Despite accusations otherwise, U.S. enviros are working to help their Chinese counterparts
I would like to see people calling themselves environmentalists take a stand on this. Stopping seal clubbing is not going to change the world. Signing on to feel-good accords like Kyoto accelerates environmental destruction in places like China. Taking a stand with the villagers of Huaxi — if only a symbolic gesture — would be a step in the right direction. In the end, we should all do business for child and survival.
I don’t think there’s any evidence that Kyoto would have any effect one way or the other on “environmental destruction in places like China,” so I don’t know what he’s talking about there. It’s a red herring. But China is an environmental catastrophe, and I agree that China’s environmental problems are more important than seal-clubbing.
Here’s a quick overview of China’s disaster from Joshua Kurlantzick:
In a new book on China’s environment, “The River Runs Black,” a Council on Foreign Relations scholar, Elizabeth Economy, documents how two-thirds of Chinese cities have air quality below World Health Organization standards, by far the worst rate of any large country in the world. By some measures, at least six of the world’s 10 most polluted cities are in China, including Beijing and Urumqi. Several have the highest rates of airborne carbon monoxide in the world. The country’s environmental agency says that living in Chinese cities with the worst air pollution does more damage to an average Chinese person’s lungs than smoking two packs of cigarettes a day.
Meanwhile, as trees are ripped out of northern and central China — forest cover has fallen by more than half over the past two decades — the country’s deserts are expanding by several hundred thousand square kilometers per year, faster than anywhere else in the world. The government’s efforts to replant tens of millions of trees have thus far proven woefully ineffective at stopping the desert’s march. The Gobi Desert, which stretches across central China, has moved so close to Beijing, at a pace of about two miles a year, that its borders are less than 200 miles from the capital. Beijing is buffeted every summer by sandstorms that fill the sky and sometimes send particles drifting as far as South Korea.
According to Economy, the water in five of China’s largest rivers is so polluted it is dangerous to the touch, because it causes skin diseases; the Huai River, in the fertile province of Anhui, is filled with garbage, yellow foam and piles of dead fish. Several of the country’s main waterways, including the Yellow River, a vital artery, run dry before reaching the sea. More than 600 million Chinese, roughly half the country’s population, now drink water contaminated with animal and human waste, says Jasper Becker, a longtime China analyst based in Beijing.
But if Cicero is implying that American environmental groups aren’t paying attention to China, however, he’s dead wrong.
In February of this year, Elizabeth Economy testified to Congress on Chinese environmental activism. Presumably under oath, she said:
Most of China’s environmental NGO leaders have also spent significant time abroad, particularly in the United States either at universities or training with various U.S.-based environmental NGOs.
Emphasis mine. And further:
International foundations, multinationals, and other governments provide an overwhelming portion of Chinese NGO financial wherewithal.
Here’s the NRDC’s Clean Energy Project, which has been going on since 1996. The Nature Conservancy is doing a massive nationwide biodiversity assessment. And so forth. We can talk about whether American environmental groups are doing enough, or whether they’re focusing on the right priorities, or whether these good faith efforts are garnering enough grassroots support and media coverage here in the United States. But that implies being on top of the issues, doesn’t it?
So, yes, let’s get informed, and let’s continue to stand with and nurture the Chinese who are fighting for the right to clean land, water, and air against a grossly negligent and oppressive government. Because, ultimately, we’re all in this together.