Is this ‘civil society lite’?

An alert observer mentions the World Green Organization – which I’ve never heard of but, according to RTHK, is warning of increased electricity prices as generators shift to natural gas. 

Here’s their website, highlighting various environmental activities, notably with a corporate bent. Coca-Cola/Swire plastic bottle recycling, Mead Johnson formula-can recycling, Great Eagle Group waste reduction, various surveys, walks and government awards ceremonies, and lots of stuff about baby lotion and paper towels. All worthy and overtly non-edgy.

The boards of governors and advisors confirm the group’s moderate/establishment leanings – mostly academics and business people with very long resumes listing membership of obscure government committees, research posts probably dependent on public/corporate funding, and similar tell-tale signs familiar to shoe-shining forensics. One made the SCMP yesterday.

The boss (big bio here) is big into sustainable smart-city innovation stuff – and also on the Town Planning Appeals Board and the Third Runway Advisory Committee. One governor is an independent non-executive director of Power Assets (ie HK Electric), the people who will charge more if they shift away from coal. Another is founder of the Myanmar Chamber of Commerce, and here’s an old plug for a ‘One Belt One Road’ Youth Leadership project in Burma. 

As that last page shows, the group has been around for quite a few years. I personally witnessed one of their plastic bottle Octopus Card rebate machines in action in an office foyer just recently, so they obviously take part in environmentally constructive projects, even if it’s helping businesses do greenwashing. But there are also things they probably won’t do – like protest environmentally ruinous government policies (try their insipid page on air quality).

This is not the first time recently that newly sanitized patriotism-compliant RTHK has featured the WGO with a ‘safe’ non-story – the group’s boss called for Greater Bay Area carbon-trading three weeks back. 

The point is that establishment-linked groups like this will probably be all that’s left as Beijing eliminates the more critical and aggressive parts of Hong Kong’s civil society.

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10 Responses to Is this ‘civil society lite’?

  1. Chris Maden says:

    Greenwash is the right word.

    I’ve spent 19 days in a quarantine hotel with a view of the HKHA’s latest prison / housing estate being constructed:

    Wooden, non-reusable formwork (tropical hardwood) for concrete moulds
    Pre-fab exterior walls with no insulation
    Carriers for old-style, non-split unit, very inefficient air-cons
    Single-glazed windows
    Et cetera

    The activist and journalist George Monbiot calls the stuff about plastic bottles and drinking straws “Micro-consumer bollocks” or MCB. MCB is the sum total of Hong Kong’s environmental policy, and the quislings you mention above use it as a stepping stone into the upper reaches of “government,” not because they give a tinker’s cuss about our planet – or Hong Kong’s quality of life.

    Burn, planet, burn…

  2. Probably says:

    The warning about the transition to natural gas causing price rises is due to the method of profit control based on capital assets. With a new gas plant being installed just gives the supply companies a bigger opportunity to gouge the customers.

  3. Ho Ma Fan says:

    @Chris – I agree. No interest in using alternatives to reinforced concrete, and admixtures of bottom ash etc. are not preferred over virgin concrete. Concrete production being another Hong Kong monopoly supply.
    A few years ago I got a tour of a new HA development, and was told that they were trialling double glazing. I was eager to see this. Turns out that it was just single glazing with another sliding pane behind it, but not a sealed unit. It didn’t cover the full width of the window and was intended only to somewhat reduce noise from the nearby expressway, if the outer window was open. It will never be used for the intended purpose. The site manager told me that immediately after occupation of the brand new units, kitchen tiles would be stripped, fire doors taken off and remodeling work carried out by the tenants. I pointed out that HA tenants aren’t supposed to have 100k for this sort of thing, otherwise they wouldn’t be HA tenants, but he just told me to come back when it was finished and to look at the car park. Benzies etc. Not short of money.

  4. Big Al says:

    With everyone whinging about electricity prices going up, then surely the correct action is Use Less? With buildings consuming 80%(?) of Hong Kong’s energy output, we need mandatory and more stringent “green building” targets on energy efficiency for new buildings and existing buildings. But this costs $. How many new residential buildings have double glazing, insulation and VFR air conditioning, for example, to lower energy usage? Precious few private developments (Swire being a notable exception) because it would add $ to construction cost and eat into $$$ profits. Probably zero for public housing, as evidenced by @Chris Madden, since future occupants are the less wealthy, so fuck’em.
    So, life goes on unchanged. Greenies complain, CO2 continues to increase and people demand hand-outs to offset the additional energy cost.
    JUST USE LESS! OF EVERYTHING! It’s the only sustainable way!

  5. Mary Melville says:

    WGO was launched with a ‘posh’ cocktail party where committed greenies, invited to provide a veneer of grass root participation, quaffed the excellent wine, nibbled the canapes, pretended to lap up the hype, and left with the certainty that this is a group with a big ego and an agenda.
    This is a pro establishment green washing machine.

  6. Toph says:

    There seems to have been nary a peep from the green groups about the Mega Northern Metropolis Extravaganza Electric Boogaloo. The idea that you can leave patches of wetland between forests of skyscrapers and call that wildlife protection is laughable. Of course most of the environmentalist legislators who would point this out are in jail.

    It’s the same thing in the social sector. Room for rich wanker photo ops like donating blankets to the (deserving) poor and after-school activities for the kiddies. Nobody to protest structural inequality. I am not making this up but I recently saw some bigwig funded “age-friendly design exhibition” featuring an ergonomic trash collection trolley for the elderly.

  7. Sam Clemens says:

    One cannot help but notice that, apart from Ms. Law, the WGO Board is a collection of very strange-looking people. Are they all vegans? I think we should be told.

  8. Quango & Cash says:

    “The World Green Organization … is warning of increased electricity prices as generators shift to natural gas.”

    Because any legit green organisation’s primary concern* over fossil fuel power generation post COP26 is that the electricity generated should be cheap enough for everyone to use more of it.

    *Primary concern after their annual dinner, obviously.

  9. where's my jet plane says:

    OT but it’s worth a giggle, the idea of a statutory body for fortune tellers – and, of course, the seriousness of the offence. I’m surprised the NIP aren’t on the case.

  10. Numb Baa says:

    @where’s my jet plane

    Can’t help thinking a real numerologist would’ve known when her number was up.

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