With four days to go before we are due to jet off to Korea’s answer to Hawaii, Jeju Island, Mrs. Ha has gone down with influenza. Also sprach Herr Doktor Mak. I drove her to the clinic this morning and she was feeling pretty grim. Temperature up and down, lacking energy, still worrying about making soup bless her. Dr. Mak thinks she will be fine in a few days. She is sleeping now and I hope some rest will aid her recovery.

The birding trip was abandoned for the day but I did manage another bunting. Each Winter a few Black-faced Buntings frequent the garden and this was the first time this season I have seen them. Here is one peering out of the gloom, wondering why on earth she had flown so far only to land on Hong Kong’s answer to the planet Skaro.

Black-faced Bunting-2

All around the green bits of the colony Special Administrative Region of the PRC there are developers and politicians, corpulent of body and wallet, eyeing up the SSSIs, Conservation Areas and Green Belt, barking out Exterminate, exterminate……

Green was good, concrete is better might be the mantra. We are in an Orwellian world in HK as far as planning is concerned. This is a splendid albeit depressing piece of analysis. I attended a TPB meeting once and felt I had entered another universe. Kafka would have felt quite at home. There are of course heroic efforts going on to prevent the destruction. If they are successful I shall be the first to throw my chapeau in the air and maybe even eat it when it descends. I am not optimistic. Even in the face of obloquy their cupidity knows no limits. “Progress” is ineluctable.

I always like to look on the bright side however. And I am convinced that our corner of Sai Kung will remain forever green. That means that all the birds in or transiting Hong Kong, with or without a visa, will have to pass through or retreat to our garden. My current list of 68 species will rise rapidly and inexorably until there is standing room only, Herons at the back, buntings at the front please and queue in an orderly manner for take off and landing clearance. The case for building HK’s new runway in our garden is watertight. All it needs is an occasional mow and strim and it will be bird-perfect. No planning permission required. Now doesn’t that make sense?




20 thoughts on “Countdown

  1. Huge apologies, Andrew. I’m SO badly behind with reading your posts – in fact by the time you read this I fear that Korea may already be a dim and distant memory. I hope Mrs Ha felt better by the time you had to leave, it’s horrible feeling crapola when you are away. I’ve got a friend in HK who is desperate about all the building, planning etc on the green spaces. I’ll introduce you on Fbk, she’s constantly waging battle with the authorities, tearing them off a strip for this that and the other but she’d be a great ally in the fight against unnecessary development etc. It’s great that you have so many bird species visiting your garden. I fear that the cats in the village are keeping the birds away from our garden, there is a particularly ferocious tom cat that lives next door – If I’m terrified of him, no wonder then that the birds are!

  2. Great looking photo. So sorry that Ms. Ha is ill but I am hoping that by now she will be well enough for the planned vacation. I am runnning behind in comments.

    I surely hope that somehow the wildlife habitat that is a mecca for birds will be safe from encroachment. What a shame if most of the green acreage is destroyed.

    • Yvonne, Shirley is making good progress. She is still resting more than usual but a combination of Western and Chinese medicine seems to be getting her back to her usual self. We leave in less than 24 hours.

  3. From your description, Andrew, Kafka would have indeed felt at home. But your photography is a soft fluttering of hope and beauty. Have a wonderful holiday…and keep taking your photos.

  4. Best wishes for a speedy recovery for Shirley, Andrew. This post is tardy so maybe she is better already. Good wishes as well for an enjoyable time in Acapulco Korea style.
    The more time passes by, the more I think “Silent Running” is not that far off.

  5. Thought provoking post. Greed of development seems a universal problem.
    Hope Mrs Ha is feeling better soon and you are able to get away.
    May have to start reading your posts with a dictionary handy 🙂
    I like a nice bit ‘a prose.

  6. Erudite, poignant commentary, Andrew…. I be far removed from the urban sprawl here in rural Arkansas — and in terms of Hong Kong or Sydney, even our Ozarks highlands city is more rural than urban. City life fascinates me from a distance. But to say I’ve “walked away” is to beg the question: To where?

    Some among the greens claim that Earth is losing 200 species each day to the event of extinction. How can they count the losses? “From the tiny snails building their perfect homes of logarithmic spirals to the great bears majestic with maternal rage, why don’t the lives of these creatures provoke a ferocious tenderness of protection and solidarity?” Lierre Keith writes in _Deep Green Resistance_ (2011). “Why are they only valued as human ‘habitat’?

    “I have heard variations on this position repeated everywhere: we can’t kill the planet; species loss is regrettable but inevitable; the best we can do is learn about permaculture so that me and mine might have some food when the crash arrives,” Lierre continues. “I find this position morally reprehensible at a level that can’t be argued, only mourned. Surely somewhere in the human heart empathy, loyalty, and love are still alive. What is the meaning otherwise of that heart — or is a pump for oxygen all we have left of ourselves?”

    200 species on any given day…. to walk away can’t save me…. truth and beauty, truth and beauty….

    • Eb, I don’t know whether 200 is right or wrong. As we don’t know the starting point its a moot point to a degree. I find it depressing when I read about the destruction of the forests, whether it be in Brazil or Indonesia. The governments are complicit. Here the destruction is on a much smaller scale but HK has only 1100 sq km to protect, 40% of which is country park. A population of over 7 million and growing fast through immigration, legal and illegal, puts enormous stress on resources. So we build up rather than out. 40% CP sounds a lot but much of it is our version of wilderness and it is not suitable for development. The battle is over the areas of largely unspoiled rural HK which are capable of being developed and are now subject to a tug of war with money pulling one way and conservation pulling the other. Sadly the weight of the government supplements that of the developers. They could be developed in a different way, for eco-tourism but that lines the mind not the pocket. It is salami slicing, death by a thousand cuts. Maybe we will all move to LA (Lower Arkansas).

      • Andrew…. Who issues the last visa to the next extinct avian species? Who swings the ax to fell the last old tree in the suburban wood? When shall the railway rip through the valley to carry the freight of progress?

        We are, each of us, complicit in the destruction.

        Peer pressure, moral suasion, leadership by example…. Are these tools of a better human methodology? Can they be employed by humanity to overcome predatory capitalism and the destruction of the natural world it engenders?

        Habitat protection and habitat enhancement are necessary and doable acts So saith the dreamer. So, I dream. Creating friendly habitat isn’t a theoretical construct, but a down-to-earth step forward by individuals who desire to shape their immediate natural environment to the advantage of native wildlife. And the step forward takes place where it matters most to you and me: in our yards and the public green spaces we share as a community.

        But that’s windy preachin’. Let us forget these things and travel to the north country fair. There the winds get heavy on the borderline. The city is far away. There we can remember one another to the one who once lived there.

  7. Hope Mrs Ha is better before the trip. Hot Toddy always works for me. Generous slosh of whisky, juice of lemon,. good dollop of honey, hot water, Drink it as quick as possible, extra duvet on the bed and sweat it out. Never worked for me but others swear by it….

    Nice bunting by the way.

  8. Here in Gib they alternate between building monstrosities (expensive block of flats and a prison) up the Rock (a nature reserve of course) and ripping down historical buildings to build, er, expensive blocks of flats.

    I second honey and lemon, possibly with glycerin, and whisky a gusto.

    We know someone who is currently in South Korea. No idea where mind. Hope you have a lovely holiday. I take it this is a holiday and not yet more of that four letter word beginning with W and ending with K?

  9. Just read that the high rise market in Sydney is being bought 90% by wealthy Chinese from overseas, locking out local buyers. Hope Mrs Ha will feel better soon. Try wattle honey with lemon. Lovely bunting Andrew.

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