Forewords 序

“Education: the key for resolving environmental problems.”

While economic growth and development is often incompatible with environmental protection and biodiversity conservation, there are still hopes and a possibility for us to attain a balance between these two conflicting subjects through better education and effective environmental management.

A lot of environmental problems can be explained by the concept of ‘the tragedy of the commons’, which was established by Professor Garrett Hardin in 1968 (see Science 162:1243-1248). For example, ‘the commons’ includes our blue sky, clean air, blue ocean, safe drinking water, food free from poisonous synthetic chemicals as well as precious biodiversity and natural resources. Environmental problems are intensified by ever-growing human population which puts tremendous pressure on ‘the commons’. When the majority is polluting the environment, concreting over forests and mangroves, and overharvesting natural resources, there are no incentives for the minority to do the opposite. In fact, they are more likely to be disadvantaged economically if they were to spare extra time and money so as to avoid polluting the environment. This is one of the tragedies in this era of capitalism mainly driven by economic growth and urban development. Modern societies somehow demonstrate that development, pollution and overharvesting are the norm and are given a higher priority, whereas cleaning up and conserving biodiversity come in a distant second. However, such “destroy first, clean up later” attitude will be a leading cause of sustainability catastrophe.

To resolve environmental problems, we need to address how we can change this “default” mentality and achieve sustainability in practice. Professor Hardin said that there are no technical solutions to the environmental problems we face but that “it requires a fundamental extension in morality”. If people are well-educated, understand the importance of environmental protection and are conscious of the path towards sustainable development, they will have a greater inclination to act ‘green’ and be willing to seek alternatives to protect the environment and sustain natural resources for our future generations. Thus, education remains the key for resolving environmental problems.

Hong Kong is a miniature of our world. The numerous environmental problems that it is facing echo those throughout the world. Given the incredibly dense population of Hong Kong, problems that arise are more pronounced and noticeable. It is indeed not a trivial task finding ways to tackle our local environmental problems. “Where there’s a will, there’s a way”. This “green will” is what exactly we need to foster in the collective mentality of Hong Kong people so as to solve these problems synergistically.

I am extremely delighted to see the birth of this book “Our Home, Our Future: Environmental Issues in Hong Kong”. It was produced through a joint effort by the alumni of the MSc Programme in Environmental Management of the University of Hong Kong (EnvMan-HKU), which was established in 1989 and has nurtured more than 700 environmental professionals for Hong Kong. I strongly believe that this book will serve as a valuable reference for local schools to conduct in-depth issue investigations in Liberal Studies upon various pressing environmental issues in Hong Kong. The book was designed following extensive consultation with school teachers and frontline educators in order to match the educational needs of both students and teachers. Rather than spoon-feeding the students with knowledge, this book allows students to critically analyze the selected environmental issues and encourages them to come up with their own informed decision grounded with multi-perspectives considerations via some tailor-made learning and teaching activities. Through the interactive learning process, students will also learn and experience the dynamics of environmental management through taking different stakeholders’ very controversial views into account. Ultimately, the students will be able to explore the possibility of striking a balance between economic growth and environmental conservation.

As the Programme Director of the EnvMan-HKU for the past eight years, it has been my great fortune and immense pleasure to meet our talented alumni who are very proactive and passionate in conserving our environment through putting theories into practice and through sharing their experience and enthusiasm with our younger generation. I am very proud of them.

I whole-heartedly endorse and highly recommend this book to primary and secondary school teachers. I hope this book will sow the essential seeds of “green will” in the fertile minds of young people in Hong Kong.

Prof. Kenneth Mei Yee LEUNG
Director of the MSc Programme in Environmental Management
and Professor at School of Biological Sciences,
The University of Hong Kong