Lam Man-Ho Adrian

Nomadic Researcher – HKU Common Core


The annual APRU conference that took place at the University of Hong Kong this year is definitely a fruitful start for our group of Nomads. It is happy to see how different professional delegates are being active and enthusiastic in expressing their views on various issues and engaging in the wide range of activities, in relation to the overarching theme of sustainability city and landscape. As one of the Nomads, it is delighted for me to take this opportunity to share some insights regarding my first-hand experience through floating across the groups.

Although there are certainly natural sources of warming like livestock, our consumption of everything from meat to fossil fuels is the major factor behind the acceleration of temperature changes and environmental dysfunctions that we are experiencing. In particular for Hong Kong, our very dense population, compact built environment, vibrant service economy, and massive consumption of resources are definitely unsustainable. We must all acknowledge the cruel reality that our anthropocentric practices are imposing global threat to peace, stability, and prosperity in the contemporary world. In early March 2018, UN special rapporteur John Knox even suggested that it was time for the global community to recognise the right to a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment for the full enjoyment of many human rights, including the rights to life, health, food, water, and development. His claim signals the rhetoric of hope and commitment to sustainability through advocating participatory and action-oriented approaches.

Lamentably, nowadays, when issues emerge that have a core relevance for sustainability, they are often tackled by different governments from a paternalistic and condescending perspective. Meanwhile, many of them are stopgap measures that do not really bear a consistent policy ideology but merely formulated to offer an instantaneous and a short-term fix. Therefore, a dynamic and an interactive conference platform like this is definitely essential to opening up a wide range of possibilities through diverse representation. This can of course facilitate a better understanding and resolution of problems, and also spur more innovation and originality. Concerns and experiences from delegates of different background could be considered and integrated into the genuine processes of design, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation of policies and strategies with regard to sustainability.

Meanwhile, the entire of conference of collaborative nature encourages delegates to shape both ideas and norms with communication and cooperation, which helps generate the desired outcome together. This can lead to stronger interest, greater commitment, and enhanced engagement among participants in order to address the overall sustainable agenda. This is unfortunately another missing yet crucial element in typical academic conference, whereas most of the presenters emphasise a lot on pitching and achieving individually. The societal dynamic is not as competitive and as zero-sum as we always perceive. Both cross-sector practices and cross-border collaborations can play a very positive role in the transmission of relevant knowledge and experience, and the development of different problem-solving mechanisms.

In view of this, despite the specific focus of each working group, each group is attempting to connect the dots between top-down visions and bottom-up initiatives when it comes to unleashing the unlimited potentials towards sustainability. Sustainability could be and also should be both conceptual and experiential if we are to effect global change in values, habits, and lifestyles. Such an intrinsically linked network is prominent for us to figure out all sorts of prompt actions, mid-term strategies, and long-term policies to deal with the challenges ahead. Concrete discussions include growing of crops in resilient and regenerative ways, restoring water in a clean and an accessible manner, avoiding the generation of waste by-products, establishing urban green architecture and infrastructure, as well as mapping out the pathways for energy resilience.

The 4-day intensive yet intellectual discussion demonstrates that sustainability could be a strategic approach that goes far beyond facile slogans. Stakeholder engagement is always possible that ensures all proposals and policies are founded on an inclusiveness that allows the full richness of the individual’s expertise to be expressed in diverse ways to multiple audiences. Based on my cross-group observations, I am pretty sure that these parallel working groups are developing a coherent and a coordinated strategy. There is a firm and clearly signalled commitment regarding the pressing need for a sustainable future. Of course, the success of such vision will depend largely on the response of the community to the proposals and to similar initiatives in various areas.

At this critical juncture, with endless disputes and conflicts over the issue of sustainability, our fragile world apparently needs more critical and innovative modes of thinking to solve all problems, big or small. I sincerely believe all delegates and us can always draw on our fruitful discussion and take the respective community we occupy and impact a step forward. In fact, our knowledge-based world never lacks intelligent people. However, only a very few are both knowledgeable and compassionate. Meanwhile, many of us are still in lack of the vision and the courage to build a less polluted and less wasteful future. Our society certainly needs more enthusiastic and passionate individuals to contribute to sustainable development along the lifelong journey. As a global citizen in this interconnected and interdependent global village, we can all make a difference, as we are the future. May this difference be rooted in clear thinking and sharp sensitivity towards diversity and sustainability.