On World Environment Day consider how our profligate pollution contributes to crisis

Today is World Environment Day and I urge everybody to pledge to go green for Planet Earth. Just a month ago the United Nations released a report on biodiversity that highlights the accelerating threat of extinction to 1 million plant and animal species. It calls on decision-makers in government and business worldwide to steer us away from this unsustainable path.
The report also reveals many other pressing issues including climate change, forest destruction and plastic pollution that deserve serious attention, arguing that the world must make “transformative” changes immediately.
The report says global crop production has tripled since 1970. Nevertheless, over 800 million people are still undernourished. Tragically, according to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation, around one third of all food produced worldwide goes to waste.
Food production uses a lot of natural resources, such as water, energy and unpolluted land. But now these resources are either in increasingly short supply or contaminated by pollution. Food and water are the basic supports not just of life but of economic viability.
Humans live in a fragile environment where every species has its specific role to play in keeping the ecosystem in balance. For instance, food crops require pollination. But insects, such as bees and butterflies, are rapidly vanishing and this will retard pollination and eventually reduce crop yields.
Just a glance at the lifestyle of Hongkongers shows our appalling contribution to the dire environmental crisis revealed in the report. On average, we consume 664 grams of meat daily, which is 5.6 times the global average. Our per capita seafood consumption is three times higher than the global average.
According to a University of Hong Kong study, when using consumption-based accounting for our greenhouse gas emissions, our compact city has the seventh-highest per capita emission rate among 113 regions.
In March, around 1,000 students skipped class to protest against our government’s lack of action on climate change. When even schoolchildren are concerned enough about the environment to take action, I feel ashamed of our government’s slowness to combat the environmental crisis locally and globally.
Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor and Secretary for the Environment Wong Kam-sing, I beg you to lead Hong Kong away from its profligate pollution and destruction of species, and to move towards an honourable policy on sustainability worthy of our city’s position as a global financial centre.
Edwin Lau
Executive Director of The Green Earth
5 June 2019 SCMP