Our Desk | Setting examples, not just uttering words

Julie Zhu

August is around the corner. Is Macau well prepared to embrace all the smells and colors of trash?

Macau’s recycling spirit should start being developed immediately in primary and middle schools. It is beyond any doubt that in some parts of the world recycling education starts at an even earlier age.

In Chinese culture, multiple sayings can be found to remind people that setting an example is a more effective teaching method.

The majority of the city’s adults have certainly failed at setting a good example for the children in terms of recycling. When are Macau’s schools and teachers going to take a step forward to give children fair opportunities to recycle in schools, which is the place where children spend most of their time?

In Japan, schools implement a strict recycling routine, which is quite similar to the Japanese society’s common practices. Students who eat at school are obliged to recycle what is left. Step by step, it is the students’ duty to clean waste materials before putting them into recycling bins. As a result, school is simply a scaled-down version of Japan’s society in what concerns recycling.

In Macau, schools keep a quite similar same pace as the Macau society in that regard.

In Macau, the government spent (does not spend anymore) a little bit effort by putting out trash classification and collection facilities on streets, thinking that their hard [machinery] working would make a difference in the lives of Macau residents. Moreover, as one of its routine works, the Macau government launched, in 2016, a reward program called “Green Schools”, which proactively carries out environmental protection works.

In 2018, 25 schools were awarded for being Green Schools.

Macau cannot build a strong knowledge of recycling among students by simply asking them and rewarding them for designing a bunch of “environmental protective teaching plans”.

Knowledge can only be learnt, enhanced through practice. Some knowledge requires longer periods of practice. Recycling does not: it only takes a short time of practice for people to learn a lot about it.

If these 25 schools were awarded for presumably doing nothing or for simply having implemented a better recycling scheme than other schools, then the majority of Macau’s residents should be awarded for just being better than some people because they do not spit or pee on streets while some people engage in these kinds of behavior.

Being better does not mean being good. A blind approbation does not encourage anybody; it only enhances one’s self-deception.

I truly believe that the Macau community is eager to help Macau catch up to world standards in terms of city management. But either the efforts are not enough, or they have been spent wrongly, or the engine behind the efforts has been improperly designed.

The local government should just make sure that next time it fails at something, it should not blame others. The 30 million tourists have been constantly blamed for polluting Macau. I don’t doubt that is partially true.

It is however the government’s duty to sort out a solution. The government can change the tourists’ behavior before the tourists behavior poses a great impact to the city.

Categories Opinion