Wing Man Samantha Kong

Environmental Engineer, SMEC Asia Limited; University of Bristol Doctoral Candidate

Hong Kong, Hong KongAge: 26

Tell us a bit about yourself!

Born and raised in Hong Kong, and having studied and worked in five countries since high school, the multicultural environment has opened my eyes to various global issues of paramount importance. Since middle school, I developed an interest in the environment and got involved in various environmental  organizations in Hong Kong. From passion to profession, I pursued a Bachelor’s in Chemical and Environmental Engineering and a Master’s in Sustainable and Environmental Design, and am currently pursuing a Doctorate in Environmental Policy and Education.

Apart from being a full-time environmental engineer, I am also a column writer, social entrepreneur, and educator. To share my experiences with my peers and the younger generation, I serve on the advisory panels of a few government boards and committees, advising on strategies to promote youth development and environmental programs in Hong Kong. During weekends, I also teach environmental education to primary school students and young leaders. We cover a range of issues, from clean water and sanitation to affordable and clean energy, to broaden their understanding of global policies such as the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Currently, the SDGs are not part of the school curriculum in Hong Kong, so it was well-received to create an SDG Junior Ambassador Program to encourage primary school students to innovate, create, and implement plans of action to achieve the SDGs. By learning about the SDGs at a young age, students can better understand the global issues at hand and the importance of SDGs both locally and internationally. The program also includes educational tours and workshops conducted by environmental experts. As SDG Junior Ambassadors, they not only have a better idea of what they can do to help the community, but also know the SDG targets that their community should meet.

I have also attended and represented my country at several global forums, as a country delegate at the the 2017 G20 Youth Summit, and as one of ten NGO representatives based at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, where I had the opportunity to participate in the drafting of the SDGs. While at the UN, I also participated in various high-level meetings, seminars, and briefings, and was given opportunities to connect with diplomats on global development issues.

What inspired you to become a champion for the environment and environmental education?

My time at the UN offered me extensive first-hand interaction with decision-makers and practitioners, contributed to my strong interest in promoting environmental education in my home country, and inspired me to pursue further studies in education. I believe that the best way to give back to society is through education, and I hope to further promote the importance of environmental education in Hong Kong. “When we teach, we learn,” therefore in my teaching approach I try to be motivational and adapt the content to the learner’s values and goals. I enjoy teaching classes full of motivated students, so I decided to commit to it for the rest of my life.

Recognizing the importance of SDGs as an inherent framework to confront our current environmental challenges, I am kindled with passion to foster literacy on this topic, and particularly the intertwined solutions for human wellbeing and the environment.

What advice would you give to the next generation of leaders that are looking to bring about positive change in their communities through EE?

It is not only about promoting environmental awareness, but also about inspiring others to implement EE in their daily lives. The SDG Junior Ambassador Program is a great example of this. The program was designed to teach students about environmental protection, which is part of my profession as an environmental engineer. Apart from just listening to the experts, students are also required to apply what they learn and implement it in their schools. As a result, the program has successfully created positive change among the students and has empowered them as young active citizens to take real action. Overall, the best way to bring change is by sharing our own experiences with others.

Who do you look up to as inspiration for your work?

Professor Jeffrey Sachs, an economist who advocates for sustainable development and previous Special Advisor to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on the Sustainable Development Goals. In his book, The Age of Sustainable Development, he presents a compelling and practical framework for how global citizens can use a holistic way forward, i.e. sustainable development, to address the seemingly intractable worldwide problems of persistent extreme poverty, environmental degradation, and political-economic injustice.

If you had to live in one place for the rest of your life, where would it be?

I would stay in my hometown, Hong Kong, for the rest of my life. Hong Kong ranks among the world’s most livable cities. Compared to some other developing countries in the region, EE in Hong Kong needs more effort to facilitate changes in perception, attitudes, values, and skills to address environmental issues. We also need strong and effective policies, laws and systems for recycling and waste management like those used widely elsewhere. Therefore, I plan to stay to make a positive change at my home.

Environmental protection begins with the heart. My goal in life is to promote positive change in the world through environmental education and engineering. I am determined to understand the global issues, be motivated to make a change, and do something about it.