Kootyin Chow lives in Nam Chung community, an eco-community in the northeastern part of Hong Kong. For her master’s studies, she did an ethnographic study in her community exploring the notion of sustainability using a multi-species perspective including villagers, plants, and animals.
In the excerpt below, drawn from Kootyin’s recently finished thesis on the eco-community project, Kootyin writes about her encounter with a wild boar who accidentally broke into the territories of house-kept dogs in the village and got killed in this pig-dogging incident, and how this allowed her to reflect on her relationship with the animals, plants and other more-than-human beings in the neighborhood.
Loud roaring noises from my neighbour’s pack of twenty-five dogs woke me up on a late summer morning in Nam Chung. I scurried downstairs and went outdoors to see what was happening. On a grassy pitch outside my neighbours’ house, a small female wild boar was caught in a scuffle with four dogs; they launched themselves at the boar and bit its hind legs, whilst the rest of the dogs barked incessantly with excitement. The boar – not much bigger than an ordinary mongrel dog – was already badly hurt with open cuts all over its body and bleeding heavily when I got to the scene. This intruder had left the forests to find food around the village and was desperately caught in the fight. Gasping, whining, charging in all directions in an attempt to escape, the boar couldn’t outcompete the dogs. It was completely at the dogs’ mercy.
As this happened, Al –who worked for my neighbour’s family – rushed out with a pickaxe. Surrounded by dogs, the boar could only run around in circles. Al grabbed every chance he could to approach the boar and struck heavy blows on its head with the pickaxe. With each blow, the boar whimpered; its squeals provoked the dogs to strike and attack even more. The boar collapsed finally with one last hit on the head; Al pressed his pickaxe against the boar’s head as it lay on the ground panting. Catching his breath, Al did not spare a moment and skilfully tied up the boar’s hoofs. It was then dragged across the grass pitch and the concrete floor of the front yard then tied down and settled on the kennel floor at the back of the house. The dogs followed, leaping enthusiastically, taking advantage of the now badly injured boar, still trying to attack it. Al shouted and the dogs backed off.
The boar was a young female barely one-year-old, Al said to me while deftly tying the ropes. ‘It is really unfortunate, yet it benefits the whole family, including the dogs!’ Upon saying this, Al went away; I continued to stand there and stare at the pig. I reached out to stroke its legs; its bristles were sharp and rough. There were more grunts from the boar: it was still alive, but it had stopped struggling. I knew the boar would soon become food for the family.
Living in this Anthropocene, deepening ecological crises and associated political, social, cultural and economic problems are manifest across the globe. In the face of a doomed world, various forms of community-based, bottom-up social-ecological experiments emerge as a response to present-time environmental challenges. One of these attempts is the building of ecovillages (or eco-communities) as experimental sites for environmental regeneration and sustainable transitions.
Through an ethnographic study of an emerging eco-community in Hong Kong’s north-eastern New Territories, this thesis explores what sustainability entails within the context of this community and its many implications. Based on participant observation, in-depth interviews and oral history, I explore the perspectives of different co-inhabitants – including indigenous and non-indigenous villagers, as well as plants and animals – and seek to understand how they interact and coalesce to inform us of a complex understanding of sustainability. For members of this eco-community, sustainability is situated in their everyday practices – it continuously comes into being through their engagement with the environment and their entanglements with other humans and the more-than-human.
This study provides a glimpse into the process of creation of an ecovillage in the Hong Kong context, albeit it is still in its incipient stage. More importantly, I hope that these multispecies stories will remind us of the inherent responsibility of humans for the continued survival of the Earth and provide us with an alternative paradigm of how we can live with/in/beyond these Anthropocene times.
If you’d like to know more about this eco-community project in Hong Kong or read more of her writing, please contact Kootyin at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kootyin Chow. Nam Chung Community, Hong Kong
Kootyin Chow lives and works in an eco-community in Nam Chung, a small Hakka village located in Hong Kong’s far northeast New Territories neighbouring Shenzhen, China. Kootyin is involved in the PEACE (Partnership for Eco-Agriculture and Conservation of Earth) project in Nam Chung, Hong Kong. She’s currently a Mphil student in the Chinese University of Hong Kong anthropology department. She does gardening, cooking, stream walking, wild swimming and spotting insects all the time.