In Hong Kong there is an abundance of buildings, concrete, and neon flashy lights. It is a case study in extreme urbanism. In order to care about our planet, the environment, and a sustainable built environment, one has to know nature, to understand what is worth being protected. So, I have been wondering how much people in Hong Kong really care about sustainability as an effort to protect the environment. After all, this is the city that gave up significant portions of their natural harbor in order to create more land to build more concrete buildings.
In our meeting with Paul Zimmerman (Designing Hong Kong), Christine Loh, and Andrew Larson (Civic Exchange) I learned about a project in Hong Kong that illustrates the point that knowing nature leads to caring about nature. There is a beach north of the city called Tai Long Sai Wan. The beach is one of the few large accessible waterfront public natural spaces in Hong Kong, and people have come to enjoy recreating in this area. We were told that this beach drew lots of people from different walks of life who liked to hike and recreate on the property, even the super-rich would bring their yachts to this area of beach. So, when a big developer bought this piece of ground from the government and planned to develop residences and privatize the space, Hong Kong residents were up in arms. A Facebook petition was signed by those who wanted to stop the development of this public natural amenity, and had over 80,000 Facebook “likes” by those who have come to appreciate the area, or wish to see it preserved for their use in the future. This impressive act of grass roots public organizing was enough to convince the government to halt the development of this piece of property. The use of the land is set to be reevaluated in a few years, and the fate after that remains unknown. But, for now, Hong Kong activists have come together to make a strong statement about the importance of conserving the natural environment for public use. The developer is currently gardening on the site.