Tibet railway photo: Henry Chen
China's environmental woes are well documented, but in a recent article in Yale Environment 360 Fred Pearce tries to find the greener side of China's rise. He even asserts that, because of its growing green efforts, China's per-capita carbon emissions are unlikely to ever reach those of the United States.
At his own request, you can call him an "incorrigible optimist" (and frankly, I do, at least in part). But here are Pearce's examples of the new Green China:China's Renewable Energy Industry Growing Fast
After updating us on the dark statistic that China in fact is erecting more than one new coal plant a week (the current stat is two 1000 MW plants a week), he points out China's fast growing renewable energy industry and its leading position in aquaculture.
Eco-Cities, Plastic Bag Bans
Pearce then reads the laundry list of other green endeavors:
On an island at the mouth of the Yangtze river near Shanghai, they are currently building the world's first eco-city, powered by renewable electricity, with citywide water recycling and plans for a car-free transport system. Similarly, the recently completed 1,200-kilometer railway into Tibet employed "green construction" methods, according to a paper in Science last year. And the Shanghai World Expo in 2010 is devoted to green urban design.
In June, the country officially banned free plastic bags in shops. The world's largest plastic bag manufacturer (Chinese, of course) shut down as a result.
The 'Queen of Trash'
Pearce relays the size of China's recycling industry through the story of the 'Queen of Trash',
Witness the success of China's "Queen of Trash," Cheung Yan. Ten years ago, when China stopped logging its own natural forests to prevent a recurrence of big floods, she anticipated a paper shortage. She went to the U.S. and drove around in an old pick-up begging municipal garbage dumps to sell her their waste paper. She was so successful that today her company, Nine Dragons, ships more than 6 million ton of waste paper a year into China, which she recycles into boxes for electronics goods that will be taking the next container ship back to Europe and North America.
Nine Dragons is now the world's largest manufacturer of packaging. Cheung is reportedly mainland China's richest person — and possibly the richest self-made woman on the planet.
Ultimately, Pearce concludes that the rise of the middle class in China, combined with the pressure of dwindling natural resources, and the profit motive of supplying the US with green products as it too moves towards a greater green awareness, will force China into adopting greener measures.
So what do readers think? Incorrigible optimism, starry-eyed wishful thinking or accurate insight?
Full article at: Yale Environment 360
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