legal aid to people and communities injured by pollution throughout China.
The students will face many obstacles in bringing legal tools to water pollution fights. For example, during a presentation by an activist from one of the participating organizations, Blue Dalian, we learned how a group of villagers whose water has been poisoned by illegal gold mining waited several months to have their case heard at a local court, only to eventually find out that the case had been rejected.
Rules about NGO involvement in legal challenges are still being tested, but there are many areas where grassroots NGOs, like Pacific Environment’s partners, can help. Recently, one group, Green Anhui, wrote a legal guide for pollution victims, [link] which they are distributing in their project area. Green Stone has been developing a database on Environmental Impact Assessments in Jiangsu Province, and they will seek help from their Ocean University intern to understand public involvement provisions and corporate responsibility under the law.
A volunteer discussing Green Anhui’s new legal guide for pollution victims with a villager in Anhui Province, China.
After our day-long orientation meeting, we took a day to visit Qingdao’s famed Lao Mountain, a granite outcropping crisscrossed by waterfalls, stairs, and pagodas. As we huffed up one particularly steep set of stairs, an environmental law PhD student who will join Green Stone this spring told me a about his research topic.
“I study environmental behavior,” he told me, “specifically, how and why companies choose to develop corporate social responsibility programs, and what their attitudes are about the environment.” Through the internship, he hopes to be able to conduct interviews with some of the more progressive companies and government officials in Nanjing, while also assisting Green Stone to fine tune their online platform for involving citizens in monitoring pollution and commenting on environmental impact assessments. Meanwhile, the NGO participants are excited to receive an infusion of new legal knowledge and tools.
“We are always feeling understaffed, and most of our staff really lacks professional training. We have to learn as we go,” one participant told me. “That is why it is so important to have programs like this where we can get help from someone with specific legal knowledge; we look forward to hearing new perspectives on problems we haven’t been able to solve ourselves.”
Pacific Environment and Ocean University’s Legal Internship Program is starting the first pilot internships in April 2013. Interns will be providing legal tools and assistance to our partner organizations Green Stone, Blue Dalian, and Green Anhui. Lots of students and groups wanted to participate, and we hope to expand the program next year to satisfy the urgent demand for legal support at grassroots NGOs across China to enable them to help pollution victims and pressure polluters to clean up their act.
In China, where coal is king, Pacific Environment is harnessing the power of social media to show that the emperor is wearing some very dirty clothes.
We just launched “The Problem with Coal,” a Chinese-language blog on Weibo.com, China’s hugely popular social networking site. It focuses exclusively on coal’s devastating impacts on people’s health and the environment. This kind of information is rarely available in China, and we’re already seeing a flurry of activities, from re-posts and comments on the stories we’re sharing to users linking to national and international coal-related news and data.
Our new blog “The Problem with Coal” shares news and information about coal’s harmful impacts with citizens and grassroots environmental activists in China.
Coal is the dirtiest of fossil fuels. In China, it is the main contributor to the country’s air pollution problem, which kills 500,000 people every year. Coal burning is also by far the largest source of China’s climate change-causing emissions, which are set to double by the end of this decade.
A local activist tweeted this picture of toxic red sewage spilling into the Xiangtan River in Hunan province via Weibo. The image created a local media storm, helped shut down the polluting factory, and elicited an unprecedented public apology from the company’s chairman.
Do you know what China, Australia, and the Arctic have in common?
Arctic wildlife, Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, and the colorful Danxia Mountains in China’s Gansu province.
Apart from stunning scenery, it turns out that each is home to one of the 3 biggest threats to our global climate. Here governments and fossil fuel companies are pushing massive, carbon-intensive coal, oil, and gas projects that would cause climate disaster if allowed to move forward.
In China, the country’s northwestern provinces are planning to increase coal mining—moving the country further along on its path to double carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from coal burning by 2020. Australia is in the midst of a “coal export rush” that would eclipse its domestic consumption three times over by 2025. And in the Arctic, oil companies are preparing to extract newly accessible offshore oil and gas resources as sea ice continues to melt and recede.
Coal, the dirtiest of all fossil fuels, is set to surpass oil as the world’s top energy source within the next 10 years.
Point of No Return, a new report by Ecofys that was commissioned by Greenpeace, ranks these projects as the top 3 among the 14 worst energy projects planned in the coming decades. Each by itself would cause the release of more CO2 emissions than any other energy project in the world today. Together, they would cause climate change to spiral out of control by putting the world on a catastrophic track toward 5o to 6oC long-term warming. This may not sound like much, but to avoid climate disaster, scientists and 200 nations agree that the increase in average global temperature must remain below 2oC.
Between now and 2050, we have a “carbon budget” of roughly 565 gigatons of carbon dioxide—the maximum amount of emissions that would allow us to stay below the critical threshold of a two degrees Celsius increase in average global temperature.
A 2012 report commissioned by 20 governments estimates that climate change is already claiming 5 million lives a year (through air pollution, hunger, and disease as a result of climate change and carbon-based economies). That’s the damage at a time when the average global temperature has increased by “only” 0.8oC since the onset of the Industrial Revolution over 250 years ago.
Can you imagine what a global temperature increase by 5o or 6oC would look like? I can’t. But to give you an idea, here’s what’s predicted to happen if the temperature rises between 3o to 4oC: about 40% of the world’s species could become extinct; sea levels could rise up to 10 feet, swallowing lower lying islands and threatening coastal communities; important ecosystems like the Amazon rainforest and the Boreal forests would die back; and people would face increased risk of drought, water shortages, crop failure, poverty, disease, and civic unrest.
Climate change causes extreme weather patterns that are wreaking havoc around the world.
Yet governments and fossil fuel corporations are forging ahead with their wrong-headed plans—willfully ignoring the potentially devastating climate fallout.
That’s why Pacific Environment collaborates with local grassroots leaders on the ground to pressure politicians, officials, and CEOs to halt dirty fossil fuel projects and invest in clean energy solutions before it’s too late for climate action.
Here’s How We Fight the World’s 3 Biggest Climate Change Threats
The battle against new dirty energy projects is the most important fight of our time. We have reached a tipping point where the right decisions must be made, and be made quickly, to save our planet from the devastating consequences of catastrophic climate change. The time to act is now!
A while ago I stopped eating fish, in part because I worried that it might contain an unhealthy helping of mercury—a potent neurotoxin that can cause birth defects and brain damage. As it turns out, I had reason to worry: a new report on global mercury pollution by IPEN, an international organization that fights toxics, uncovered that 84 percent of the fish we eat contains unsafe levels of mercury.
The alarming increase of mercury in our environment is one more reason why we must stop burning coal. Nowhere are the unhealthy impacts of coal more felt than in China, where air pollution kills about 500,000 people each year—and coal is the number one contributor to China’s air quality problems.
Because of the sheer amount of coal that is burned in China every day, it is likely that mercury poisoning is also rampant, although the data is not readily available. Rising coal consumption also contributes to increased water scarcity in China—20 percent of China’s water resources are consumed by coal-fired power plants, threatening not just people’s access to clean air, but also clean food and water.
Coal burning is by far the largest source of China’s climate change-causing emissions, which are projected to double over the next seven years. And there are other global impacts of China’s rising coal use: coal companies in the United States, Canada, Australia, and elsewhere are now exporting coal to meet this growing demand. Transporting all this coal affects communities around the world with air pollution, water pollution, and increased traffic.
Faced with a complex mix of environmental threats, coupled with the political power of the country’s coal industry, it is no wonder that environmentalists in China have been hesitant to challenge coal head-on. This year Pacific Environment is taking steps to help: we are working with Waterkeeper Alliance and close partners in China to spread the word about the risks of coal to humans and the environment. Through better assessments of local impacts of coal, citizen monitoring of coal mines and plants, and data sharing, grassroots environmental groups can play a critical role in reversing China’s coal consumption trend.
Already, momentum is growing for a global movement that aligns efforts to challenge coal from all angles. Recently, Pacific Environment, partners in China, and many others have signed on to a petition to demand a full environmental impact assessment of the impacts that North American coal export terminals would have here in the States as well as in communities in China and elsewhere receiving coal exports.
Here is something you can do right now to fight the devastating impacts of coal mining: read and sign the petition. Thank you for your support!
For more information about Pacific Environment’s new work on coal in China, please contact Kristen McDonald at email@example.com.
Yu Chao is an organizer with Green Camel Bell, one of Pacific Environment’s partners in China.
At the stage of Flower Theater in Lanzhou City, Gansu Province, a group of environmental volunteers engaged in a strange but wonderful rehearsal. Each of them took a deep breath, and then…well, if you closed your eyes you might hear breezes whispering in your ears, or the symphony of a lush virgin forest, a variety of birds flying around you. Or it might sound like a farm, bustling with happy cattle and sheep. The volunteers were playing and experiencing nature using their own voices.
Environmental advocacy on river pollution is a critical issue in China, but advocacy efforts often fall flat. In my experience, part of the challenge is that touting slogans about environmental protection does little to change peoples’ consciousness. If you want more people to engage in protecting the environment, you have to first help them develop a relationship with nature, and a love of the environment. This year our organization wanted to try something a little different: we wanted to make the concept of environmental protection root in peoples’ hearts. We hoped that through community theater we could help foster this kind of real awareness of the environment.
Environmental volunteers dancing in Lanzhou.
With the help from American Allegra Fonda-Bonardi, who graduated from Oberlin College and came to Lanzhou with the support of a Compton Mentor Fellowshop, Green Camel Bell explored how to use community theater in Lanzhou as a new way of doing environmental education. Green Camel Bell recruited about 30 local children and their parents as volunteers and actors for our first community theater event. Allegra taught us a series of theater games, based on the work of Hector Aristizabal, which helped participants create their own environmental stories and act them out. Rehearsals continued for a month while the participants created their own scripts and stage props. “This is our own story, and we like playing games together with Teacher Allegra,” one young participant told me. The children performed their final piece during the Chinese New Year Celebration at the Lanzhou Environmental Protection Agency.
Later, Green Camel Bell recruited 20 new volunteers from different backgrounds to form a community theater education team called “Bean Sprouts.” The first piece highlighted the reality of water pollution in the Yellow River, showing how and why the river has become so polluted. But the end result was a drama that was in my opinion a bit boring and did little to arouse peoples’ sympathy. So we then tried to encourage more innovative ideas and performances that would do more to wake up peoples’ hearts.
Allegra helped us play interesting games to inspire new ideas. For example, we had actors perform nature – which resulted in the loud scene I described. In this game participants took a deep breath, and then let out a long a continuous call, until their breath ran out. Then another breath and call, then another. At first, everyone sounded kind of mechanical, but gradually magical things happened as we tuned into each other and the environment around us. We realized we could change our sound to harmonize with each other and our surroundings. As one volunteer described, “Sometimes we feel like being the ocean, sometimes we are flying across forests and grasslands. When someone cries like a bird, a variety of other animal sounds follow, and we are suddenly transported into a vibrant jungle.” Weeks after these exercises, the volunteers were still reflecting on the feeling of man and nature combined—something they rarely get to experience in their everyday lives.
After three months of practice, Allegra, the Bean Sprouts, and Green Camel Bell organized a forum in Lanzhou on environment education through community theate, the first event of its kind in mainland China. Hector Aristizaba, as well as Spanish community drama education expert Alessia Cartoni and other experts from Hong Kong came to carry out a week of workshops and trainings.
Brother Mao was walking along the Xiangtan River near his home of Xiangtan, Hunan Province, when he noticed thick red sewage streaming into the river from a nearby chemical plant. He quickly whipped out his cell phone and snapped a picture of the chemical assault on his town’s water supply. Then he uploaded it to Weibo—China’s Twitter— where it was immediately re-tweeted 4,000 times with 2,000 personal replies.
Brother Mao tweeted this picture of red sewage spilling into the Xiangtan River, creating a local media storm and eventually shutting down the polluting factory.
Local news outlets quickly picked up on the flurry of social media activity. Reporters wrote several stories about people’s passionate response to Brother Mao’s tweet and about the polluters responsible for dumping toxic waste into the Xiang River. The public outcry soon prompted an investigation by Xiangtan’s local Environmental Protection Bureau, which shut down the polluting factory, followed by an unprecedented public apology from the company chairman.
Brother Mao’s tweet led to testing of the chemical sewage overflow into the Xiangtan River in Hunan Province.
Brother Mao is a leader in the Xiangtan Environmental Volunteers Association, which is a core member of the “Mother Xiang River Network,” created by Green Hunan, an environmental group fighting water pollution in Hunan Province. Green Hunan recruits ordinary citizens to become active watchdogs and trains them to identify water pollution, take samples, and use modern mapping technology and social media to force polluters to clean up their act.
In China, over 70 percent of lakes and rivers are polluted and pollution accidents happen almost daily. Pacific Environment works with a robust network of community-based environmental groups to address the country’s water pollution crisis. We provide grants, programmatic guidance, and technical support to help grassroots activists grow struggling volunteer and student groups into professional organizations that win major environmental victories.
Once a year in September, we host an annual coalition meeting. This year we brought together 15 partner groups in the city of Hangzhou on China’s central coast to amplify the impact of our water pollution work. During a water monitoring field trip around Hangzhou, our partners tested innovative data collection technologies that will help them increase people power on the ground by engaging ordinary citizens in grassroots activism. Using smart phones, participants learned to enter pollution data directly onto an online water pollution map and tested Crowdmap, an online platform for simple data and map sharing.
Local grassroots activists learning the latest techniques to test water and collect and share pollution data.
With more and more water monitoring techniques becoming easily accessible to ordinary citizens, many of our partners are stepping up their efforts to adopt our successful volunteer network model. They are reaching out to local volunteer associations, college student groups, and neighbors to help them monitor local water pollution, focus media attention on polluters, and work with local government regulators to curb water pollution and hold polluters accountable for the damage they cause. The bigger the network, the greater the chance that one day every Chinese citizen will be able to enjoy clean and healthy rivers.
Zhao Zhong, Pacific Environment’s new China Program Coordinator, is based in Beijing.
Zhao Zhong is an experienced and incredibly well-respected and successful grassroots leader. He founded Green Camel Bell, the first environmental organization in Gansu province in northwestern China, in 2003.
A nuclear engineer by trade, Zhao Zhong came to Lanzhou, Gansu’s capital, as a college student and immediately became concerned about the city’s pollution. Once a remote trading outpost located where the ancient Silk Road crossed the Yellow River, it is now northwest China’s primary hub for oil refineries and petrochemical plants. It is also one of the world’s most polluted cities.
In fact, air pollution is so bad that just breathing in Lanzhou’s air is like smoking a pack of cigarettes a day. And more than 10 percent of the Yellow River near the capital is now sewage, and industrial spills further poison the river.
Green Camel Bell organizes public “Happy Water Tours” on Sunday mornings that often include a walking excursion along the Yellow River, garbage clean-up, water quality testing, and lectures on water quality issues.
Under Zhao Zhong’s leadership, Green Camel Bell, named for the bells used on traditional camel trains that once passed through the region, developed into one of China’s most effective water pollution watchdogs. Together with dozens of local community volunteers, young and old, he successfully pressured factories that dump waste and toxins into the Yellow River to clean up their act by publicizing the polluters’ environmental records.
In addition to monitoring the river itself, Green Camel Bell unearths public but often hard to find pollution information from newspaper articles, academic studies, and reports prepared by local environmental officials. Once collected, they send the information to a partner group in Beijing to be included in the China Water Pollution Map and the site’s list of factories that violate national environmental standards—including many state-owned enterprises.
Volunteers taking pictures of water pollution.
After making the decision to turn over the reins of Green Camel Bell last year, Zhao Zhong knew that he wanted to share his experiences and help other groups in China get off the ground. As part of our team, Zhao Zhong will deliver trainings to our partner organizations, mentor up and coming grassroots activists, and develop local and national campaigns that target water polluters.
We are so lucky to have him!
Stay tuned for Zhao Zhong’s updates from the field in the coming weeks and months.
Stanley Wong is a summer intern from Hong Kong working in our China Program. His time in the Bay Area has inspired him to urge the Hong Kong government to “Act Now” for air quality improvements.
On August 3, 2012, the temperature in Hong Kong rose to a record high of 98.6ﾟF. Luckily, I did not have to suffer Hong Kong’s ‘hot-pot’ since I was interning in San Francisco. Here summer temperatures are around 59-68ﾟF. The pleasant climate, coupled with an environment without much air pollution, got me thinking about environmental protection here versus back home in Hong Kong.
Skies in San Francisco (left) versus Hong Kong (right).
When I arrived in San Francisco, I immediately noticed that the air quality here is really good—not once did I smell diesel fumes on the street. That’s because the city has many electric trolley buses, powered by overhead wires, and hybrid buses, powered by a small diesel engine and traction batteries. Right now about half of all busses are zero emission vehicles, that is, they don’t emit greenhouse gasses. And under the “Zero Emission 2020” plan San Francisco authorities are working to make all busses emission-free by the end of this decade.
The second thing I noticed were the metal contraptions on the front of the busses. At first I thought they were meant to protect the busses in case of collision. Imagine my surprise when I realized one day that these metal things were bicycle racks! Thanks to the city’s Bicycle Plan, begun in 1997, there are bike lanes throughout San Francisco, linking to cities and towns nearby. And every bus has a bicycle rack; folding bicycles are even allowed inside all public transport (except cable cars) within the city.Finally, I came across an interesting new public housing project in Berkeley. The Oxford Plaza Apartments complex includes several environmentally-friendly features, including solar cells on top of the building; solar-powered hot water heaters; natural ventilation systems to cool apartments; and rooftop gardens. These designs help reduce electricity use, which in turn improves air quality by decreasing reliance on fossil-fueled power sources.
Thanks to all this, in San Francisco I can actually see blue skies (except when there’s fog).
Not in Hong Kong. Here the air is dirty and the sky is grey from smog and pollution.
Busses are one of the biggest sources of air pollution in Hong Kong. In busy parts of the city, pedestrians like me regularly choke on the fumes emitted by busses. It gets even worse in the summer, when fumes and greenhouse gasses are not as readily absorbed by vegetation. Yet in a place like Market Street in San Francisco, which is as busy as many streets in Hong Kong, I imagine most pedestrians are probably quite happy with the quality of the air they breathe.
A Muni bus in San Francisco, with bike rack attached, a bus in Hong Kong (picture from on.cc).
In the Bay Area, the government leads environmental protection efforts, like turning public transportation vehicles into a zero-emission fleet, maximizing urban green space, or utilizing the rooftops of public housing projects.
In Hong Kong, the government does not lead. There is still no plan or timetable for the creation of zero-emission public transportation (although 6 hybrid buses and 36 electric buses will be tested in 2013 and 2014 respectively). Urban green spaces aren’t part of the public debate—the Hong Kong Environmental Protection Department’s website does not even mention this issue.
Some claim that air quality in Hong Kong has been improving. But I have lived there all my life, and I have detected no improvement.
Urban areas in San Franisco include green spaces (left top from Sharpest Pictures; bottom from Nile Guide). Urban Hong Kong has almost no green area.
When talking about environmental protection, Hong Kong’s government usually tells its citizens that the city’s economic development must be taken into account. I agree, but there are simple, affordable ways to improve air quality. San Francisco has a lot less money than Hong Kong. Still, the government insists on implementing environmentally-friendly policies to improve air quality. So why not bring some of these ideas to Hong Kong? Why not test electric busses as soon as possible? Why not require bus companies to install bicycle racks? Why not put rooftop gardens on new government buildings and public housing projects? Or solar cells or wind turbines?
“Worry what citizens worry, think what citizens think,” is the philosophy of Hong Kong’s Chief Executive, C.Y. Leung. I suggest he go to Nathan Road in Mongkok, or Hennessy Road in Causeway Bay, to feel what pedestrians feel and breathe what we breathe on an ordinary summer day. And then “Act Now” to make Hong Kong a leader in the fight for clean air!