In China, Hold the Cell Phone for Environmental Activism
A little text message can go a long way, it seems - especially if it's sent a million times. On Wednesday, the Chinese city of Xiamen announced that it was putting plans for a highly polluting petrochemical plant on hold. These are not minor plans: the plant was approved for construction by the national government, and it's supposed to generate revenues of 80 billion yuan (about US$10.45 billion) a year. But despite having passed an expert panel's environmental evaluation, concerns about the project aren't minor, either. Chronic exposure to paraxylene, which the factory is meant to produce, can affect the central nervous system and may even cause death. And benzene, a paraxylene production byproduct, is a well-known carcinogen that's linked to leukemia.
The mayor's announcement came in the midst of a massive flurry - a storm, some might say - of oppositional texting activity. The plant's chemicals could "cover Xiamen in a nuclear bomb, causing the people... to live with leukemia and deformities. We want life, we want health! For the sake of our future generation[s], please forward the message to all your friends," read part of one very widely forwarded text message. Via the Wall Street Journal: "The uproar, and the government's decision to back down, underscores how the Chinese are becoming increasingly active over the environment and pollution. It also shows how technologies such as text messaging are allowing protestors to subvert government efforts to quash free speech." ::The Wall Street Journal, ::Forbes, and ::Xinhua