Sustainability news often comes out of China at a trickle. This past month, it’s been a deluge
I’m walking through a factory in the southern province of Guangdong. Little beads of sweat run down my back as I try to concentrate through the early summer heat.
Today, Reince Priebus announced that the Trump Administration would make climate change denial its official policy. As leaders in Beijing wake up to the news, they must be having their own Thanksgiving. It’s not that they wish ill on the American people. It’s just, well, a dream come true.
Shanghailanders have enjoyed what, on the surface, appears to be a summer of blue skies. In recent weeks, locals have come to affectionately refer to this as G-20 Blue in light of the upcoming summit in the neighboring city of Hangzhou. News articles have also pointed to an improvement in the country’s air situation as a whole, although Shanghai doesn’t seem to be contributing to this trend. I wanted to find out whether G-20 Blue is just a fleeting dream or something we can hope to look forward to more often.
This week marks the 2016 Songkran, Thailand’s official new year. Songkran, a Sanskrit word meaning transformation or change, holds similar meaning to other New Year celebrations around the world. This is a time for rebirth and resolution, filled with excitement for what’s to come in the year ahead.
Two of America’s most prestigious universities, Yale and Columbia, have been collaborating since 2006 to produce the biannual global Environmental Performance Index (EPI). The EPI looks at “…how well countries perform on high-priority environmental issues in two broad policy areas: protection of human health from environmental harm and protection of ecosystems.” While this is an abbreviated portion of the entire scope of environmental protection, it does give practical information that states can use to improve their impact on the Earth. The 2016 version, released in late January at the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, did just this.
Not surprisingly, China’s performance wasn’t so hot. Even more surprisingly, it wasn’t all that bad either.
Six years ago this week, China took proactive measures to reduce waste from lightweight plastic bags. Nationally, the Government banned stores from handing bags out for free. Stores now charge a fee for plastic bags. The 5 mao tax, equivalent to less than 10 U.S. cents, is minimal but still a deterrent for most. Over half a decade on, these moves have become part and parcel of daily life. With plenty of room for improvement though, it is important to look back on the ban’s successes and where it could go in the future.
Global warming. The mere mention of these two powerful words can create panic in the minds of many. We are bombarded with news about the Earth’s irreversible trajectory towards oblivion. Overconsumption of fossil fuels and other nonrenewable resources is to blame, with every effort humanly possible put into finding alternatives to their use. Human beings, particularly those from the developed world, are held accountable – socially and sometimes legally – to putting the Earth on a greener path. But are we really hearing the whole story?
With the start of a new year, it’s helpful to discuss where China’s social sector is heading. Of course with such a rapidly evolving space in the world’s fastest growing economy the ability to predict the future is quite difficult. There are, though, some trends we have seen over the past year that are likely to continue throughout 2014.