Merrin Pearse's Blog

Lantau Island, Hong Kong
Dr Merrin Pearse is passionate about the Natural Environment (yes animals, bugs and trees) and helping people to realize that economic and environmental sustainability are one. Raised on a dairy farm in New Zealand and with a background in Land Surveying (specializing in precise positioning through the use of GPS equipment) his work has connected him with all continents and taken him to amazing places where he has seen some of the best and worst examples of human "development". He has a wide range of international experience working for Government Departments, SMEs, international companies and NGO’s in quality assurance, auditing, sustainability, benchmarking and community engagement roles which have provided him with a unique perspective on team dynamics. Currently based in Hong Kong with his wife Louise, Merrin is a Communication and Marketing Consultant to Friends of the Earth (HK) 4 days per week. In addition to freelance work, he co-organizes Hong Kong Green Drinks and is an active member of a number of environmental organizations.

Exploring "Sustainability"

Some initial thoughts
August 20, 2012

Sustainability is a word that is very popular at the moment, though how would you describe it to someone in the context of Hong Kong?  In terms of Financial Sustainability, Hong Kong is certainly known as a trading and financial hub of the world.  With so many people reliant on these sectors for their career, you can understand the eagerness of government and business to maintain these sectors.  However, at what cost does that financial sustainability come?  Many people in Hong Kong work incredibly long hours with very little recreation time. Is that really sustainable?
 
In terms of Environmental Sustainability Hong Kong has some amazing attributes.  It has about 70% of its region designated as open space.  This however results in a population of over 7 million having to live close to each other – you could say even on top of each other!  Although, with this close living, Hong Kong is able to boast an amazing public transport system including a profitable public railway system plus a very low car ownership level.  With 100’s of islands and 100’s of kilometers of walking trails you can easily escape from “built-up” areas.  You can be on a beach all by yourself (albeit with rubbish playing in the waves), however the protection of natural ecosystems occupying these open spaces, or marine environments in general, could be better, as often protection laws are poorly if at all enforced.
 
In Hong Kong, like in many parts of the world, development is often seen as a measure of progress.  The building of infrastructure of huge proportions; such as road bridges along with the skyscrapers, can dominate the skyline.  Though how can it be that in a City that has such amazing infrastructure there can be 1 in 5 people living in poverty and 1 in 3 seniors struggling to meet their basic nutritional needs!
 
It is these kind of extremes that I enjoy exploring and through upcoming articles I will share ideas and observations that I see as conflicting with my concept of Sustainable Development.  For those of you not familiar with the term you might like to begin with that of the Brundtland Commission of the United Nations from March 20, 1987: “sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

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