In "The Seattle Times" of today there is an article on China's efforts to fight against pollution that is inherently tied to its huge development in the last years (see online version here).
I am very glad to see that they are awakening to this problem. This problem will affect more directly the Chinese people, but not only them. Pollution from China can travel to as far as the US West Coast and can be felt even here in Seattle area. Some of the actions they are taking is the increase in the clean techonology investments (which doubled since 2006) and they are also working with planners, architects and venture capitalists to address these issues. One of most ambitious plan is to build a eco-friendly city on the outskirts of Shangai. The whole world watch with attention this effort.
Young Chineses can already notice the effects of the uncontrolled development and many environment groups are trying to educate people about the importance of going green. One of the activists, Wen Bo, who was born in a time with blue skies and white coulds, regret that this time is over. And he says something very interesting about how that could impact future generations: "if they've never seen starts, how can you expect them to dream to be an astronomer?". It is interesting to think how future generations may see the world in such a different way.
People with the mindset that "environmental protection and development are inherently a contradiction" still justifies the damages to the environment as the country grows and don't seem to care much about the problem. The reason behind this behavior is that they see no other way to develop the country, which was very poor a few decades ago. But, as another activist says, "Live is not just about money." Balance is probably one of the most important keys for live.
Finally, one curious information is that China is on the way to overtake US as the largest emitter of carbon dioxide, although US still consumes more energy. As a matter of fact, energy consumption per capita in the US is 6 times China's. But being a high energy consumer does not mean that you will necessarily emit more carbon dioxide. And China must learn that. Maybe a "war" between US and China over which country is the greenest one could be one of best wars ever. And acting together, like they are doing now with joint efforts from China government, entrepreneurs and experienced people from the US, I foresee a possible great future.
China's impact on the world is not only about US or the pollution here in the Seattle area, but they will set standards. Worrying about environment is something that should be a top priority as doing it early in the process is much easier than trying to patch that later. I can see, mostly in developed countries, that protecting the environment and having an impact as low as possible has made its way into people's lives. I can see that all around me and how I end up try to do my part as well. Being a "compulsive" recycler, and avoid using disposable bags when doing groceries or disposable cups when drinking my daily coffee at the office are the two timid steps I took toward this direction.
PS: Although China is being the focus currently, we cannot forget about other country that has been having amazing growth rates and that is the country that had the highest increase in energy consumption in the 1990-2004 period: India. I would like to see similar initiatives with the Indian people. As it happens with Chinese people in the US that impact on this discussions (and sometimes even move back to their native country), hopefully the same will happen with India.