Student: CEVALLOS BARRAGAN Francisco Daniel
Supervisor: Ashley Scott Kelly
Thesis section: Engaging development through critical landscape planning
Programme: Master of Landscape Architecture
Date: June 2020
Today, with a global environmental emergency alongside political battles for democracy and human rights, new strategies are needed to articulate trust and promote democratic environmentalist values, especially in contested regions. Contemporary society presents extreme discontents underpinned by ecological risk and an environment threatened by increasingly unchallenged dominant voices. Hong Kong’s environmental decision-making occurs within a laissez-faire economic system best described as neoliberalism with Chinese characteristics. Critical analysis of Hong Kong’s environmental governance system shows high relevance of advocacy groups, a lack of public participation, corporate pressure, weak institutions necessary for articulating various knowledges, and inadequate evaluation of the cumulative effects of environmental contamination. Following arguments across Hong Kong’s legal, information technology, and environmental sectors for the implementation of an archives law, this thesis proposes creating an Independent Environmental Archives Agency (IEAA) capable of collecting and representing evidence of cumulative impact, supporting process-oriented environmental governance, and “salvaging” (Choy, “Ecologies of Comparison”, 2011) scientific uncertainty for more sustainable development. Through a requirement of including the ontological perspectives of seven stakeholder groups with distinct and sometimes divergent sustainability practices, this agency both effectively guarantees inclusion of diverse perspectives while also filtering knowledge and facilitating dialogue that privilege environmental uncertainty, longer-term objectives, and intergenerational equity. Examples of stakeholders include a director of corporate sustainability, an indigenous community leader, a Special Rapporteur to Hong Kong, a civil servant, an environmental activist, an environmental manager, and a developer-employed architect. Each stakeholder poses to the IEAA questions formed from distinct socio-political and disciplinary backgrounds (e.g., training in environmental law or corporate sustainability, degrees in social sciences or ecology, certificates in sustainable community governance), along with those backgrounds’ attendant biases and assumptions. A species-based approach helps further focus the selection of evidence and design of monitoring programs. The IEAA’s capacity for targeting, collecting, filtering, and returning “data” from the archive on cumulative impact is improved as projects, assessments, and, most importantly, stakeholder queries are entered into and help strengthen its archive.
Keywords: Hong Kong; environmental governance; scientific uncertainty; environmental knowledge; impact assessment