Hong Kong is a place of physical contrasts (see Chapter Five). It contains some exceptionally dense urban environments. Too often these environments have been poorly planned, and residents are bombarded by noise and light pollution. People living in urban areas may also feel disconnected from the natural world. This sense of disconnection may be one of the reasons why Hong Kong produces more rubbish per capita than almost anywhere else on earth (Cheung 2010a). At the same time, however, Hong Kong’s extensive country parks and rural village environments are valuable natural areas with substantial biological diversity. Development is constantly encroaching on green spaces and threatening valuable habitats, but many areas of natural beauty remain largely undeveloped, having been protected by Hong Kong’s generally rugged topography. Wild deer, Burmese pythons, rare birds and even natural waterfalls lie within a few miles of the city’s central business district.
This chapter describes the rural and urban spaces in which humans and other species live in Hong Kong. It looks at the way in which these spaces are managed, degraded and sometimes protected, and it examines how material waste is managed and dealt with. While there are some clear failings in Hong Kong’s approach to land management and nature conservation, it is important to recognise that this is a complex policy area. It may be assumed that a balance must be struck between environmental conservation and human utility—although some might argue that such a balance is not required, and that the environment is too important to be ‘balanced’ against meeting human desires, especially when it is often vital to meeting human needs.
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