With continued social distancing restrictions, it’s harder than ever to host advocacy events, workshops and panels. But TEDxTinHau Countdown has managed to overcome the unprecedented obstacles posed by Covid-19.
Taking place on Saturday, 17 October, the Hong Kong extension of TED’s global Countdown event, will shine a spotlight on climate change.
With a goal to inspire action on climate change, the event will host talks by a few of Hong Kong’s most influential environmentalists, including Lance Lau, Tanja Wessels, Ollie Haas, Peggy Chan, Jonathan Cybulski and Keilem Ng. Each brings a different perspective to the conversation, which will investigate five key drivers such as energy, transport, materials, food and nature.
“The whole idea, whether globally or for any local TEDx event, is: How do we accelerate solutions for climate change and drive behavioural change?” explains Treena Nairne, the head of curation at TEDxTinHau.
“We have all these different people within our community driving change in Hong Kong,” she adds. “That’s the power of this [event]: When people will see their neighbours and friends talking about solutions for preventing global warming and promoting eco-friendly lifestyles in a practical way, they will feel inspired.”
PULLING IT OFF
This year’s TEDxTinHau event has been especially challenging to facilitate. The organisers thought of everything, from social distancing restrictions to live-streaming, online workshops and several backup plans in case of unexpected changes due to pandemic restrictions.
“Uncertainty has been a theme throughout [the organising of this event],” says Caroline Tosswill, TEDxTinHau Operations Lead. “No one knows exactly what will happen on the day, so we have to be flexible [and prepare for] last-minute changes,” she adds, referring to the potential fourth wave of outbreaks in Hong Kong.
On Saturday, the group has organised a mix of in-person and online activities, which will take place concurrently all over Hong Kong. In the morning, guests and speakers can join a beach clean-up at Pui O Beach on Lantau island, followed by a barbecue lunch at Treasure Island Beach Club.
On Hong Kong Island, TEDxTinHau is hosting lunch at Famalaland (formerly Sohofama), where the head chef has designed a seasonal, plant-based menu drawing from his experience as a nutritionist and local farmer.
[Read more: What’s happening to our planet in 9 key numbers]
Another change this year is the venue. Instead of hosting the event in one dedicated space, TEDxTinHau organiser have spread the main talks across five venues – including The Fringe Club, Explorium Hong Kong, and WeWork LKF Tower – to ensure the event complies with social distancing requirements.
As of 14 October, the government allows venues to host up to 50 per cent or their normal capacity, with guests arranged in groups of four.
While there’s an extra layer of logistics, the TEDxTinHau organisers say the pandemic has actually inspired more volunteers to help out and brought the team closer together. “In the time of Covid-19, it has actually been to our advantage – in a way, people want to maintain connections and a sense of community,” says Nairne.
INSPIRING CHANGE DURING COVID-19
For many, the pandemic has been yet another wake-up call about human impact on the planet’s fragile ecosystems. With the ongoing health and environmental crises as a backdrop, TEDxTinHau Countdown will explore how Hongkongers can be a part of the solution.
Jonathan Cybulski, one of the event’s keynote speakers, is a historical and marine ecologist with a fresh perspective. He says we can better understand the urgency of climate change and rising sea temperatures if we simply look underwater.
The eroding condition of corals in Hong Kong, he says, serves as a canary in the coalmine. “Corals are incredible animals, they’re highly sensitive and show a strong signal for stress,” says the American scientist. “Different stressors will affect their biology, [so they] are a good system to research if you’re interested in looking at human impact – they’re one of the first animals to react.”
Hong Kong is an ideal place to conduct research on the topic, since there are more species of coral in the territory’s waters than the entire Caribbean combined. Unfortunately, the quality of Hong Kong’s seawater is worsening, due to factory runoff from mainland China, along with local stressors such as human waste and sedimentation from dredging and land reclamation projects.
“Poor water quality is what’s driving corals to be sick… How long until we start to feel climate change? It’s already here in Hong Kong. Climate change is not the biggest stressor for corals at the moment. It will be soon though, very soon…”
In his TEDx talk, Cybulski, who is an Olympic-style weightlifter, will frame the climate crisis from the perspective of a competitive athlete.
“You don’t become the best athlete in the world by being naturally gifted – you have to practice,” he says. The same is true for sustaining a more eco-friendly lifestyle. “For instance, when athletes train, we have a big goal at the end like [a competition]. To reach that goal, I am training every day. I have a plan, and a lot of tasks along the way.”
Working on their skills and strength every single day gives athletes the best possible chance of achieving a personal best or taking home a medal. When applied to climate change solutions, biting off a little bit every day – such as walking instead of taking a taxi, properly recycling plastics, or auditing one’s carbon footprint – will help you successfully develop environmentally friendly habits and change your lifestyle over time.
“Climate change has been framed as a massive global issue and people are like, ‘Well, what can I do about it?’ Yes, there are international organisations that need to make decisions [about the environment] but on an individual level, we have to be held accountable for what we do as well.”
“Ecosystems have been sick for over a decade because of human impact… hopefully [slowing down due to the pandemic] has allowed people to understand our influence on the Earth and how they can come back out of the pandemic and live greener than before.”