Wednesday, January 27, 2010

New post: Because EVERYONE always asks, How can I make a (C02) difference? Mechanisms for reducing carbon emissions at the grassroots indiv & community level

Although CAN isn't primarily focused on climate change and we take pains to avoid confusing the issue with air pollution, here is a new Huffington Post series by my friend, David Gershon, about how eco-teams within a community can reinforce collective behavioral change, based on his game-changing book, The Low Carbon Diet. Be patient: the first installment in the series doesn't describe the best parts of The Diet, just the backdrop of how the concept of the Low Carbon Diet arose.

While the book's underlying premise that individual behavioral change is commendable, let's not forget that the primary drivers of carbon reduction must always be governmental policies, which provide price cues, mandate energy efficiency and encourage investment in technology.

CAN is the #1 resource for health, news, policy about air pollution with a special focus on Hong Kong policy and events.

Learn more about air pollution: watch and SHARE this video,

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Sunday, January 17, 2010

Blog: Fighting for what is right and the relationship between the environment & democracy (free speech)

Our grassroots movement seeks to transform the relationship between the citizen and the government to one where a clean safe environment becomes an entitlement, NOT a luxury. It is the duty of a govt to provide this indispensable public good to its citizens. Indeed, protecting public health is deemed one of the major justifications for the existence of any government, however elected, formed or appointed.

On the role of democracy, civic engagement, and free speech, and how these values relate to clean air: the people of Hong Kong need to speak out if we are to claim what properly belongs to us. Again, why else would people submit to government and agree to the pact of civil society (taxes and obedience to the law) if the government is not going to provide even those basic necessities universally deemed indispensable to human livelihood, i.e., safe food, clean water and CLEAN AIR?

CAN is the #1 resource for health, news, policy about air pollution with a special focus on Hong Kong policy and events.

Learn more about air pollution: watch and SHARE this video,

Please sign the Petition for Clean Air,



Tuesday, January 12, 2010


In the wake of the news that Hong Kong's roadside pollution reached life-threatening levels in 2009,, DAB LegCo member Chan Hak-kan rightly posed the question to the EPD, will the EPD consider installing more roadside monitors? No, was the answer from Kitty Poon Kit, the EPD's spokesperson. Apparently, the Government feels that the current monitoring network is sufficient.

But a quick analysis of results derived from HKUST's recent mobile air pollution monitoring study shows that the roadside pollution in Wanchai was actually the worst in HK, even though the Government monitoring stations are located in only Central, Causeway Bay and Mongkok. The Government's justification for not needing additional monitors is that these three monitors are sufficiently accurate proxies for roadside monitoring at other highly trafficked locations all over Hong Kong. The case of Wanchai obviously challenges the prudence of this assumption. Furthermore, the HKUST study showed big variations between different streets in the same district and between different districts.

What's more disturbing, however, in the big picture, is the fact that the Government's monitoring network -- 11 of 14 stations measuring ambient air quality, rather than roadside emissions -- is predicated on their outdated concern about overall pollutant tonnage, rather than adverse impacts to human health. OBVIOUSLY, it's the spumes of diesel particles blowing in a person's face, on the street, which affect human health the most. One ton of PM emitted by a coal-fired power plant 30 meters above ground is obviously going to be a lot less damaging to human beings than the same weight of emissions beging emitted at street level.

The mentality which dominated 20 years ago is no longer relevant or useful to the public health crisis we are confronting today. If a resident of Hong Kong needs to know the pollution reading on any given day, it is the ROADSIDE reading which is highly relevant and useful -- NOT an ambient reading! In the same vein, Government should be formulating air quality management policy based on COMPREHENSIVE readings of ROADSIDE pollution throughout Hong Kong. When it comes to human health, these are the MAIN readings which count. And, lest anyone have failed to read the newspaper recently, roadside pollution is, at best, the same, if not deteriorating.

(For the sake of argument, let's assume the 3 roadside monitors ARE a decent proxy for all of HK's roadside pollution, the fact that there are only 3 compared to 11 general monitors STILL points to the outmoded policy and mentality which led to the building of such a network in the first place. Unfortunately, the mentality which led to the building of the monitoring network is the same one proposing public policy today.)

Thus, the locations of the official monitors should actually be inverted if the Government wants to live up to its stated intention of protecting public health.
CAN is the #1 resource for health, news, policy about air pollution with a special focus on Hong Kong policy and events.

Learn more about air pollution: watch and SHARE this video,

Please sign the Petition for Clean Air,




Google's official statement today that it MAY withdraw from China due to hacks into the accounts of Chinese human rights activists is NOT a triumph for free speech and democracy, but, rather, the opposite.

Below are official Google blog post excerpts from TechCrunch's article of this morning,
"We have evidence to suggest that a primary goal of the attackers was accessing the Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights activists....we have discovered that the accounts of dozens of U.S.-, China- and Europe-based Gmail users who are advocates of human rights in China appear to have been routinely accessed by third parties."

TechCrunch's gloss: "The company ... has come to the alarming conclusion that the attacks were targeting the information of Chinese human rights activists. Google found that these attacks were not just going after Google’s data, but were also targeting at least twenty other major companies spanning sectors including Internet, finance, chemicals, and more. Google has also discovered that phishing attacks have been used to compromise the Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights activists around the world."

SUBTEXT: THE CHINESE GOVERNMENT HAS ATTACKED THE CYBERSECURITY OF GOOGLE WITHIN AND WITHOUT CHINA, JEOPARDIZING THE VERY FOUNDATION OF THE SERVICE'S EXISTENCE -- ITS SECURITY WORLDWIDE. I emphasized "worldwide" to underscore the seriousness of the hack. If the attack had been confined to China alone, perhaps Google would have considered that an acceptable business risk of operating in the country. Attacks outside of China obviously undermine the confidence and jeopardize the security of ALL users.

To my mind, Google's blog posts and official statements are tantamount to openly accusing the Chinese Government of sabotaging and attacking it. Not a propitious or conducive manner by which to open a "dialogue" with the Chinese Government on whether it will be able to serve up unfiltered search results from now on in China. Moreover, Google's statement that it will operate in China without restrictions or not at all will undoubtedly dim such prospects further. For those of us who live in Greater China, we know that China does not react well to theatrical throw-downs of the gauntlet. Rather, China tends to squash such opponents mercilessly. Obama HIMSELF is cognizant of the right approach and would NEVER openly CONFRONT the Chinese Government with a publicly stated binary proposition of "DO this or ELSE.... "

Let's please remember that both Facebook and Twitter are blocked in China. Those incidents were not preceded by any public showdown between the Government and the companies. Moreover, those services are comparatively marginal (even if they do enable a higher degree of social mobilization) compared to the universal functionality and usefulness of the Google search engine. Why would China tolerate unfiltered search results from Google when it can hardly deal with social networks? Again, it's even less likely that China will engage in constructive discourse with Google after being called out as a blackguard of democracy and free speech.

It strikes me as impossible that Google does NOT understand the niceties of publicly interacting with the Chinese Government and has already taken decision to shutter its operations in the country. If they were truly sincere in their intention to doggedly persevere in that country, would they have so publicly challenged the Chinese Government? If they were sincere in their attempt to stay operating in China, they would have negotiated quietly with the Chinese government FIRST, before announcing their intention to operate in a manner which clearly defies long-established official government strictures (i.e., no filters).

Anyway, it's a dark day for both free speech and democracy -- with one less hope that China and its people will have the opportunity to be exposed to the moderating influence of more ideas and the open debate of the internet.


Monday, January 11, 2010


INTERVIEW QUESTION: How is your previous career useful in your current position?

ANSWER: One of the reasons I'm effective is because I'm from the private sector. I don't talk like a treehugger and I never will. Secondly, my marketing background has been indispensable to creating momentum and lots of noise for CAN. Since we have to stretch every dollar, more ingenuity and guerrilla tactics are required from me than ever before. I have embraced this challenge as a way to buff my skill set even further. Right now, I'm plunging into social media, a comparatively new domain for me and totally virgin territory for most HK organizations. Finally, it goes without saying that the skills of writing, thinking and argumentation, which have been well honed over the years, are the indispensable tools of my stock-in-trade on a daily basis. But this is no different than if i were helming any business organization.

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Sunday, January 10, 2010

BLOG: "Conserving Central": a slap in the face to HK's people

I just walked by the HK Govt's display at IFC on the same level as the footbridge, describing its plans to preserve some of Central's most historic architectural landmarks. This initiative was the centerpiece of Donald Tsang's policy address in 2009. While such a project is laudable and important if HK is to retain some of its unique historic character, it is ironically short-sighted.
The apparent purpose of such an initiative is to make HK a more attractive city -- literally. But the emphasis on optics is misplaced when one of the very pillars of our daily urban existence has crumbled. Of course, I refer to our air quality. Along with safe food and clean water, can there be a more universally important precondition to living in a society, ostensibly governed by leaders who seek to protect and advance the health and livelihood of residents? That said, spending money on buildings instead of people is actually a sort of slap in the face of the HK people!
No doubt "Conserving Central" is the centerpiece of Donald's effort to boost HK's standing among world cities. But fewer media and opinion leaders around the world take note of the paucity of historic buildings than our city's appalling air pollution. Thus, even if we do manage to upgrade the aesthetics of our urban center, will it upgrade our standing in the world? Of course not! Let's not forget that HK occupied the lower ranks of Gallup's recent Net Migration Index, with the likes of Iraq, Mexico and Trinidad & Tobago. Respondents explained that our low ranking was the result of air pollution, traffic congestion and overcrowding.
"Conserving Central" is obviously a politically easy and facile way to demonstrate Tsang's leadership. After all, virtually all the affected buildings belong to the Govt itself, thereby sidestepping issues of vested private sector interests. But it is just a bandaid on the gaping wound of HK's environment.
When it comes to fiscal and policymaking priorities for HK, "Conserving Central" should be dessert, not the main course!
CAN is the #1 resource for health, news, policy about air pollution with a special focus on Hong Kong policy and events.

Learn more about air pollution: watch and SHARE this video,

Please sign the Petition for Clean Air,



Saturday, January 9, 2010

BLOG: Kurosawa 7 Samurai

visceral, heroic, eternal & redemptive unlike any movie made in the last 15 yrs. Cameron, Bay, Bruckheimer: please sit down and take a lesson. Modern hollywood movies ignore plot, suspense, drama, humanity in favor of pedantic moralizing, special effects and pat one-dimensional characters. there's real value in the saying, "show, don't tell". Genuine human morality and values are trivialized by the cringe-worthy lines mouthed by stillborn characters who, these days, are mere placeholders in the landscape of special effects. THAT's today's modern movie. While uplifted by watching kurosawa's masterpiece today -- 3+ hours which sped by more quickly than avatar, at least to my perception -- it provides a timely occasion to comment on the decline of the modern american moviemaking.
CAN is the #1 resource for health, news, policy about air pollution with a special focus on Hong Kong policy and events.

Learn more about air pollution: watch and SHARE this video,

Please sign the Petition for Clean Air,



Wednesday, January 6, 2010

BLOG: "Trying to become balanced would be like trying to withdraw from heroin"

Please describe your career path?
The trajectory of my career can only be likened to a pinball game. How did you get into your profession? I never imagined I would work at an NGO. But, as with most of my career, I ended up at CAN through a combination of serendipity and an enduring desire to influence people's minds. Over the years, I have built up quite a rolodex and a solid bully pulpit. It seemed like a waste of my skill set, credibility and relationships to just keep on selling "stuff". It's obvious that there is a dearth of zealous, committed, able people in the NGO world, especially in HK, where most people think you're crazy if you leave your well-paid private sector job to head up an NGO.

Have there been any low times?
Besides the constant ribbing of jokes like, "Look outside. You haven't cleaned it up yet," NO! Honestly, I've never been happier in my entire life. I'm one of those people who never gets depressed. EVER. Also, 95% of the individuals and corporations we've approached have supported Clean Air Network. How can I complain or feel low?

Were you always ambitious?
Being too ambitious is probably my greatest character defect. The frisson of achievement or recognition lasts a maximum of 24 hours. Then, it's back to the grindstone, because I'm never satisfied. I also take an eagle's-eye assessment of my career every few months to determine if it all makes sense in terms of trajectory, learning and gratification.

Could you have imagined doing this job when you started?
NEVER. Being the daughter of two Chinese immigrant doctors growing up in the Midwest, I was trained to desire a career that was obvious, prosaic and remunerative. Even I myself am frequently surprised by the twists and turns of my career. What do you like best about what you are doing now? I love educating and inspiring people. That's always been my forte. At heart, I'm a preacher. I also love communicating with younger people, because they're still idealistic -- like me. At an NGO, you can give your idealism full rein. How many situations, let alone job situations, permit you to do that -- without apology or compunction?

What are your greatest challenges?
Waking up every day and believing that I can make a difference to a problem which so difficult and enormous.

What are your future aspirations?
I never give conscious thought to this issue. It is my innate tendency to seek bigger, more daring challenges. But, to answer your question, in the short term, to use social media to enable greater civic engagement and democratic participation in Hong Kong society -- inspired, of course, by the weathervane issue of air pollution. Since it's an issue that virtually everyone agrees on, it's easy way for first-timers to get involved in civil society and engage - with each other, with Government. Another reason I got involved with this issue and cause is because I think it takes someone from the private sector to demonstrate that this is NOT an issue confined to treehuggers or radicals.

How have you been able to balance your career and your life?
I'm not a balanced person. Full stop. When I'm not talking about air pollution, I'm reading up on it -- or social media. I can't do Stairmaster without my Blackberry and at least 2 newspapers. I'm obsessed with productivity and efficiency. I don't really care about balance. Trying to become balanced would be like trying to withdraw from heroin. At the same time, I do have some new rules in my life: for example, at least 10 hours per week with my 10-year old son with NO devices. With me, it can't work unless there are very strict rules and concrete guideposts. That's the most "balance" I can do.

What do you consider to be your greatest achievement?
In terms of career, I haven't done anything I was proud of for more than 24 hours. I'm referring to a specific achievement. But I'm a good mom. Actually, being a good parent is incredibly difficult because it's not something you can decide you're going to master. It's not really within your control to a large extent. Parenting is not subject to the same rules of achievement as all the other projects and goals in my life.

What would you change if you were to have your time again?
Honestly, I wish I cared more about money, because, then, I'd have some -- and that could be a cushion which could afford me more freedom and flexibility. I was also recently thinking that I should have had some sort of career in media -- as a talking head. Finally, I would have learned Chinese instead of French when I was growing up. This is probably the biggest regret of my life -- that, despite studying Mandarin for many years, I still cannot speak it fluently -- indeed, far from it.

What is the most useful lesson you have learned?
That, as a general rule, never be overprepared. It's an utter waste of time. For that matter, barring a few exceptional situations (like a board meeting or a major photo shoot), I strongly prefer to do things at the last minute. it's a personal style which isn't for everybody, but it's a very efficient way to get enormous amounts of stuff done.

What do you like to do in your free time?
If not sleeping, then, some form of learning. "Free" time means I can enrich my mind with activities which fall outside the remit of my professional responsibilities. These days, I'm catching up on all the's in my twitter stream!

The above is excerpted from an upcoming interview.

JOANNE OOI IS THE CEO OF CLEAN AIR NETWORK, THE FASTEST-GROWING ENVIRONMENTAL NGO IN HONG KONG AND THE BIGGEST SINGLE-ISSUE NGO FOCUSED ON HONG KONG AIR POLLUTION. Prior to heading CAN, Joanne was the Chief Marketing Officer of Filligent, the biotech company, and the Creative Director of Shanghai Tang, the Chinese luxury brand owned by the Richemont Group.

Saturday, January 2, 2010


rather, based on my own experience, twitter has already significantly enriched my life and mind. every time i log on (with my blackberry) to @joanneooi, i treat myself to a welcome onslaught of statistics, anecdotes, testimonials, learnings, the magnificent quantum of which would have been unthinkable a few years ago before the advent of such a fantastically efficient learning tool. granted, i'm not following friends, but the most popular and authoritative tweeters in the tech industry. (check out my SMM list) here is a fantastic testimonial from a leading business professor who specializes in issues of entrepreneurship. his article about why twitter is the only SM platform he uses handily encapsulates the efficiencies of group learning, iteration and thinking. it goes without saying that 1) his mind rocks 2) i've already learned tons from tuning into his though-stream 3) not a single tweet is wasted on social or intellectual frippery. i could only have discovered and learned so much from this one person in the last 24 hours by dint of twitter! here's the story of vivek wadhwa(@vwadhwa)

here's a great article in the which just came out on "why twitter will endure" too. unfortunately, i couldnt' find any link but the one to the nytimes mobile site!
i recommend that you try to find this on the website in a couple of days when it comes out, hopefully. for now, read it on your smartphone!

and, of course, it goes without saying, follow me at @joanneooi and follow Clean Air Network at @cleanairnetwork