Communities Field Note Template
Title: One World
Abstract: Wherever you are geographically in the world, remember that we are all sharing one world, one Earth.
Introduction: Sometimes it is hard to realize what environmental issues people have to deal with in other countries. For underdeveloped countries, the resources may not be available and for others policy regulation is very weak. In Hong Kong, I find myself comparing a lot of community needs to America and imagine how my life could have been different.
How do nations meet their communities’ needs?
The Hong Kong government is an extremely important aspect of meeting the needs of communities. They are in charge of implementing and regulating how laws ought to be carried out for the best of the public. When something goes wrong such as a natural disaster, like a typhoon, communities seek stability from their local government. Hong Kong government seems to be a stable source of information and actor to meet the community’s needs.
What community need did I learn about?
With the weather transitioning into summer, hot and humid weather has paved the way for people to notice all the smog and air pollution in Hong Kong. Air pollution is a big problem in Hong Kong mostly because it is such an urban, industrial, and highly populated city. People rely on the bus and subway as their main mode of transportation and the smog thousands of busses emit every day eventually becomes a huge problem. Deforestation in Hong Kong adds to the issue of air pollution because trees are being cut in order to build new high-rise buildings to support a growing population. Nature’s existence is being threatened in Hong Kong because the country is transforming into a modern, highly industrialized center.
Why does the community have this need?
Society has a huge concern about air pollution in Hong Kong and the air they are breathing every day. They have the need to be informed of how bad air pollution is to their health and its impact on their society. Families decide on places to live in Hong Kong based on how it will impact their children and/or their health. It can be quite uncomfortable to have trouble breathing with air pollution especially if one has asthma. Health concerns are the main reasons people have a need to know how to deal with and what to do with air pollution in Hong Kong.
Is this need being met? How?
The Hong Kong Observatory helps to inform communities and the public of current statuses of air pollution throughout Hong Kong from morning till evening. People can check online and see the level of air pollution relative to their location to be- severe, very high, high, medium, or low. If you look at this site you can see that the air pollution index changes a lot throughout the day. When air pollution is high and concerning, the Hong Kong Observatory will suggest people to stay indoors and avoid being exposed to the air pollution in long periods of time. The API is a good approach from the government on informing the communities about air population. However, there needs to be more regulation in policies about the environment in Hong Kong to target the issue of air pollution and a sustainable future.
1. Are there ways or places to recycle in the local community, and if so, is it easy for people to access?
Throughout the city of Hong Kong there are plenty of places to recycle waste. Especially in urban areas where people pass by quite frequently such as the malls, central district, universities and along streets, there are separate waste bins for different types of trash. It is sorted into: Litter, Paper Waste, Plastic, and Metal.
2. What is the public sentiment about the state of the environment, and do young people think they play a role in protecting the environment? If so, how?
The public sentiment about the state of the environment is that air pollution is the most concerning. Hong Kong utilizes an API (Air Pollution Index) to monitor the quality of the air every day. The public recognizes that there is an air pollution problem because some days, it is hard to see the car in front of you because the smog is so bad. On days that air pollution is bad, it is equivalent to 3x as worse as a typical day in San Francisco. Air pollution can stem from problems in inadequate waste management, industrial waste into the oceans, and burning of fossil fuels.
Young people don’t feel like it is such a problem as communities hope that the government of Hong Kong will fix the situation. However, after being in my sustainable development course, I have noticed that young adults have a strong motivation to make a change towards their environment.
3. What innovative solutions do you observe, or hear people talking about?
Some solutions to approach issues of sustainable development and preservation of community/lifestyle in Hong Kong include conservation of light and water. It is encouraged throughout my school and dorm to turn off lights when you’re not using them and take quick showers to not waste water. In addition, it is important to sort trash into the correct recycling/trash bins.
4. Have there been changes to environmental laws lately, or have new systems of solid waste management been introduced in the past five years?
There is a $200 USD($1500 HKD) fine for littering! So make sure to always dispose of trash. In addition, the Waste Disposal Ordinance in Hong Kong manages all types of waste such as: chemical waste, livestock waste, hazardous waste, and clinical waste. There are strict rules and regulations on how certain wastes should be managed and safely disposed of. The Environment Protection Department of Hong Kong is in charge of these matters.
5. Are there any youth groups, community organizations, NGO or INGOs actively working to address solid waste management issues in your community? Who are they and what are they doing. What can we learn from them? If possible, take a field trip and check out their work!
There is a Sustainable Development governmental department of Hong Kong. My professor at the university is the Director of Conservacy in Hong Kong and also teaches the sustainable development course. By educating the youth in college, he hopes to educate future leaders interested in geography and sustaining the earth for future generations. For our field trip, we visited a site in Hong Kong called Tai-O away from the city to look at how societies can be preserved and made us analyze what we could do to help conserve the community. Not only does he advise the government of Hong Kong, but he is training future leaders as well.
6. Work to get information and opinions from local people. Identify the different variables that affect the way people are addressing the issue of trash. Try and find a local person who has an action plan or idea for how to address the problem. Be as specific, detail-oriented and factual in your observations and interviews with people.
- trash cans located on public streets: y
- individual homes recycle trash: y
- grocery stores charge money for plastic bags: y
- grocery items are heavily packaged with plastic: y
- people drink tap water: n
It was very cool to get an expert opinion on environmental sustainability from my professor who has done a lot of research on conservation and sustainability. His main concern was that our world may not be able to hold all the waste we are producing such as plastics. Landfills can only do so much and there is a lot of waste pollution in the ocean although we may not realize it.
Policies on the markets, institutions, and locals must be implemented and societies should come together to help build a sustainable society. In Hong Kong, trash cans are located on public streets with specific types of trash to be sorted into. As one of the most developed urban cities in Asia, Hong Kong does a good job in providing an abundance of trash cans everywhere. In homes, people may not recycle trash correctly because it is easiest for them to dispose of trash all into one unit. Professor Ng states that contribution from society begins at the local level and society needs to become more informed of environmental risks and importance of waste management.
In Hong Kong grocery stores, it is expected for people to bring their own re-usable bag to carry their groceries. If you must need a plastic bag or forgot to bring your own, plastic bags are available upon request and with a charge of $.05 HKD. This has become an incentive for local people to bring their own bag and not get charged extra money to use a plastic bag. Professor Ng says this is a positive first step Hong Kong and other countries are making in reducing plastic bag usage.
A concern for plastic bottles in Hong Kong remain as people do not frequently drink tap water. Often the pipes are old and unfit for people to drink directly out of. People in Hong Kong drink boiled water or tea that is available everywhere. The boiled water kills bacteria in the water and is clean for everyone to drink. As a result, it is most convenient and cheap for people to buy water bottles from the local 7Eleven or grocery store. This creates a problem because more consumption of plastic bottles leads to more trash!
Overall, Professor Ng believes that educating the public is one of the most important steps to take when tackling the issue of sustainable environments.