No Planet B: HK’s School Strike For Climate Action

By Adele Lo 16 May, 2019

After the strike we caught up with South Island School's Lo, a student speaker. Could she be HK's Greta Thunberg?

~1,000 students, parents & activists joined HK's School Strike for Climate Action; representatives are calling for a new committee on climate change, doubling renewable energy usage & more
The strike has raised awareness but it’s not enough; Hong Kongers have to realise that yes, there are other urgent issues, but the issue of sustainability is key, because sustainability is survival
Going meatless one day a week, refusing the plastic bag & straw or choosing the fan instead of the air con are all everyday straightforward steps we can take; there may be more strikes so stay tuned
Adele Lo
Author: Adele Lo
Born and raised in Hong Kong, Adele is a 16 year old student with a bright smile and a strong will. With a passion for service and volunteerism, she loves integrating her interests to create tangible change. Adele is an avid bookworm and food lover, and will either be seen curled up with a good book, baking (and then eating) or volunteering with children in her spare time. Her eagerness to make a difference paired with her insatiable love for food is certainly reflected in her accomplishments; Adele is always ready to learn something new and is headed to Italy next to continue her journey of driving change!
Read more from Adele Lo →

2030 is the key deadline for tackling climate change and it’s time to get our act together. Awareness and action in Hong Kong is still lagging but things are changing. In mid-March, Hong Kong’s students came together to strike for climate action, urging the Hong Kong government to stop turning a blind eye to climate change.

What motivated the students to strike? What are they calling on Hong Kong’s government to do? We caught up with Adele Lo, a speaker at the strike from South Island School, to find out more.

CWR: First off, well done on such a rousing speech during the strike – so what first motivated you to get involved in such a momentous event? Were you happy with the turnout?

Adele Lo (AL): Thank you so much! I was not expecting such an spectacular turnout at all! I honestly anticipated at most a couple hundred people would join – imagine my surprise when almost a thousand students, parents and activists alike showed up!

As for how I got involved, I recall seeing a post about the strike on social media. I distinctly remember asking my friends about it – and I remember them laughing it off; not taking it seriously whatsoever. I myself started to see it as yet another student protest that would be nothing but a nuisance; it wasn’t until I started looking it up and coming across the founder, Greta Thunberg, when my mindset shifted entirely!

“I was immensely inspired by Greta, who is the same age as myself”

As a passionate advocate of climate change, I was immensely inspired by Greta, who is the same age as myself, and yet is single-handedly turning the tide on climate action by highlighting the crisis the world is in. I knew that I couldn’t stand by and become yet another person who would laugh off such an endeavour to tackle climate action, and so I decided to be the change- not only attend the strike, but also deliver a speech as well! If you told me a few years ago I would boycott school and speak at a student strike, I would have never believed you!

Although boycotting school did cause hesitation, I knew wholeheartedly that I had to take a stand in what I believed in – after all what is the point in our education system when we are failing to educate future generations about the most important subject of all – the planet we live on? I’m eternally grateful to have such understanding and supportive parents who always encourage me to chase my passions (as long as I’m safe!)

“Although boycotting school did cause hesitation…

… but what is the point in our education system when we are failing to educate future generations about the most important subject of all – the planet we live on?”

CWR: So at the end of the strike you submitted a proposal letter to HK’s education bureau. Can you briefly summarise for us what it contained?

AL: I would like to just start by saying that although I did participate and speak at the strike, I was not in charge of organising the strike and hence not directly involved in constructing or submitting the proposal to the government.

Students’ requests included a new committee & doubling HK’s target renewable energy to combat climate change

However the three student representatives who did are currently in talks with legislators and pushing for our requests to be met (see more here); some examples include creating a new committee to combat climate change which includes the general public and activists, as well as the introduction of a new role “commissioner for Combating Climate Change”, which have been amended from the initial requests. Another major proposal calls for at least doubling Hong Kong’s target renewable energy usage, something Hong Kong is falling behind with the rest of the developed world.

CWR: Now that the strike is over – what’s next? Is there anything being planned by the student organisers? Do you have any ideas on how to take it to the next level?

AL: There are talks to hold another strike sometime soon- one thing that is definitely being targeted is to encourage more local school students to participate, since international school students were the predominant attendees at the strike. If you want to stay connected to the strike and the government proposal talks, you can follow the School’s Strike Hong Kong for Climate Action’s facebook page- they post regular updates there!

“The school strike has definitely raised awareness in terms of challenging society’s ignorance to the global climate system… but it’s still not enough.”

I think Hong Kong citizens lack a critical and comprehensive understanding of the climate change issue on a global scale. The school strike has definitely raised awareness in terms of challenging society’s ignorance to the global climate system and has ignited conversations about climate action within schools, friends and families – but it’s still not enough.

Personally I feel that we might need to advertise the strike more so people take it seriously; perhaps boost the scale of the strike next time so that we can create more impact – since we only marched from central to the government headquarters, I feel that it doesn’t reach the optimum potential to create a tangible impact on citizens!

CWR: Personally, what are you doing to tackle climate change and protect the environment? Is there something you think we can all do in Hong Kong?

AL: Well, first of all I am vegan (I don’t consume any animal products). To me it is paramount that I practise what I preach, and I believe that starts with the most basic thing- what I put in my body and what I put on my plate. Veganism plays a big role in tackling climate change on a personal scale, and I think because meat based living is so heavily ingrained in our culture, Hong Kongers don’t realise the fact that the meat industry is the leading sector behind rising greenhouse gas emissions and is contributing to climate change in a worrying manner.

“I am vegan…

…cutting down meat consumption has mind blowing benefits”

Cutting down meat consumption has mind blowing benefits- not only does it help to alleviate world hunger, minimise deforestation and pollution, but studies published by the Guardian, Oxford University and many more have shown that it is absolutely essential if we are to stand a chance in avoiding a climate breakdown. If we as global citizens aren’t able to reduce our heavy meat based living in order to save our planet- then how are we to expect our representatives to pave the way for a better future? How are we to expect a future at all?

There was an article published by the Guardian a while back which really caught my eye, the headline read: “We label fridges to show their environmental impact – Why not food?” I guess you could say that was food for thought!

Besides from that, I am also actively involved in many sustainable endeavours, such as campaigning for a plastic bag ban in Hong Kong with friends across Hong Kong, through our student led initiative Bye Bye Plastic Bags! However I believe there is still much for me to do; I feel that as part of the future generation it is my responsibility to make the planet a better place for all that live in it (that might be a Nelson Mandela quote actually!). Although globalisation is leading to Hong Kong’s rapid development, I find that we are actually falling behind in terms of sustainability.

“Hong Kong’s style of living is not sustainable whatsoever…

… if everyone in the world lived a Hong Kong lifestyle we would need more than three earths to sustain us.”

In short, Hong Kong’s style of living is not sustainable whatsoever. As I mentioned previously, the issue of climate action in Hong Kong seems to frequently get overlooked or overwhelmed by other “practical” issues such as housing, the economy, democracy, to name a few. As Hong Kong citizens we seem to forget that we are all a part of the global climate system, and if everyone in the world lived a Hong Kong lifestyle we would need more than three earths to sustain us – a key point I had highlighted in my speech at the strike. We are paving the way for an irrevocable future where there will no longer be “Winters” – and when I say that I don’t mean centuries later when everyone reading this is long dead – I’m talking in a mere matter of decades, when I wouldn’t even have lived half my life yet. What then?

Hong Kongers have to realise that yes, there are other urgent issues, but the issue of sustainability is fundamental to every single one of them, because sustainability is survival. If we don’t tackle climate change, there will be more deadly diseases caused by pests to come – Measles will be nothing in comparison. If we don’t tackle climate change, we will face many more super typhoons and devastating disasters – remember Mangkhut? The one that destroyed thousands of windows and tore down sides of buildings and trees? That would only be one of many to come.

We as local citizens and global citizens need to be willing to take the first step and commit to saving our planet from its dire situation. Going meatless one day a week, refusing the plastic bag and straw or choosing the fan instead of the air conditioning are all everyday straightforward steps we can take to reduce our carbon footprint and make a change in our society!

CWR: Lastly, how do you feel about climate change going forward? Are you optimistic?

AL: You might be expecting me to say “yes, I’ve been seeing increased awareness and mobilisation to confront the issue of climate change”, and end this interview with optimism. But truth be told, I’m not optimistic.

There are far too many times where I’ve made remarks about tackling climate change and people stare at me as if I sprouted a third eye, and then turn it into a joke. There are far too many times where my friends complain about global warming, and then continue to eat steaks and hamburgers without a care in the world. There are far too many times where I feel that there might be a chance that we finally realise the crisis we are in – but people turn away, close that link, close that window, close that door.

“Ignorance is a dangerous thing – and so is indifference.”

Whilst I am incredibly inspired and motivated by climate activists, celebrities and individuals rising up to face the crisis, I also feel that as a society we need to be willing to commit to save our planet. We need to be willing to understand the situation we are facing and make the vital changes needed to rescue the Earth. Ignorance is a dangerous thing – and so is indifference.

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
  • I Want You To Panic – As we edge closer to a climate crisis, Thanos from Avengers Endgame doesn’t seem so crazy anymore. Hear what China Water Risk’s Woody Chan has to say for his generation & children everywhere
  • 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
  • Time To Get Radical – Alarm bells are ringing for climate change but we are still wedded to the ‘norm’ and on track to miss even the 2°C target. With time running out and serious implications for Asia’s water resources, China Water Risk’s Debra Tan calls for more flashes of brilliance
  • Diet, Food Waste & Kids In 5 Graphics – Agriculture emits as much greenhouse gas as electricity and this needs to change. CWR’s Woody Chan sees 3 ways to reduce this, from changing diets and cutting food waste to fewer kids
  • YouTube: The Dark Side Of Going Viral – We are already addicted to the internet, YouTube, Netflix, apps and still forecasts show major growth. China Water Risk’s Woody Chan unwraps the darkside of our runaway data use
  • Fashion Has The Power To Shape A 2℃ World – If fashion were a country it would have the fourth highest carbon emissions behind the US, China, & India. China Water Risk’s Dawn McGregor & Debra Tan question why the industry is not under the spotlight like coal and call for faster disruptions
  • To Tea Or Not – Black, Green Or Milk? – Tea is the second most drunk beverage after coffee but what does it mean for water, for carbon? Does the type of tea matter? Plus, see what consumers can do to reduce impact
  • Youth & Water – 3 Key Takeaways from Egypt & Stockholm – China Water Risk intern Alex Whitebrook shares key takeaways from his recent trips for the World Youth Parliament for Water. See what’s on their minds