I Want You To Panic

By Woody Chan 16 May, 2019

CWR's Chan speaks for his generation & children everywhere - we need you to get off your a**es

I am scared about climate change - so much so that I am entertaining Thanos' theory of culling half the population to ensure sufficient resources; this is clearly mad but we need more panic
Ever since Greta Thunberg’s speech at COP24, school strikes for climate action have sprouted up, even in HK but the education bureau condemned it - our youth needs a stronger platform
Perhaps we should be helping govt officials jump out of the box with an ideas lab for them & youths; it's time for a system change & decision makers have to step up for their kids' future

 “Inevitable”. That was how Thanos from the Avengers film described wiping out half the universe. And the closer we edge to a full-blown climate crisis, the more convincing his argument that the population has to be culled to ensure enough resources becomes.

This scares me. We are not supposed to sympathise with this maniac character and yet here I am thinking: could this be a way to avoid climate catastrophe? After all we only have barely 11 years to close our emissions gap and nothing seems to be changing.

Of course killing half the planet is madness and extreme, to say the least. Yet the fact that I even gave it a thought shows how desperate and hopeless I feel about our future.

As the youngest member of the CWR team I’m supposed to be the most optimistic but no, I am scared

As the youngest member of the CWR team I’m supposed to be the most optimistic and least cynical. I’m supposed to look forward to a bright future and hope for the best. But no, I see the wildfires, floods, super typhoons and I am scared. I am panicking. The status quo needs to change and I want YOU to panic too.

“The seas are rising so are we”

I am not alone. Ever since Greta Thunberg’s rousing speech at COP24 last year, youths all over the globe have risen up to show how worried they are about their future and school strikes for climate action have sprouted in many cities including London, San Francisco, Helsinki and more.

Ever since Greta Thunberg’s rousing speech at COP24 last year, school strikes for climate action have sprouted…

…there was even one in Hong Kong

There was even one in Hong Kong in March and with the strike close to CWR’s office, I went over to take a look. Compared to the strikes in Paris, London or Amsterdam, which was attended by thousands, Hong Kong’s strike was not as grand in scale. At its peak there were only about a thousand students but nevertheless, I was encouraged to see such enthusiasm and willingness to act. Student leaders gave impassioned speeches and led chants and in the end, they submitted a letter proposal to the Education Bureau. You can read more about that here.

Hong Kong’s Education Bureau warned that the school strikes were disrupting school order & learning

But amidst the bustle and fervor, I found myself wanting more. Why, for one, were most of the students from international schools? Was it because their education system allowed more flexibility and lateral thinking instead of focusing on grades? Maybe local schools had to heed the Education Bureau’s warning that the strikes were disrupting school order and learning?

Surely one day of learning is less important than ensuring that they have a future they can survive in?

This was extremely disappointing especially when considering that in the Finnish city of Turku the school board declared that children had a constitutional right to take part in the strikes. Surely one day of learning is less important than ensuring that they have a future they can survive in?

“One day I will vote” but by then it’ll be too late?

Climate change affects young people’s futures so it’s only right that they should have a say. Just weeks after the strike I gave two TEDx talks on climate change and the need for urgent action at a university and a high school. And again I had mixed feelings. On the one hand, the audience (mostly students) were engaged and showed interest. On the other hand, only a handful of them actually came up to me afterwards to learn more about the issues and what they can do.

So why were they so reserved? Were they too shy? We have deprived our youth of their voice for so long but the truth is they have the creativity and the ideas that adults simply wouldn’t even dream of.

We have deprived our youth of their voice for so long but they have the ideas that adults simply wouldn’t even dream of…

…by the time they can vote it may be too late

Surely we have to help them express these ideas by giving them adequate platforms and channels instead of waiting to be heard through the ballot box. By the time youths can vote it may be too late. Organisations like Youth Climate Leaders are already making headway in getting them engaged and maybe we need more museums dedicated to climate change to raise more climate-conscious youths?

“System change not climate change”

The kids want system change, not climate change. They want governments to take holistic action to mitigate and adapt to climate change. They want banks and financial institutions to take climate risks seriously and invest in climate-related tech. They want corporates to go “business unusual” and develop a circular economy.

The good news is, financial institutions are moving faster and are some have begun looking at climate and climate-related water risks in their portfolios. After all, we don’t want to lose out savings. Businesses are still doing “trial and error” with defining “business unusual” and some are seeing success. However, government action is lagging, especially in Hong Kong as they are still working under the old paradigm. Perhaps it is is our fault that we are not helping them jump out of the box to lead holistic and innovative action? Perhaps the ideas lab that we hosted for investors and business leaders should also be adapted for government officials and students so they can share brainwaves and experiences. If you are interested in this call us up!

Perhaps we can host an ideas lab for government officials & students so they can share brainwaves & experiences…

… if you are interested in this call us up!

“There is no Planet B”

Unlike in the Avengers film we don’t have time travel to undo climate destruction. Nor is there another planet we can readily jet off to. People are already suffering from “eco-anxiety” but the lack of urgency may be because the phrase “climate change” is not scary enough. It’s time to call it like it is – we face a “climate crisis” now.

Some of you may not be around to see the sh*t hit the fan but I will be, so will your children and grandchildren. Decision makers reading this – your chance to make the right choice is here so drop us a line to find out how. All the rest of us? We can too make a difference by changing our habits. I want YOU to panic.


Further Reading

  • Treading Water: Corporate Responses To Rising Water Challenges – From setting water targets to engaging value chains, companies are improving key aspects of water management but incremental action is no longer enough. CDP’s James Lott brings us key findings from their latest report
  • China Goes Circular: 6 Success Stories – China is already embracing a circular economy and businesses are following suit so which ones are leading the pack? Nick Jeffries from Ellen MacArthur Foundation expands
  • Inside The World’s First Museum Of Climate Change In HK – It is the world’s first museum of climate change but what does it really do? Take a brief tour with its director Cecilia Lam and explore its four key initiatives from education activities to an action monitor
  • Empowering Youth To Face Climate Change – Youths face great barriers to land a job or start their own initiatives in the field of climate change but Youth Climate Leaders is aiming to change that. Find out more from their Cassia Moraes & Fernanda Matsuoka
  • No Planet B: HK’s School Strike For Climate Action – As the strike wound down we caught up with one of the speakers, South Island School’s Adele Lo, to find out her views on climate change and inaction in Hong Kong. Could she be our Greta Thunberg?

Woody Chan
Author: Woody Chan
Woody conducts research on the water-energy-climate nexus and related hidden risks including rare earths and other critical raw materials essential to the clean tech and high tech industries. His analysis can be found in the 2017 CLSAU Blue Book on “Toxic Phones: China controls the core” which examines pollution driven regulatory risks of minerals behind the mobile interface from the touchscreen to vibrations & sound. Working on this nexus also led him to explore trade-offs with food security and agriculture in the region. Besides research, Woody also coordinates and manages CWR’s flagship monthly newsletter including the management of our extensive network of contributors and has interviewed many water luminaries on CWR’s behalf. Moreover, he oversees all content updates in CWR’s website.Born in Hong Kong, Woody graduated from the University of Cambridge in 2016 with a BA in Geography. Concerned with the extent and effects of wastewater discharge in China, the topic of his dissertation, he joined CWR upon graduation. Furthermore, Woody also leads education outreach for CWR. To date, he has given TEDx talks at Hong Kong Baptist University and Diocesan Boys School on water and climate risks. Additionally, he has been invited to be a keynote speaker at the KGV (ESF School) Alliance. In the longer term, he wants to help improve education in Hong Kong & Asia to account for water and environmental risks.
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