Everyone has a role in conserving public resources
There circulates on the web an article about an old German lady, who, upon seeing a delegation of Chinese business executives leaving a restaurant with a table full of unfinished food, upbraided them for being wasteful and called in staff members from the local social welfare office. When the latter found out what it was all about, they issued a fine to the delegation with this advice, "Order what you can eat. You may have the money to pay for the food, but you have no reason or the right to waste public resources."
It so happened that not too long ago, some Japanese arrived in China to volunteer in desert-control projects on the similar ground that the environmental resources do not belong to China alone, but also belong to Japan and to the world as a whole.
After the Fukushima nuclear accident in March 2011, I wrote a series of articles about energy, especially the development of nuclear energy and the accompanying safety issues. On many occasions I mentioned the importance of energy conservation. Energy, like all other things of the environment of the earth, is one of the public resources shared by the whole human race. For the sake of sustainable development, nobody has the right to be wasteful in a world of depleting energy resources. Unfortunately, instances of energy wastage can be found everywhere.
Take the air-conditioning in public places in Hong Kong for example, which can easily be turned up by five degrees celsius. Many office buildings are left brightly lit after office hours, even when no one is doing any work inside. In addition to being a waste of energy, the light pollution of commercial neon lights is harmful to the ecology. As long as we make an effort, we can easily reduce power consumption in Taiwan and Hong Kong by 10%.
At the time when we are using up the world's energy, our effort in cherishing and conserving energy resources has by contrast been disappointing. In mainland China, for example, the number of vehicles has already reached 200 million, far surpassing the estimated number of 100 million vehicles for 2020. It is now using 450 million tons of crude oil per year, crossing the red line of oil consumption 10 years in advance of what is estimated for 2020. Failure to control China's oil consumption will bring great pressure on the whole world in the future.
Amory Lovins, a scientist of American energy policy, states that the U.S. economy could grow to 2.6 times its present size, get completely off oil, coal and nuclear energy and use one-third less natural gas by 2050, if it could reduce waste of energy at homes, in offices, factories and vehicles and improve energy efficiency.
As a matter of fact, everyone can start conserving energy in their daily life, by, for example, turning off computers, lights, air-conditioners and other electrical appliances upon leaving the room. Except for those who have to be on duty around the clock, people can turn off their mobile phones before going to bed. Climb a few flights of stairs instead of taking the elevator; walk instead of driving or taking public transportation. Once the good habit is formed, it can then be extended to other aspects of our life, which will make a world of difference in due course.
Hong Kong is a prosperous and outstanding city in many respects, widely regarded as a first-rate international city. In the area of energy conservation and environmental protection, however, the examples given above show that it has yet to reach international standard. Some university students, healthy and able in every way, would rather depend on transportation for a walk of less than ten minutes. It is embarrassing when you think of it.
It takes time for nature to provide us with our limited resources. We must learn to treasure them and make the best use of them. Let's start with little things to save energy and protect all things on earth.
If one holds stubbornly onto one's opinions and regards them as the unalterable truth, our society will come to a standstill. A totally unrestrained society will only deprive us of the freedom to protect our environment.
January 7, 2013