The future of humanity depends on ensuring the health of our planet
Over the last half century, we have witnessed a high level of economic growth as well as rapid urbanization. The effects of such human activities go far beyond what the planet can support.

According to WWF, to create economic growth and cater to the needs of material consumption, we are using 50% more natural resources than the Earth can support. Our planet has already lost 80% of its forest, while more than 1.2 billion tons of coal are burned every year. This exhaustion of the earth’s resources is taking a heavy toll on the health of the planet and humans, and will affect generations to come—posing a fundamental threat to the environment, species and people’s livelihoods.

The causal relationship between environment and personal health affects our daily lives. The combined impact of rapid environmental, social, and technological changes is creating unnecessary stress to our physical and mental health, as well as the spreading of infectious diseases. The future of humanity depends on ensuring the health and resilience of our planet, which requires a fundamental mindset shift to focus more on a healthy and sustainable lifestyle.

Is it possible to run an expanding economy without threatening the future of the planet? Corporations must take sustainability seriously, and take on the responsibility to address environmental and social issues. In this corporate plenary, business leaders from different industries come together to discuss how the business sector is becoming a proactive agent of change to finance and re-define our footprint, and to shape an agenda for sustainable development. While corporate social responsibility is not a panacea to the world’s problems, it certainly does start to move the needle towards a better world for us to live in.

What makes a community or city we live in more livable and competitive than others?

Our pursuit of a modern lifestyle has put our planet’s health in sharp decline, and the consequences are felt by all of us on a daily basis. In this panel, we will define the standards of a livable city, discuss how livable cities affect our health and well-being, and identify the essential ingredients to develop and sustain such environment. Most importantly, we seek to redefine what a sustainable city looks like to preserve a healthy planet for our children.

The Yellow Earth Fund (YEF) is a non-profit Hong Kong organization founded in 2001 to help combat soil degradation in the Yellow River Basin’s Loess Plateau. Its focus has shifted to education subsequently and it now collaborates with educators to support needy students in Inner Mongolia and schools lacking resources in Henan. The former, rich in coal reserves, has been buffeted by boom and bust; the latter hosts the world’s biggest iPhone factory even as donkey carts continue to be a common sight on its muddy back roads. Relative to the dynamic coastal regions, these places and their inhabitants have been part of a China-left-behind. How life has changed as they try to catch up and how we could make economic development more inclusive will be the subject of a panel discussion by YEF members, drawing on their observations from periodic visits.

Ensuring healthy lives and promoting the well-being for all is essential to sustainable development. Health is a direct source of human welfare and also an instrument for raising income levels. However, population density, migration and global travel, and environmental degradation, are all effects of urbanization that leads to the re-emergence of infectious diseases. The spreading of diseases is posing a threat on global health and security. This panel will discuss the current state of human health, and initiatives and policies to improve our readiness to combat spreadable diseases.

Sustainable development challenges can be addressed by harnessing and maximizing the potential of technological innovation. Nowadays, the power of information technology can be multiplied by emerging breakthroughs in fields such as artificial intelligence, robotics, the Internet of Things, 3-D printing, nanotechnology, biotechnology, quantum computing, etc. Technological advancement is an enabler and tool to tackle difficult environmental problems, and it also helps intervene and prevent severe illnesses through early detection. With access to big data, analytics can be used to foster institutional reform and to ensure resources are equitably disseminated. In this panel, we present startups with reimagined technologies that aim to save our planet, and discuss how these technologies affect our lives.