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Chp 4, Youth Environment Action Group – Forty years champion for the environment

Youth Environment Action Group

The first Youth Environment Forum was held on 21-24 August 1972 at the Chinese University campus. Some 90 senior secondary school students and university undergraduates took part in the residential camp. With a theme on environmental conservation, the programme included visits to Mai Po, Kadoorie Farm and Sheung Shui tanneries.

From the Forum came the idea of creating a youth arm of CA, thus was formed the Youth Environment Action Group (YEAG). An ad hoc group was appointed after the Forum with David Wong Oi-yee of Chinese University as Chairman in 1972. He was succeeded shortly after by Li Pak Cheong in 1973. YEAG’s membership was open to young people under 30, with an Executive Committee made up of post-secondary students and undergraduates. In 1974 Wan Sek Lun became Chairman, and among his Executive Committee was one Chui Lap Chee (徐立之), a Biology post graduate who progressed from being Publication Secretary of YEAG then to Vice Chancellor of Hong Kong University.

The Youth Environment Forum became YEAG’s flagship annual event. From the second Forum onward, pre-forum study projects were conducted and the Forum itself became a week-long affair consisting of seminars, field survey, visits and a concluding Main Forum. The fourth Forum in 1975 had the most participants (140 people) and that cohort has generated the most active and long-lasting members of CA. At the time of CA’s 40th Anniversary, three of them are still active in CA’s board, including former Chairman Betty Ho, Albert Lai, and this author.

1975 was also the year when YEAG’s membership reached its height at 170. Under the Chairmanship of Wan Sek Lun, the group exuded seemingly boundless energy, setting up the School Conservancy Club’s Liaison Board (SCCLB), extending its activities to 21 youth centres, as well as organized the 1975 Asia Youth Conference on Environment and Education on 20-30 December together with the International Youth Federation. Held at Morrison House of Hong Kong University with sponsorship from UNESCO and IUCN, the conference was the first of such international events in Hong Kong, with representatives from nine countries sharing their country reports and joining site visits, workshop and seminars.

Ironically, the height of YEAG also saw the beginning of its demise, when the somewhat idealistic youth began to be embroiled in constitutional amendment and administrative restructuring rather than action campaigns. In between busy activities, an Extraordinary General Meeting was held in August 1975 to empower an ad hoc committee to study YEAG’s structure, which produced a report in October 1975 recommending the formation of a Constitutional Amendment Committee which formulated proposals that were subsequently adopted in the AGM the following January.

The YEAG of 1976, under the Chairmanship of Elsie Yuen, continued to operate with five committees on Publication, Documentation, Programme, Public Relations and Membership. It was as busy as ever: besides the summer Forum, it organized work camps, monitored current affairs, and put together an environmental festival with the SCCLB. At times YEAG’s youthful energy was spent wrestling with its mentor, the CA; YEAG members (including former Chairman Betty Ho) disrupted CA’s AGM in October 1976, challenging openly the lack of transparency in the election to CA’s Executive Committee. The youth members even forced an impromptu motion to be carried to amend and improve CA’s constitution.

Despite that, YEAG’s 1977 annual report acknowledged that members’ participation had been below par. In 1978, when Albert Lai took over as Chairman, membership declined to 100 and thereafter YEAG gradually fizzled out. Happily, many YEAG members have stayed with CA and remained committed members.


April 10, 2015 - Posted by | Dr WK Chan book

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