Monthly Archives: November 2009

HK Time Out Magazine: Electric Avenue, Column #16

Between 2009 and 2013, I contributed a short, light-hearted fortnightly political column to Time Out Hong Kong.

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Electric Avenue
What with our splendid public transport system and the high costs of parking, fuel, maintenance, licensing, insurance, registration and tolls, you’d think opting to drive would be the reserve of planet-loathing egomaniacs. And you’d not be wrong, as only 5.3% of Hong Kongers own a vehicle in this, a city built around the automobile.

The outdated Capital Works Reserve Fund ensures there is always cash set aside for never-ending road building projects, yet environmental ruin awaits unless we stand up to the private car owning elite. Praise was heaped upon the city when it finally embraced the electric car this month but unfortunately, this flawed scheme will not lead us to any transport revolution.

Firstly, electric cars will still receive their charge from our dirty coal power stations for decades to come, so they are not CO2 free, especially when manufacturing carbon costs are added. Also, the impractical 5-7 hours recharge time will put a strain on the grid and the driver’s patience. has a solution whereby drivers do not own batteries but instead exchange dead ones at filling stations. Stations maintain battery banks connected to renewable sources and will have vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technology installed to recycle unused power.

The other part of the solution is to quit pandering to the car-wielding minority in the first place, as the restrictions, costs and extravagance of private ownership only make it a more desirable status symbol. Even our filthiest, oldest double-deckers are ultimately greener than having would-be passengers driving electric vehicles. Therefore, we need an annual quota on licences, road pricing, an end to highway construction and funds redirected to cycle lanes, projects to clear the air for pedestrians and subsidies on certain bus routes. Along with a re-think on battery logistics for the few who actually need to drive, this will, collectively, put us in the right lane for a greener city.

HK Time Out Magazine: Stopping the Traffic, Column #15

Between 2009 and 2013, I contributed a short, light-hearted fortnightly political column to Time Out Hong Kong.

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Stopping the traffic
Since the 1922 seamen strike, Hong Kongers have long expressed their grievances and achieved results through protest. Our lack of a voice at the ballot box means over 3,800 public rallies and protest meetings are held annually in the territory. This can make it difficult to catch the attention of the guilty parties being targeted, let alone the fickle mass media.

With such competition, it pays to be imaginative or risk slipping under the radar ignored as yet another ‘McProtest’. The creative approach took on global proportions last month as locals joined the day of grassroots action ahead of December’s climate change meeting in Copenhagen. At 3:50pm on October 24th, hundreds of concerned flashmobbers descended on Central. Worried that Saturday shoppers already resembled a crazed flashmob, organisers secretly ensured that that activists halted traffic by suddenly flooding a crossing, before heading to Bauhinia Square to video-link with fellow campaigners around the world.

Despite being a ‘world city’, our politics and media have always been pretty Hong Kong-centric – after all, the Basic Law assigns diplomatic relations to Beijing. However, we still have autonomy in commercial, domestic and economic decisions and it is likely we will be one of the first places to be affected by global warming. With Donald too busy making money out of the crisis for his relatives, we must engage on an international level ourselves. draws on leading scientists, the governments of 89 countries, and a huge variety of NGOs – all of whom agree that atmospheric CO2 must be safely capped at 350 parts per million.

Shortly after 360 Day, Asian government representatives emerged from a Shanghai climate conference having failed to announce a single concrete initiative. As the ‘last chance’ meeting in Denmark approaches, it’s time to join local NGOs such as Clear the Air, Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth to help effect change before change affects us.