Promote Social Consensus and Rational Discussion on Land Development

3 May 2018

As we become more aware of environmental issues, we have the problem of balancing conservation and practical needs of society. As I have practiced recycling waste since it first became available, this issue is dear to me.  I now have three children, and it is ever more urgent for me to help preserve the world for their future well-being.

Environmental protection and conservation is a broad issue involving our entire economic structure.  It encompasses reducing food consumption; less packaging; less consumption and more durable products; safer/decomposable materials in manufacturing; improving landfill treatment methods, etc.  However, many people in society have focused on and exaggerated only one of the issues, “Opposition to Development”, using it to divide society, rather than bring us together. 

Economic and technological development changes generally improve our lives at the expense of damage to our environment: cars offer convenient transportation but generate air pollution; computers enhance productivity, creativity and dissemination of information but they increase carbon emissions and create lots of electronic waste. Supporting environmental protection which involves extreme opposition to development is not the right choice for the majority of people in Hong Kong.  Just like asking people to walk/ride bicycles to work and abandoning electronic products are not sensible for the mass population. 

Is “Opposition to Development” really the most meaningful way to protect the environment? The proposition to keep the country parks intact is in fact radical and arbitrary. Hong Kong already has one of the highest green coverage amongst world cities.  Social problems are boiling over, and we are still not permitted to build more housing.

People who cannot afford to housing will continue to be “generational renters” due to land issues and other related social problems such as caged homes and dangerous subdivided flats will remain unsolved.  Beyond the grass-roots level, the government and public and private organisations are also restricted in their development.  This causes Hong Kong to be one of the most expensive cities to do business, with office unaffordable for both local and international businesses, let alone startups. 

The main purpose of protecting the environment is to make life better for future generations. We need to strike a balance and minimize the negative impact of development and social progress at reasonable social costs and encourage people to live in an environmentally-friendly and socially responsible way. To achieve this, the parties should step back and open a rational dialogue aimed at a consensus. Reaching a social consensus with a wide array of solutions is the real pressing matter for Hong Kong at this moment.

Hence, I would like to remind everybody that environmental protection is important, but it is by no means easy. The overriding need for us in Hong Kong is to find the right balance between protecting the environment and development of our resources to provide a better life and a brighter future for all.