Critical Assessment of an Intervention for Sustainability
Characteristic of the Place
I’ve chosen Hong Kong as a site for this paper. Its total territory is around 1 108 square kilometers that is twice less than the territory of Tokyo or Moscow (Central Intelligence Agency, 2016). At the same time, more attention is paid to the region of Kowloon peninsula as the most densely populated area in Hong Kong (more than 7000 people per square kilometer) (Central Intelligence Agency, 2016). The Kowloon City is more specific site of Hong Kong for analysis in this paper. The chosen region differs by the high population density, ecological and other problems, which do not suitable with the concept of sustainable development.
The territory of the current Hong Kong can be considered as an enclave, which has been artificially created by the British in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong. There were a few nondescript villages until that time, which were no different from its neighbors, where fishermen and peasants lived and grew rice.
Modern Hong Kong has emerged in September 1984 when Britain and China reached an agreement on the “return” of the territory to China from 1 July 1997, i.e. after the end of the lease term of “New Territories”. Nowadays, Hong Kong consists of Hong Kong Island, Lantau Island, Kowloon Peninsula, the New Territories, as well as about 260 small islands in the South China Sea. The largest island is Lantau and the most populous one is Hong Kong. New Territories are adjacent to the north to the Kowloon Peninsula, and stretch as far their northern boundary of Shenzhen River. The name “Hong Kong” literally means “fragrant harbor” and it is derived from the name of a place in the modern Aberdeen district on Hong Kong Island. It was a trade center of wood and spices earlier. Hong Kong and Kowloon Peninsula are separated by the well-known Victoria Harbor. It is one of the deepest natural seaports in the world.
Despite Hong Kong’s reputation as a highly urbanized area, the Hong Kong authorities pay great attention to ecology and gardening issues. The huge part of Hong Kong still remains not settled by people, because it is dominated by hills and mountains with steep slopes. Hong Kong is settled less than 25% of its total territory. It is the main reason of the high density of population. The rest of the territory is covered with greenery. Around 40% of it is announced as recreation areas and nature reserves. The huge part of the urban area is located on the Kowloon Peninsula and especially, in Kowloon City.
Hong Kong is located 60 km east of Macau on the opposite bank of the Pearl River Delta. In the north it is bordered by the city of Shenzhen, Guangdong Province. Hong Kong’s highest point is Mount Taymoshan in the New Territories. Its height is around 958 m. The lowlands are also on the territory of Hong Kong, they are located in the northwestern part of the New Territories.
Hong Kong is located just south of the Tropic of Cancer, being close in latitude to such cities as Havana, Mecca, and Kolkata. The city is in the grip of a strong cold north wind in winter and the moist southwesterly wind blows in summer. The rainforest can grow in such a climate.
It should be noted that daily average minimum temperatures in Hong Kong have increased by 0.02°C each year since 1995. At the same time, average daily maximum temperature gradually falls. The main reasons of such changes are high density of skyscrapers (as they are called “concrete jungles”) and air pollution, which block the solar radiation (“Environmental Issues in Hong Kong”, 2016).
The base of Hong Kong’s economy is the service sector (financials, banks and insurance companies, tourism). The concentration level of headquarters in Hong Kong is the highest in the Asia-Pacific region. All these provide the high employment, growth of population and rapid growth of so-called urban waste (Stokes, 2016). For example, nowadays, 921 kg of waste are generated per each citizen in Hong Kong annually (The Government of the Hong Kong. Special Administrative Region, 2016).
Thus, one can say that Kowloon City has a lot of problems, primarily ecological, on the way to the forming the sustainable urban environment. The chosen region is not sustainable in the context of the population density, urban development, environment organization for people life. At the same time, chosen site of Hong Kong can be considered as sustainable in the term of economic development and high spread of recycling procedures, but all this is not enough in the modern conditions. It should be noted that the main challenges for the chosen site are increasing in the waste quantity, increased consumerizm policy among ordinal people, popularization of the lifestyle principles: to work in the city, to live in the flat, to have a car and others.
It should be noted that sustainable development of the Kowloon City is a very important task that must be addressed by all residents and the leadership of the city to provide such future conditions as:
- high-quality urban environment,
- high quality of life,
- the balance of the city,
- the natural environment.
Sustainable urban development should ensure the creation of a beautiful and healthy, beloved residents of the city, providing full satisfaction of their needs (Miller, T.R. et al., 2014). All these form future conditions to make Kowloon City more sustainable.
In this case, proposed intervention includes the following changes:
the introduction the waste recycling systems in housing estates as well as in offices, supermarkets and industrial enterprises;
the cessation of building construction in Kowloon peninsula;
the companies should implement the possibility for their staff to work remotely: it provides the equal opportunities for those, who live in the city center and outskirts and significantly unloads the public transport and car traffic;
an active planting of greenery roofs of skyscrapers.
The program of the proposed intervention will be measured mostly through the ecological indicators: air pollution, annual waste quantity per one citizen, the number of cars per one citizen and average health level of citizens and attractiveness of the city for human life.
The measurement of the proposed intervention is based on the such indicators as population density, average square of housing per one human, waste quantity per one human, growth rate of recycling processes and some other.
Barriers and Breakthroughs
The implementation of the proposed intervention can face with a lot of obstacles: social and cultural, technological and financial ones. As with any global activity, the idea of sustainable development of Hong Kong causes controversial, fundamental contradictions in the strategy and tactics of action. The majority of obstacles is connected with the following questions:
could sustainable urban regime be feasible without rapid economic growth, designed to eliminate poverty and inequality, or, on the contrary, requires a constant growth of the economy?
can the present generation of Hong Kong solve the problems of future generations, without knowing their needs?
what people are needed to navigate in the sustainable development strategy: on ordinary citizens or people with high ethical traits?
Thus, the main social obstacle is the usual reaction of the majority of citizens: “we do not care what will happen in 100 years, let future generation take care of themselves, and it is necessary to limit the demand only if our basic needs will be fully satisfied”.
The current standard of living in Hong Kong is extremely high. The flip side of that is incredibly high cost of living. The entire economy of Hong Kong focuses on investment attraction, which implies a dynamic increase in prices of investment attractive assets, primarily, real estate. Thus, one can say that the most important factor of the current generation is comfort. The problem of contamination for them is something very distant and unknown. It is the main cultural obstacle.
The existing economic infrastructure of Hong Kong quite fundamentally raises the problem of its social and economic self-sufficiency. One can say about the formation of a legislative and regulatory framework, which really allows local governments to independently and responsibly address issues of social and economic development of each region, the formation of their budget, to participate actively in the formulation and implementation of regional policy. At the same time, the lack of common methods to assess the progress made in the city regions often prevents the authorities to take effective decisions and implement them.
Financial obstacles are connected with the great influence of the international corporations and huge global banks on the economy of Hong Kong. Its economy is based on the free market, low taxation and the absence of state interference in the economy. It should be noted that Hong Kong is not an offshore area, it is a free port and does not charge customs duties on imports, and there is no value-added tax or its equivalent. All these features can cause constant economic growth as well as environmental degradation.
Technological obstacles are linked to the automobile and construction industries, which does not pursue the solution of environmental problems and the consequences in terms of their activities.
Thus, one can say that the most important barriers include: cultural and other features of the citizens, close interrelation between economical development of the Kowloon City and people needs, promoting of the welness, prosperity and rich life, the lack of environmental or ecological promotions.
In my opinion, the possible synergistic approaches that may overcome several obstacles at once must be based on more efficient decision-making society, which takes into account historical experience and encourages pluralism. It is important not only to achieve intra-, but also intergenerational fairness. As part of the concept of human development, citizen is not an object but subject of development. Based on the expansion of human selection variants as the main value, the concept of sustainable development implies that people should participate in the processes that shape the scope of their activities, to promote the adoption and implementation of decisions, monitor their execution. Thus, the main ways to overcome barriers are changes in the citizens' needs in the context of the environment protection and achieving the sustainable development of the chosen region.
Thus, optimal functioning of the sustainable urban system involves the dual analysis of the main proportions, interactions and relationships between all its components and subsystems, including population, social and industrial infrastructure, the urban natural and artificial (material and technical) environment, the municipal services and the spiritual life. Therefore, the implementation of the sustainable development concept focuses on a number of sectoral criteria.
According to the opinion of the specialist Robinson, the concept of the regenerative sustainability can be considered as the net-positive approach to sustainability that is rooted in the notion of the “procedural sustainability” (Robinson and Cole, 2014). The paradigm of sustainable development, which implies a dynamic process of consecutive positive changes, providing a balance of economic, social and environmental aspects, should be the basis for the formation of approaches and techniques, which may improve the chances of achieving the intention. This is especially relevant today, when Kowloon City faces unresolved issues.
A priority approach in the implementation of proposed actions at the regional level should be the conviction that it is necessary to abandon the identification of the territory with its economic development. It cannot be considered Hong Kong as a sustainable developed region only on the basis of enhancing economic performance. Sustainable development should be aimed at achieving a high quality of life, with the positive dynamics of a set of indicators.
At the same time, a combination of economic, social and ecological approaches can be the best technique in order to implement the actions of the proposed intervention. Reconciling these different points of view and their transition into concrete actions, which are means of achieving sustainable development, is a task of enormous complexity, as all three elements of sustainable development should be considered in a balanced way. It is also important mechanisms of interaction between these three techniques.
The economic and social elements, interacting with each other, generate new challenges such as the achievement of fairness within a generation (for example, in respect of the income distribution) and the provision of targeted assistance to the poor people. The mechanism of interaction between the economic and environmental elements has created new ideas on valuation and internalization of external influences on the environment. Finally, the relationship of social and environmental elements has caused interest in such issues as intragenerational and intergenerational equity, including compliance with the rights of future generations, and public participation in decision-making processes. Thus, above mentioned approach can be considered as the most effective one.
The implementation of actions within proposed intervention can be achieved as a result of overcoming many obstacles and is not taken for granted for a long period of time. It should be noted that the stability in a situation of crisis is considered as the survival and achievement the progressive process in the major spheres of life.
Potential challenges, which appear on the way of achieving the sustainable development of Kowloon City, are the following. In general, well-groomed and “cultivated” urban landscape is markedly reduced in the direction from the central city part to the suburbs, where some maintenance is often simply absent. Of course, the vector of changes is consistent with the traditional policy of investing in greening in accordance with the following principle: the periphery is always neglected in the interests of the center. Thus, it is quite difficult to influence the development of the suburbs.
It should be noted that problems with the personal space are the crucial for citizens of Kowloon City. The flat square, parks, work environment become smaller for each human and it makes their life quite limited. At the same time, quantity of the waste per one human increases and adversily impact on the environment.
There are some steps in order to overcome these challenges. It is proposed to actively ensure the awareness of the fact that after satisfaction of the basic needs the meaning of human development is not only the accumulation of wealth, but to strengthen the spiritual and intellectual ones. The most effective means of getting rid of the consumption culture is a radical change in the system of human values.
Multilevel Institutional Analysis
According to the opinion of the specialist Geels, there are three separate levels with which transitional management must work: landscape, regime and niche (Geels, 2002). In our case, proposed intervention can be considered as a “niche innovation”. As the specialist Geels noted, social-technical regime is dynamically stable one (Geels, 2011). There are ongoing processes in different directions: markets, user preferences, industry, science, culture, technology and others. The landscape level includes societal values, overall paradigms and megatrends (Miles, 2014). The socio-technical landscape usually develops the pressure on existing regime, which is opened for noted time. In this case, proposed changes in the social and cultural principles of the people, which live in Kowloon City, are connected with the landscape level.
The “niche innovation” is in the close relationship with the social-technical regime. At the same time, landscape can impact on the new configuration of the regime. Let’s analyze their interrelations in more detail using the multi-level perspective. Some special actions like waste recycling, limited buyings, changes in the economical development in the term of the environment growth (for example, tourism) are linked to the niche innovation.
Sustainable (or environmentally supportive) development is closely linked with the dialectics and the ecology. It should be noted that the dialectics as the doctrine of the most general patterns of formation and development, of universal connection and interdependence of actions, the internal power of which is seen in the unity and struggle of opposites, is the basis of sustainable development. Greening of all areas of human activity and eco-reconstruction of natural and artificial environment are the mandatory aspects of sustainable development (Shaw, A. et al., 2014).
Creating urban settlements is accompanied by changes in the natural components of landscape complexes: lithogenic bases, air and water masses, soil and biota. The structure of natural landscapes includes a technical unit that is represented by skyscrapers, other buildings, asphalt roads, underground utilities and others.
Creation of the unit and the transformation of natural ingredients and complexes lead to the formation of urban landscapes. Their types form the modern image and define the character of the city landscape. All these impact on the socio-technical regime and form modern markets, policies and lifestyle. Current urban landscape can be defined by complex indicator, which includes the following factors:
stoniness (the percentage of paved roads);
the level of greening;
an average number of storeys of buildings.
Economic growth of cities and countries that is considered as the most important issue at the regime level impacts on the niche innovation. It leads to that intended intervention pursues gradual transition from the growth in the stable place that can be balanced with the economic, social and ecological contexts. At the same time, it is quite difficult to balance the population of Kowloon City, which is constantly increasing. In this case, the niche innovation is designed to change the whole human perception of lifestyle, to limit their needs through the outlined consumption level.
Nowadays, the landscape level is presented by the consumption culture, which also impacts on the socio-technical regime. An important objective factor in the development of consumerism is the existence of a market economy. A cultural factor plays significant role in the formation of consumerism in the psychology of each new human generation.
The modern mass culture sometimes becomes synonymous with the consumer society, because it promotes and encourages people to purchase goods/services. And the culture itself often turns into an object of consumerism. The production of mass culture is transformed into the sector of the economy.
Thus, the main key to leveraging the proposed niche of innovation to successfully influence change at the regime level can be the following: to start from simple conversions but they must be realized at the mass level. Each new activity that leads to the future sustainable development can be more serious and more meaningful. Above mentioned steps show the opportunity of niche innovation to impact on the regime level.
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