Pollution in China has been one of the critical issues in China. Especially for the upcoming Olympics in Beijing, where officials promise clean and clear skies for the entirety of the Games. It seems pretty optimistic considering how Beijing looks out of James Fallows’ apartment window. That photo was taken yesterday.
Fallows, who writes one of my favorite blogs, recently filed a story on pollution and how Chinese officials, citizens and entrepreneurs are dealing with the pollution crisis. While many people outside of China — especially people in the States — figure that China and its government are sitting on their hands on the environment, Fallows sees dedicated people trying to make China greener, either for altruistic reasons or financial.
Here is what I learned by visiting the cement factory, and by seeing and asking about many similar “green” projects in China: China’s environmental situation is disastrous. And it is improving. Everyone knows about the first part. The second part is important too. Outside recognition of where and why China has made progress increases the prospects that it will make further advances. Recognition also clarifies the most important obstacles, political and economic, to such progress. And it is simply fair to the many people within China, including within the Chinese Communist Party, who are trying their best to make a difference—and who are having more success than most Westerners who rely on media accounts would suspect.
The Western media has been charged by the Chinese people with being unfair, unbalanced and negative with their coverage on China. True or not, it’s sparked a backlash among Chinese people. While their jingoism is a turnoff, not to mention dangerous, the Chinese perhaps have a right to feel slighted.
Fallows’ article, however, acknowledges some of the work — uphill, daunting and perhaps Sisyphean — that’s being done to turn China green. China’s explosion, economically and socially, means growth that historically took centuries happened in a few decades. The country is playing catchup while critics continue to lambaste it, fair or not.
But perhaps we all have to step back and give credit where credit is due. Fallows’ last line:
The world will have more time to work toward a solution if it nurtures promising developments in China—and if it recognizes that its most populous nation is doing some things right.