Jane Chan is an RCHK alumna (Class of 2020) who spearheaded the ESF Sustainability Council. While at school, she started the first solar installation at ESF, led RCHK’s recycling operations, and explored integrating sustainability into the curriculum.
Jane is currently studying at the University of Hong Kong and University College London on a dual degree law programme. Prior to beginning university, she worked at Civic Exchange, ESF, and Green Monday during her gap year. She plans to develop her studies in environmental management, public, and international law. She believes that sustainability is a holistic lens to view socio-economic issues. Further, the way that companies and individuals set policies for a green future is all dependent on a solid legal foundation and she believes her generation plays a vital role in ensuring the successful implementation of a nature-friendly legal framework:
“With global climate change evolving at an unprecedented pace, sustainability is more necessary than ever. I think the reason why I particularly am so passionate about this issue, is because it really is related to everything. If you're thinking about different issues such as poverty and health care, international relations, conflict resolution, peacemaking - all of that is related to an extent to sustainability.
There’s no strict definition of sustainability - it’s not something that we could limit to one definition. Sustainability is something that could be chosen as a career for many. In terms of doing charity work, and undertaking meaningful work along with fields of study, many different projects work well through the sustainability lens. It can be corporate, it can be personal, it can really mean anything, to anyone, and to me as well.
I believe that sustainable consumption is essential for the future. Personally, I try to be sustainable in what I buy, and what I eat. I’ve chosen to eat less meat and dairy, adopting a plant-based lifestyle because these are all interconnected with sustainability.
I still remember my Nature Works project vividly. It was a pitch to integrate more plants and greenery into classrooms because it supports everyone’s wellbeing and provides fresher air. It is a really simple solution for a lot of schools to follow, so through our project, we thought it'd be nice to set that as an example. This project was very meaningful because it was the first time that I did any sort of baseline research. From researching and investigating specific components related to air quality to going through extensive research processes made me value the scientific side of sustainability more than I did before. And that’s why I always say that sustainability is so interconnected - it has so many different links to subjects and career fields. In terms of how the project made a difference in my school, I went back a year ago and the plants are still there, which is really great. Although the impact isn’t as apparent, bringing more greenery into the classroom can kind of break the idea that a lot of people who grew up in cities, like us - city kids - have no elements of nature around us. It rejects the notion that we should keep nature out of our lives as much as possible and contain it. Having these things in our classrooms creates a stronger bonding between people and nature.
With the ongoing environmental disaster, there’s one massive contentious question - can technology be an effective solution to solving this problem? I consider technology to be a double-edged sword: it could either vastly accelerate our transition to a net-zero economy, or hinder our efforts by serving as an excuse to not do anything. So when dealing with the topic of technology, we need to be cautious because if there are solutions to issues like a more humanitarian approach to sourcing lithium, we should pursue it. But at the same time, technology can't fix what's inherently wrong with the way that we've built our societies -only people can. And so technology, in that sense, is only a band-aid solution for something that is to do with our consumer habits and our daily lifestyles. If we don’t get rid of practices that are not sustainable, technology can’t rectify our problems.
It’s very easy to consider that one’s actions are too minimal to make an impact. But that’s wrong because if you multiply that out, you could see the effect. If we grow up with a habit, it will be difficult to change these practices. However, even if small adjustments are made, a cumulative effort will mean that we can collectively take a step in the right direction and make a change, contributing to the long-term benefit of society. At the same time though, the burden shouldn’t fully be on individuals - governments around the world have the responsibility to make sure they see the long-term solutions. They might be impacted by voices from different sectors, but ultimately, they have the obligation to make the world a better place. The burden shouldn’t be on the individual - it could be towards society, to ask our governments to pursue change.
My message for fellow ESF Alumni here on ESF Connect is that coming from Hong Kong, a lot of people will have certain career aspirations as it is prestigious, like banking, investment, law, but we should also be aware of the sustainability lens - not just in a superficial way, but substantially accounting for these factors in big commercial, economic decisions. There are just so many opportunities to take environmental factors into account. Let’s say finance. Attaining access to green finance for projects can be a crucial aspect of how we transition to net zero. No matter which industry you end up in, you're going to have to deal with this issue in one way or another. Don’t make your career prohibit you from thinking about sustainability and implementing it in your career. Because it doesn’t.”
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