Learning in a taxi

Tuesday, April 27, 2010
Issue 997, Page 2
Word count: 617
Published in: Macau Daily Times

By Poyi (Natalie) Leung

I like bumping into friendly taxi drivers because most of the time they will initiate interesting and sometimes inspiring conversations with you. You do learn things that you didn’t know from them, which is great and particularly useful for me as a reporter.

Last Saturday I was in a taxi going home from the Border Gates. It was during the afternoon peak period and the driver, a middle-aged woman, started speaking about the bill to ban idling vehicles with running engines in Hong Kong.

She said if the bill is going to be passed (it will be given first reading at the Hong Kong Legislative Council tomorrow), Macau must follow suit very shortly.

She also started to complaint about how the ban will badly affect the taxi business, but at the same time she raised a very interesting question – “If the government wants to control air pollution, why it doesn’t limit the number of vehicles on roads?”

Then I said: “Because to limit cars on roads will harm the government’s revenue, but to switch off idling vehicles won’t.”

No matter whether the Macau government will really introduce this legislation sooner or later, or how true my presumption is, the conversation made me realize the people in Macau do want our government officials to do more and try to understand their difficulties.

The taxi driver said officials sit in air-conditioned rooms and certainly can’t feel the hardships faced by the people. I don’t drive and therefore I can’t decide if such ban could do more harm than good in reality.

Nevertheless, according to the California Energy Commission, for every two minutes a car is idling, it uses about the same amount of fuel it takes to go about one mile. Green Power from Hong Kong also says that a private vehicle idling for 10 minutes a day uses an additional 100 litres of gasoline, and emits an additional 230 kilograms of carbon dioxide each year.

The Environmental Protection Bureau last week announced a 10-year work plan and is now seeking for public opinion. But before looking at all those ideas and goals that may require much greater effort and longer time to achieve, why don’t we start with the easy part or things that are still absent in Macau but are fundamental to environmental conservation?

As I’m working in a newsroom I always see some government departments like sending out their press releases by multiple channels – fax, email and sometimes even in compact discs. It is such a big waste. The discs aren’t rewritable and they can all just go straight to the rubbish bin at the end of the day. I don’t encourage fax either because, needless to say, it consumes a lot of paper and also produces a lot of paper waiting to be reused. I don’t understand why the departments have to do this and if they’re so worried that we may not get the news releases, why can’t they just simply make a quick phone call to confirm after emailing them to us?

There are quite a few things the government should take the lead and be a good role model for the general public. Visits to various government departments made me discover that most of the air-conditioners there often go below 20 degrees. Isn’t it just one of the basic things the government should achieve before talking environmental conservation?

As simple as the recycling system in Macau, why glass and batteries can’t be recycled here? It is such a common recycling activity in advanced countries, so apparently Macau isn’t one of them. And last but not least, when electrical appliances being sold in Macau will need to bear energy labels compulsorily?

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