Imagining “the new normal” for our environment
By Tiffany Cheung
Amidst the endless disruptions and uncertainties brought about by the pandemic, there appears to be a glimmer of hope for some long-time residents of our waters. The halt of sea traffic has seen Hong Kong’s rare pink dolphins make a comeback to the much calmer waterways. Though conservationists are hopeful about such a dramatic change, these are just early days, and it is doubtful that this “unprecedented quiet” can be sustained in the long-term in one of the world’s busiest seas. Cleaner air, less traffic congestion, and a fall in CO2 emissions are some of the other positive thing this global economic lockdown has brought us. It begs the question — must we really strive to return to ‘normal’, or is this the ‘second chance’ for our society to really step up and protect the environment we live in?
Covid-19 has showed us the importance of civic duty to limit the spread of the virus — the fight relies on each individual’s willingness to adopt new practices. As we are forced to change our habits which call our consumption-oriented lifestyles into question, there is arguably no better time to extend this strong sense of civic duty and adopt a more environmentally conscious mindset. Climate-conscious initiatives have already been growing in popularity over the past few years; meat alternatives, plant-based eating, reusable containers and no-waste policies have made their way into popular culture.
However, there is only so much collective individual action can achieve without the support of the government. Varying responses by governments around the world have made it painfully clear how crucial leadership is to take timely action and respond swiftly to crises. For climate change, our infrastructural resilience can only be achieved if climate policies are put in the forefront. This is a slow and creeping crisis and alarms have long been blaring — bush fires and devastating floods are all part of the exponential increase in extreme natural disasters. Being one of the forerunners in combating infectious diseases, Hong Kong can certainly take the same aggressive approach to make the radical transition to a low-carbon economy.