During the last few months we've heard little in the news except for the SARS outbreak and the war in Iraq. So you might be forgiven for failing to notice that a couple of weeks ago it was Earth Day. This is a day when people around the world go on marches to try to bring to the attention of the government and the general public some of the environmental problems we are facing. In Hong Kong there was going to be a march to highlight the problem of air pollution in the city. As you know air pollution is a major problem here, and virtually every day a chemical smog hangs over the city making it difficult to see clearly into the distance. However, the march was cancelled because of SARS.

There are, of course, other environmental issues, and one problem which is faced by countries all around the world is what to do with our waste. What happens to all of that rubbish that we throw out? Where does it all go? Here in Hong Kong we produce about 10,000 tons of rubbish a day, including a yearly total of about 250,000 personal computers (in Japan they are dumping about 50,000,000 computers a year!). Most of this ends up in landfills in the New Territories. These are basically big holes in the ground which we fill up, cover with earth, and leave to rot. Unfortunately, rotting rubbish gives off large amounts of methane which is ten times more potent than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas, as well as leaching toxic chemicals into the ground and thereby eventually polluting the water systems. So it can be seen that landfill sites can cause as many problems as they solve. One solution is to recycle as much of our waste as we can. It is estimated that about 80% of waste could be recycled, and some countries are striving hard to achieve that. In Hong Kong we recycle a small amount, and right here in the school we have recycling bins for paper, plastic bottles and aluminium cans. We should all make sure that we use those bins.

However, some of you may be interested in doing a bit more to help protect the environment, and I would like to urge those people to seriously consider joining the Eco-Club that I want to establish in the school. The club will concern itself with environmental issues, focusing especially on what we can do right here as well as in our own homes. I'm looking for people who are willing to search out information on environmental issues; to produce colourful posters to place around school; to interview teachers about what is being done and what could be done here in school; to broadcast information for the rest of the students by using the school's speaker system; and to do all of it in English! So this will be a novel way of practising and improving your English. When the SARS crisis is over I would also like to organise some trips out to do some practical environmental work. If you are at all interested in the environment, please consider joining Eco-Club. Don't ever think that you have little to contribute, because it is the small contributions that make great achievements possible. Remember the saying 'from small acorns do mighty oak trees grow'! Join Eco-Club and make a difference.


F.6 Morning Assembly - May 13, 2003

Mr. Donald Latter's speech