Re: Polemics for environmentalism

From: Digital Cutup Lounge (
Date: Sun Jan 23 2000 - 21:18:10 MST wrote:

> > No doubt, but we have little control over people's attitudes as a matter of
> > public policy. Yes, the HK gov't has tried for years to convince people
> > that keeping the city clean would be better for everyone, but...
> This may be because those exhortations "fall on deaf ears" in the sense that
> they don't call on basic values and memes in the majority culture.

That's what I mean, it's not enough to try to change people's attitudes to deal
with the problem -- actual regulatory action is needed.

> > Also, I doubt that expectations of civic behavior significantly deter the
> > really serious polluters (big oil companies?) when profits are at stake.
> Actually, I think they do, but not in the way one might think. At a minimum,
> such expectations cause the "serious polluters" to whom you refer to do so as
> surreptitiously as possible, and to clothe their activity in "propaganda"
> that calls on the mainstream culture's expectations of civic behavior.

You're probably right to some degree, but this alone seems not to be enough to
stop or reverse the process of environmental degradation.

> The activities of polluters in
> cultures that have a different conception of civic behavior aren't so
> constrained.

I wonder how much difference culture really makes in this, though, seems like the
West and Japan were just as polluted as HK and China are now at earlier stages in
their respective development processes. Is there really any way to show a
cultural difference?

The biggest difference I can see is because of greater gov't regulation.
Singapore is much less polluted than HK, it's more like living in a park than a
city, seemingly because it is a dictatorship and the gov't decreed that was how
it would be. (Of course there are other factors, lesser population density and
so on, but still the difference is striking.)

> FYI, my thinking along these lines is influenced by the recent work of
> Francis Fukuyama, especially his most recent book, "Trust", which I highly
> recommend.

I read that when it first came out and I agree with your recommendation, a very
thought-provoking book. Japan and Hong Kong, the two places I have lived for the
last ten years, are on opposite ends of the spectrum in this regard. Huge
amounts of time and resources are wasted in HK because no one trusts anyone else,
so everything must be checked and double-checked to make sure that no one is
being cheated. It verges on clinical paranoia sometimes, I think...but in fact
someone IS always out to get you here, as I've found out time and again...


John von Seggern
digital DJ -- producer -- bassist
Digital Cutup Lounge
Hong Kong

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