“The earth is the Lord’s and its fullness”
972 HK Photo taken by Sentab, who were sponsoring my stay in Stockholm, for the Enviornmental Forum on the Human Habitat
In 1968 received a letter from no less a person than the Vice President of Chung Chi College, Dr. Robert Rayne. It invited me to join the Conservancy Association, which then had about ten members. They were from the University of Hong Kong Professor of Zoology, Chinese University Professor of Botany, Chairman of the Tourist Association, Curriculum development of the Education Department, Shell Company Public Relations, HK Tourist Association and two other people.
Never in my life had such people looked to me for help. They had heard that I was a Biology teacher in Form Three. They asked me to help start Secondary School Conservancy Clubs. This was to be done with the help of the Education Department Nature Study Section. Soon after, I joined a course on Ecology at the University of Hong Kong for 24 Biology teachers in secondary schools.
After that, when a circular about my activities reached a secondary school, the Biology teachers knew what I was about. And I was fully supported by the Education Department. The beginning was spectacular, and many school conservancy clubs emerged, but it faded as students expected lectures rather than experience of different habitats, and discussion on the factors that caused pollution and environmental degradation.
And so I was launched into “ecology”, attracting the attention of the South China Morning Post. I was asked to write a column on their page two on environmental matters. I wrote under the name of Kong Hong for over two years, since environmental news was such hot news in 1970’s. Then I became the NGO from Hong Kong to join the Environment Forum at the United Nations Conference on The Human Environment, in Stockholm June 1972. This was to be a painful learning experience which deeply influenced me in the environmental movement.
At this Stockholm Conference, there were ministers from governments from around the world. But the NGO’s had their own meetings, and they numbered over four thousand! They were environmental pressure groups, each with a specific aim. I was completely unprepared to attend such a gathering with so many conflicting views. There were stalls and exhibitions on everything, from housing schemes to the ozone layer, radiation risks to alternative energy sources, from wild life preservation to the importance of wetlands. I had nothing to contribute and very little to urge, as I was so new to environmental matters.
Sentab, a Swedish engineering company that had much experience boring tunnels through the granite of Hong Kong, sponsored my stay in Stockholm. They were trying to get a contract to build underground oil storage on Lamma Island for the proposed oil refinery, which never materialized.
I met many people urging the protection of the environment, which was much more complex than stopping fires in country parks and planting forests, which the HK Conservancy Association concerned about. Confused with the complexities of environmental issues, I came away with a determination never to ride in a private car! Public transport was the way forward. Hong Kong is outstanding in the whole world for its good public transport. The private car needs expensive road works and is a source of air pollution in cities, besides creating other waste products. It also has adverse sociological effects by breaking down well-knit communities, making the inner city a slum. I became bicycle orientated and kept away from private transport.
My decision was not such a change in my life. I had a bicycle in Wah Yan since I went there in 1967,until the MTR started in 1979. All my life I had gone to school by bicycle and even travelled to other places by bicycle.
I had always wanted a simple life. My background in Dublin was in modest middle class life, not really in the consumer society. Now I saw the importance of rural life and the primary need for a healthy and well-developed countryside, with pure water and air, and care of the land. Prosperity could be measured by the quality of life in the country side! The country side, not the cities or factories, is seen as the basis for prosperity.
Chemical pollution had to be addressed, together with air quality, and even radiation risks. These are only a few thrusts in the environmental movement, one of whose slogans as- Men Not Apart from Nature. But what was I to do teaching fourteen year old boys in Wah Yan Kowloon!
In some ways, Wah Yan College Kowloon was an ideal of sustainable living. Green is its colour, and it has vast areas of greenery in low-density building. It is a green oasis in high-density urbanization, part of King’s Park and the green lung of Kowloon. Mongkok has the highest residential population per square kilometre in the world.
My interests in ecology are seen in the class outings. I lead them to the Nature Education Centre in Sai Kung, Tai Po Kau Forest, Eagle’s Nest Nature Trail and other country parks. Then I am very conscious of electricity consumption, which expands in Hong Kong by over five per cent every year. This cannot continue. Burning of coal and oil, and now natural gas, produces electricity, but it causes much of our air pollution. Then students know my peculiarity of not turning on air conditioning and lighting during my classes! I remember when I first starting teaching in 1967. Then we did not even have electric fans- each student had a hand fan. The use of air conditioning, which came into all classrooms by 1995, is a luxury and involves great consumption of electrical energy. And I even go further by being very careful in the use of paper, and of photocopying. And they is more in a whole “green” life style!
“Ecological Footprint” is a concept to measure our use of energy and resources, which is very useful. It tries to measure our impact on the environment, taking into consideration our consumption of resources of energy, water and food- and more important- and the refuse we create. People in the USA have the highest ecological footprint, with that of Hong Kong coming very close. And the millions of people in China are every year making an increasing use of electricity, power, and all natural resources. People in PRC are making a bigger ecological footprints every year. Is this progress? Is progress measured in the value of the consumer goods that are purchased?
My activities with the Conservancy Association tapered out by 1980, when I felt my energies failing. Then the young people in the Association took over, and the Conservancy Association became completely local. And it continues with many at the decision-making levels, who are Wah Yan Graduates. How happy I am about all this.
I see our consumer patterns ever increasing. Our life patterns must be more “Green” and sustainable. I see us human beings as being part of nature, and sustained by the web of life, that is its life support systems. We are to manage our environment well, so that it is not exhausted in a few decades.
I am heartened to see modern teaching in geography being very environmental conscious. Ecological factors are introduced into many science courses, even in schools, not to speak of tertiary level degrees and studies.
Certainly the students in Wah Yan in recent years show a high degree of environmental concerns, which have come from good teaching at primary levels.
Finally, in the words of the Psalms; Praise Him sun and moon, Praise the Lord mountains and rivers, Praise Him all creatures in the sea and on the land, and Let all that has breath Praise the Lord.
I trace back my vision of life to one similar to St. Francis of Assisi, with his love of Nature which God has created and which shows His Wonders. We are to see ourselves as guardians of the garden of creation, and as cooperators with the Lord in His continuous creation. Management of the environment and its resources is our role, or as was said in the past- we are to be good stewards of creation.
在一九六八年我收到崇基書院副校長Dr. Robert Rayne給我的來信，他邀請我參加「長春社」(Conservancy Association)，他們大約有十位會員，他們是香港大學的動物學教授，中文大學的植物學教授，旅遊協會的會長，教育署的課程發展部，蜆殼公司的公關部，旅遊協會還有另外兩個其他人。