Key to the Future: Conservation: One student’s perspective on our changing planet and growing international environmental issues.

“Son! I gotta tell you something.”

A voice woke me up from a dream, “The BBC has just announced the death of Mr. Crocodile.”

After a couple of seconds of silence, I asked, “How, daddy?” my eyes becoming red. I was only 12, and I had binge-watched every episode of The Crocodile Hunter since the age of five.

Watching wildlife documentaries with my dad is our weekly routine, one of our favourite things to do for years; like father, like son. The series of The Crocodile Hunter was especially engaging to me; not because of the crocodile, but because of Steve Irwin, a well-known Australian nature expert who is also the owner of the Australian Zoo.

There are three people in my life that I idolize: my mother, my father, and Steve Irwin. He was an ardent conservationist and had faith in advocating environmentalism through sharing his enthusiasm about nature to the world rather than preaching to the people. Little me thought, wouldn’t that be wonderful if I can live my life like him exploring in woods meanwhile safeguarding our blue planet.

Back home in Hong Kong, Steve is commonly known as Mr. Crocodile but tragically, “He died in 2006 after being pierced in the chest by a stingray barb while filming an underwater documentary film titled Ocean’s Deadliest,” according to BBC News. The days following Sept. 4, 2006, were marked with change. After watching the last production he made, I decided to look deep into the ocean world.

My name is Kungshi, a marine biology science student, and I believe in the power of nature. Mother Earth is full of potential and mysteries; she can give life or take it away as simple as a snap. However, I also believe mother nature needs to be conserved so as to maintain its awesomeness. It is every man’s duty to protect the environment and save our planet.

My hometown, Hong Kong, is known for its cloudiness; not because of the climate or weather but the pollutants created by its own people. Back home, we call it the Concrete Jungle, graced by few woods and greens, lots of skyscrapers and vehicles, a high population density and even higher demand. What makes it different from New York City is the massive land reclamation. The lack of lands has been a long, contentious issue in HK. So what do we do? We build more, we develop high-rises. If can’t build any higher, we create the space by filling the sea with all types of inorganic material or trash. In this case, pollution is unavoidable.

Our Disneyland, our HK International Airport, and even its predecessor, Kai Tak Airport, were all built on reclaimed land. Our majestic Victoria Harbour was named under Queen Victoria in 1861; nevertheless, due to the arduous reclamation on the waterfront on both sides of the harbour, it looks more like a “Mini Victoria River” today. The primary reason for allowing this to happen is all about the human race’s development.

There are countless secrets remaining to be discovered and explained, anything from the deepness of the ocean to outside of the universe. Fortunately, our knowledge of both has increased dramatically over the past decades. Our technology helps us to improve our understanding of the world, and it is growing exponentially, seemingly without end. New scientific discoveries are made nearly every day. Imagine if one day the creation of our first “anti-lava” suit became a fact, allowing us dive into an active crater, and for the first time scientist actually physically explore what planet Earth looks like beneath the crust.

Gradual developments which enhance human lifestyle, however, can be a double-edged sword. Planet Earth has already been well-consumed in the name of development. Continuous consumption of the Earth’s natural resources will someday push us to a point that we might all have to leave the planet. Even Stephen Hawking predicted the chance of the human race colonising other planets is high and not far in the future. Studies show our oceans are currently facing alarming changes induced by pollution, global emissions, overfishing, and climate change, among other things. Living our life in the present, what a shame it would be if in such a plight that we have to abandon Mother Earth to avoid extinction.

We humans are parasites to the earth. On the other hand, giving thought to our future and to the next generation, advanced, long-term solutions are needed. Remember, there is always a possibility for our technological development. No one knows how far it can get; the only factor is time. To reclaim more time, conservation could be the bottom-line or the key to the future.

As a matter of fact, nature has been exploited in the name of development. Back in time, Hong Kong used to be a known fishing port and Victoria Harbour was once a safe home of innumerable fishermen. Today, even the people can’t see the tide anymore. The waterbed is highly polluted, with boundless aquatic life piled under the concrete and the result: a destroyed marine ecosystem. These have raised a multitude of environmental issues over the protection of the pier which was once the source of prosperity in the city. Every time I look back at old photographs, I yearn for the beauty of our old Victoria harbour. I am incredibly saddened by what has happened, but when it’s real, you can’t walk away. As a nature-lover in this city, Hong Kong, I have got to do something. I am on the mission of spreading the message of an environmentally friendly world!

Who can guess how many bodies of species are cumulated beneath the water under all that trash? A tragic world is down there desperate for help. Friedrich Nietzsche had once remarked, “The world is beautiful, but has a disease called man.” It is true, yet, we all choose to ignore this fact. Being the biggest threat to the earth, we as culprits assume that we are the victims. The human race created this atrocity. We must take the credit and prevent it from becoming even worse.

Nowadays, people progressively begin to realize the need for aquatic conservation of both freshwater and oceanic ecosystems. My short-term goal is to achieve my marine field study so I can start to contribute to our planet. In the long run, I want to use my knowledge of marine science to save our oceans. Additionally, I want to influence everyone to understand that we should stop taking this earth for granted and inspire everyone to help conserved the world. We are placing too much pressure on our planet. It is time to free Mother Earth.

Steve Irwin had once remarked, “I want the cleanest water, the freshest air and wildlife in abundance… but most of all I want a future for our children.”

I am looking forward to the fantastic opportunities of joining major projects in aquatic ecosystem conservation, such as the Ocean Cleanup, which is helping to prevent garbage from polluting our beautiful oceans meanwhile saving poor animals who were trapped by trash. If I participate in such projects, I won’t be far from a future that I have been dreaming of. I am an adventurer, and to explore pristine ecosystems, whilst potentially even discovering new species and aiding in the conservation of both endangered wildlife and Mother Earth would be my greatest achievement in life.

Column by Kungshing Yau