Q1) Natalie, tell us about your upbringing?
In Pic: Young Natalie Chung
I was born and raised in Hong Kong, where I did my education until finishing my Bachelor degree in Geography and Resource Management.
“I think my spark of inspiration for environmentalism was a school project in Primary Five. My school sent me along with several students to compete in a project contest on the topic of ‘Climate Change - What can we do?’". The student conducted an expert interview with the first woman polar explorer in Hong Kong - Dr. Rebecca Lee. “Imagine the Earth is trapped in an oven with escalating temperature, on the verge of explosion”, explained Dr. Lee, while she showcased photographs of melting glaciers.
Growing up with the intimidating thought of living in an oven, I have been particularly aware of my footprints on the environment. Simple consciousness gradually blossomed into a sense of responsibility and mission. I was recently awarded the Eco-Business 2020 Youth A-List as one of the most impactful sustainability leaders in Asia Pacific.
In Pic: COP25 Experience Sharing for Hong Kong Students
2) Please talk about your work/battles in the field of sustainability/environmental protection FOR HONG KONG: Challenges you face and how you spread your message?
Realizing the role of civil society in sparking changes, I co-founded V’air (www.vairhk.com) as an environmental education organization, which bridges the gap between academia, civil society and the government. I have also published two books on sustainable local tourism, namely "Low Carbon Tours" and "Roaming the Mountains - Yama Girls' Hiking Guide". The books introduce nature trails in Hong Kong and educate readers on ecological and geological value of our tiny yet extremely diverse and abundant natural environment.
In Pic: Natalie at the Future City Summit 2020
Our Impact model of V’air starts from experiential learning, we organise local tours for the public for nature exploration, in order to achieve our goals to public education, enlightenment and eventually empowerment of youth, planting seeds in hearts of many to spread the importance of sustainability. We encourage modal shift away from aviation, which generates significant carbon emission. With substantial experience in climate education and sustainability assessment, I was appointed by the Hong Kong Government as a youth member at the Council for Sustainable Development. I organised a youth forum to gauge youth's opinions on the 2050 decarbonisation plan of Hong Kong, and contributed towards the final 2050 carbon neutrality pledge of the government. With the aim to enhance youth engagement and international lobbying capacity in climate change, I co-founded the Hong Kong Youth for Climate Action (HKYCA).
3) Your Vision For HK: How you plan to attain it.
I believe Hong Kong can become a leading city pioneering net zero technologies to for the smooth transition into our low-carbon future. The pathway towards net zero must be a collaborative, inclusive and iterative process across different nationalities, ages and backgrounds.
The Hong Kong Government needs to ramp up fiscal and human investment on energy storage technology and demand management in order not to lose out in the global race for green tech in the net zero future.
In Pic: Social Innovation sharing at the YMCA
4) Anything exciting about V'air that you would like to share?
Oh yes, presently we have an exciting youth empowerment initiative of V'air. We are launching a sustainability youth leader training programme through our internship scheme this summer, and we wish to obtain funding support from foundations or individual philanthropists.
Through this article thanks to LocalHood, if we could spread the news it would be great! If anyone wants on information on this, please contact us on +852 98560301 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
5) Finally, do you want to convey a message to the HK community and to our readers?
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the global community is more aware of the importance of sustainability and climate action.
As we are planning the new era of the city and mobility systems, we should ensure that our plans are in line with climate resilience. The recent Texas electricity outage crisis highlighted the lack of resilience-embedded design in the development and management of utilities. Scholars commented the Biden administration does have a large climate team, but the experts there only focus on mitigation, with insufficient expertise on adaptation and resilience. Similar trajectory is seen in Hong Kong, as we witness approvals for the Airport Third Runway, Lantau Artificial Island which are vulnerable to climate impacts like extreme weather events and sea level rise, at the same time causing irreversible ecological damage to the natural environment.
I believe Hong Kong needs to rethink our purpose of development and ramp up our ambition to tackle poverty, inequality, social mobility and climate justice.
The world may not be changed overnight, and not everyone of us has to be the superhero to save our planet. It is entirely sufficient to be part of the change.