Christian Masset –
I [got my Master’s in] international trade and my Bachelor’s in Chinese studies from the Oriental Language Institute [INALCO Paris], which is a very old institution. They are associated with the Sorbonne.
In Paris, I was working in the logistics industry. What attracted me to Hong Kong was the boom of Asia, and that was in the late 80s.
I have my own company called Coastline Consulting. [We perform] two main activities: promotion of renewable energy, and education for younger people—teenagers and young adults—in communication.
Oral communication is what drives personal growth, and I think not enough is done in this respect for teenagers and young adults. It is important for them to not only express their ideas, but to express who they are.
I think that when young people are able to express themselves and who they are, it changes everything. It changes the image they have of themselves and society.
I always had an interest in environmental issues back when I was living in France, but I had never been a member of a group, I never volunteered.
It was in the year 2000 that I had an opportunity to join Clear the Air. I thought it was a great opportunity to do a voluntary thing, to help the environment, and to know more about the way things are done in Hong Kong in these issues.
I entered as a foot soldier, as an ordinary member, progressively knowing more about environmental issues and the organization.
Then I volunteered to take part in projects—organizing marches and Earth Days, and in 2003 I ran for chairman of the organization.
One [of the books that inspired me] was “The Ecology of Commerce” by Paul Hawken—that’s a pretty recent book. The other one is from the 70s, “Small is Beautiful,” a book that has been printed and reprinted 32 times.
It’s by an American economist called Schumacher. This is a manual on sustainability which was already written in the early 70s. It’s a book that actually changed my perception on many things. It made me realize that capitalism had to factor in the environment.
My biggest breakthrough was to develop the ability to write and speak publicly about Hong Kong and the environment, to be in the open—on the radio, TV, in articles—to the point that some friends had heard about [environmental issues] through this.
I still have these two caps of being the mechanic of a project and working backstage, but also working onstage. I like both.
The awareness [of Hong Kong people] is slowly growing. However, there is a two-speed mechanism. The Hong Kong middle class understands it and the larger population is learning slowly.
The upper classes know everything, but they can [either] do something or ignore it. The captains of industry, CEOs, property developers… some of them do something, some do not. Also, let’s not forget that CEOs are employees. Unless they’re owners, they’re [still] employees of their board.
[The biggest change I want to see in Hong Kong is] sustainable prosperity. I’m convinced that if Hong Kong managed to attract more academic talent, it could be a resource for creativity.
I’m talking about [utilizing] thinking, what Edward de Bono called the management of thinking, to achieve more industrial, management and project creativity. It is more difficult in mainland China, because there is more freedom of thought in Hong Kong than in mainland China.
What I liked before, and still love, is the entrepreneurial culture of Hong Kong.