Don’t forget the rainforest while fighting for freedom

Opinion04.10.2019Ming-Yin Ho
Mingyin Ho
Yin in the Pacific Crest Trail

While most of Hong Kongers have been occupied by the freedom movement in recent months, another crisis is happening in the other side of the globe that concerns not just us, but all human beings around the world: the Amazon wildfire.

Since June, the fire has continued burning down hundreds of thousands of hectares of rainforest in the Amazon region and it shows no signs of stopping in the near future. Evidence shows that most of them are not wildfires that occurred naturally. Instead, they were set deliberately to create space for agriculture and livestock.

Brazil is the largest exporter of beef. It accounts for nearly 20% of global exports. Last year, the country shipped 1.64 million tons of beef, a record high in history. Where does the land come from for more meat production? The rainforest.

Surprisingly, Hong Kong with a population of roughly 8 million, is the biggest importer of Brazilian meat products, which accounts for 24% of the total export, ahead of China (19%), the EU (7%) and the US (2%),  according to a report in 2018 by Brazil’s Secretariat of Foreign Trade (SECEX). It may not be our own hands setting all these illegal fires, but Hong Kongers cannot neglect our responsibilities for this environment catastrophe.

So how could we help save the rainforest?

The answer may sound simple: eat less meat. Switching to a diet that contains less meat will not only help abate deforestation but also reduce the emissions involved in importing meat by air and sea. Compare this to vegetables that can be grown locally or imported from nearer places such as China or Taiwan. And eating less meat is also good for your health: The World Health Organization research shows that red meat is strongly associated with cancer.

However, even if all of us become vegetarians or vegans, that is still not enough to cope with the more severe problem of global warming. The amount of carbon dioxide that we emit in the atmosphere is way much higher than all forest in the world can absorb.

The government should take the lead in dealing with the current climate crisis. Nevertheless, as individuals, we cannot just cross our arms and hope that the government will respond. It is time for us to re-think our way of living to a more environment-friendly lifestyle. Think twice before buying anything and consider the packages of all the products that we buy. Don’t buy anything that is not necessary.

We should also try to be minimalist consumers. Every consumption that we make has a hidden environmental impact in the world. Even when participating in demonstrations, we should try to leave as less carbon footprint as possible.

When you wonder if individual actions may seem to have very little impact, remember the famous saying of Dalai Lama, “If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito.”

Yin is a program manager at FNF Global Innovation Hub in Hong Kong. Before joining the Foundation, he worked as Project Manager for REMONDIS, a global company that works in the area of waste management. He describes himself as a nature freak who likes hiking and camping. Last summer, he hiked the Pacific Crest Trail in the US for five months.