Is Risk a Drive for Change? Pollution and Risk Displacement in 1970s to 1980s Hong Kong

in Nature and Culture
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ABSTRACT

Many people believe risk drives change. Environmental degradation, depletion of the ozone layer, and global warming all help advance global environmental development. However, why do some countries react promptly while some are slower to react to environmental risk? Reasons vary, but this article focuses on how the specific way risk was formulated and introduced in Hong Kong impeded drastic and swift environmental development. Tracing back to the time when the notion of pollution was first formulated in Hong Kong, this article argues that pollution was not defined as what it was. Instead, pollution was defined and introduced to the public as a problem of sanitation, turning pollution into a problem of categorization—a risk that could be easily resolved. This article contributes to the study of both pollution and risk by studying pollution as a social construct in the unique case of Hong Kong. A warning from Hong Kong—instead of addressing and resolving it, risk could be discreetly displaced.

Contributor Notes

Lam’s primary interest is in environmental studies, ranging from ecofeminism to deep ecology to ecological modernization. She obtained her PhD from the Chinese University of Hong Kong in 2013. She currently works as an Assistant Professor in the Hong Kong Shue Yan University. Address: Hong Kong Shue Yan University, 10 Wai Tsui Crescent, Braemar Hill Road, North Point, Hong Kong. E-mail: ymlam@hksyu.edu.

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