Fighting for our forests

Fighting for our forests

It's time to get involved and help save our trees from forest fires.

Earth Hour is just around the corner, so it's time to ask: what are you doing to make the world a greener place? If your answer is "nothing", then Ark Eden can give you a few ideas.

Formed by ex-English Schools Foundation teacher Jenny Quinton, Ark Eden is fighting for our environment. It runs its own tree-planting sites and hopes to help every school in Hong Kong plant trees to create new forests.

Every year, as many as 300 forest fires destroy trees in country parks. Many types of trees have become endangered as a result of these fires. Quinton wanted to do something about it.

"I was frustrated as a classroom teacher, because the students were all so out of touch with nature," says Quinton, who lives in the hills of Lantau Island. "Meanwhile, I was constantly fighting forest fires to prevent my house from burning down. I knew I had to do something."

In 2006, Quinton quit her job and started Ark Eden on Lantau Island. She set up tree-planting sites after fires had blackened the hills. Students began visiting to take part in outdoor activities such as local tree planting and maintenance.

Edmund Fung, 17, a student from Li Po Chun United World College in Sha Tin, has volunteered at Ark Eden, helping to keep trees healthy.

"The project is meaningful as trees are important," he says. "Letting students [take part] like this shows us we can actually make a difference to the world."

With the help of 52 schools and universities, Ark Eden has planted more than 18,000 trees in Hong Kong. But Quinton isn't stopping yet.

"I would like every school to have its own forest. We've started teaching school students how to create their own forests. [Eventually] they can have ownership over their projects," she says.

This year, Sha Tin College and Renaissance College have started to plan their own forest, made up of local trees, in Ma On Shan.

"Hong Kong is very much a [busy city]. We experience many problems, such as forest fires and landslides," says Kelly Yu, 15, one of the students planning the forest. "Planting trees really combats these problems, and it's really amazing to be part of it."

The students have completed the first step, which was to decide where trees will be planted. Now, they are waiting for the 1,000 seedlings they ordered to arrive. Then they can begin planting.

"I feel like it's really cool to be able to make a difference like this," says Kelly. "Tree planting is great because it's something you can do to change the environment. People like to see what they can actually do. It's a good way to make change physically."

In the coming weeks, more tree-planting and others activities are planned. More than 150 Baptist University students will be working on tree-planting sites with the help of Ark Eden on March 22.

However, Ark Eden is still facing its original problem: how to prevent forest fires. If fewer forest fires break out, there would be less need to plant more trees.

"There is a sharp [rise] in the number of fires that start around the grave-sweeping festival," says Quinton. With the Ching Ming festival fast approaching, she wants people to be careful when burning offerings at gravesites.

Edmund suggests advising people to place joss sticks in incense holders, rather than simply on the ground. He thinks this may help reduce the risk of fire. He also thinks people are more likely to listen to the advice. "I think it's very difficult [to ask] people not to burn joss sticks, as it is a tradition," he says.

Quinton says there's no excuse for students to ignore the issues facing Hong Kong's forests.

"Educate yourself about what's going on, and do something about it. Students are incredibly capable people who can make a [big] difference."

If you or your school want to get involved with Ark Eden, visit

This article appeared in the Young Post print edition as
Fighting for our forests


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