A Green Leap Forward?

As carbon dioxide clouds gather ominously over China’s
coal-reliant economy, the world’s most populous nation has begun to
breathe fresh air into sustainable energy industries. China
currently occupies the seemingly contradictory position of being at
the forefront of ‘green’ sustainable technology, while keeping up
its standing as one of the world’s worst polluters. As Mara
Hvistendahl reports for
Seed Magazine, the country is betting
on green technology to pull them out of their eco-woes, and ‘the
stakes couldn’t be higher.’

On a recent trip through China, Hvistendahl encountered a
variety of sustainable energy projects scattered across the vast
nation. In the remote and impoverished province of Gansu, solar
powered appliances ‘have become so popular… that families have
started giving them as dowry.’ And solar power is ‘only part of the
equation’ in China’s budding environmentalism, according to
Hvistendahl. Other sustainable developments include ‘investment and
research in wind farms, bioenergy, and fuel cell and hybrid
vehicles, and aiming to improve energy efficiency by a sizeable 4
percent annually.’

The projects may be impressive, but questions remain as to
whether the moves will be sufficient. Hvistendahl points out that
70 percent of the country’s power still comes from coal. And China
remains home to 16 of the 20 most polluted cities in the world.

As a result, many in the world community are watching China’s
move toward environmentalism with a skeptical eye. Elizabeth
Economy writes for the
Nation that the widespread environmental
degradation throughout the country is forcing the centralized
government’s hand to shift toward greener ways. Economy applauds
the country’s push for more renewable energy, but laments the slow
pace of change. ‘Pricing of natural resources, pollution levies and
promotion incentives for officials should all be geared toward
environmental protection,’ Economy writes. ‘Instead, growth at all
costs is the guiding logic.’

Against the backdrop of the Chinese government’s massive — and
sometimes suspect — environmental reforms, Hvistendahl writes of a
grassroots environmental movement that has begun to spread
environmental awareness to the country’s more than 1.2 billion
people. If the movement succeeds(and that’s a big if), ‘the country
could effectively leapfrog over the West in developing sustainable
energy and growth.’ If they fail, according to Hvistendahl ‘the
implications for the rest of the world could be grave.’

Go there >>
The China Experiment

Go there, too >>
China vs. Earth

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