Monday, June 29, 2009

StatusQ Goes High Fashion (Green Fashion)

A while ago i was asked by QQ to write an enviro piece for her fashion mag before she was finished up there, having recently given notice. 1500 words, give it to me in a couple days, she said. Um ok. So i did, and frankly didin't find it very hard to write.

i kinda wrote it as if i were a chinese person, if you know what i mean. Saying "we should" and not "you people oughta". i feel pretty good about it since truthfully, i don't think many chinese people consciously do anything to ease up on the environment. Not that it's their fault, 'cause i think it's largely an education issue. Or lack there of. Anyhow, the mag is geared at a 30-50 years old sort of crowd, largely with some capital on their hands. So i doubt they'll start riding bikes, but none the less, it's good to say "hey maybe a Smart Car is enviro, AND prestigious..."

At any rate, i don't think i said anything very new at all, but QQ read it (she was the one who translated it into Chinese for publication, hence i wrote it to make it easy on the translator), and found all the ideas rather innovative. Taken directly from Suzuki's Nature Challenge.

Well, hopefully the mag gets distribution in a bunch of cities, and i don't gather that enviro issues are the norm for fashion mags here, so that's cool if a bunch of people read it.

It comes out this Saturday, so i look fwd to getting my hands on a copy so i can see it, if still totally incapable of reading it.

Anyhow, here it is in its entirety, if you wanna read about stuff you already know.

Are the Chinese People Ready For a Green Revolution?
By William Wang

Even before the Olympics, there were a lot of wonderful headlines about different environmental incentives in Beijing and China. These government has surely made some progress in the realm of eco-consciousness, but what is the lasting legacy of its environemental incentives? Can Beijing be a much-needed environmentally trend-setting city, to be followed by many others in China and beyond; or is it still slowly struggling towards first world standards of energy usage, recycling, and awareness?

China is in a rare place today, where it is developing and modernizing at rates never before seen in history. More and more of its people are finding themselves in possession of wealth that was unimaginable in earlier times. But these changes are also taking place in a world which also has never been seen or imagined before. A world where human beings have become so populous, so powerful, and so technologically advanced that we have started pushing the limits of what our home, the earth, can handle.

China can and should be developing and growing in order to benefit its people. However we should choose how we develop carefully. Too many people look to America to see what development can offer. It is true that America has done many things well, but it has done things in a way which did not understand the environmental problems which are facing us now. Hilary Clinton bravely admitted recently that the USA has made far too much pollution, and continues to do so. The USA uses disproportionate amounts of natural resources and energy. If every person on the planet were to live the lifestyle that Americans have recently had, we would require 4.7 planet earths to provide us with the required natural resources! We can and must develop, but we must do so intelligently, and with foresight. The entire planet is watching China today to see the decisions we make, and what pathway to the future we choose.

In many ways the communist party government is wonderful in that it is able to make strong decisions, and to carry them out powerfully. For example, last spring China largely banned the plastic bags given away by retailers each year. The need for 40 billion plastic bags was eliminated, saving 1.6 million tons of petroleum. This was a huge success for China, and the world is watching us for more initiatives.

However, I fear that the Chinese government alone can not carry out the changes that China needs. The Chinese people must also be an integral part of the solution. Too many Chinese are presently not well-educated about environmental issues, or what can be done to help the environment. Yes, the Chinese government can do a lot to encourage environmental changes, but true, profound change will start with the people.

Now is the time that all Chinese can start taking small steps in their personal lives. In a country of 1.3 billion individuals, this will be a crucial step towards building a China that is successful and sustainable. In the west, most environmental changes have truly started from grass roots movements, from the birth of organic farming in California, now a booming industry; to education about alternative energy sources. If Chinese people now can start adjusting their daily routines and behaviours in small and large ways, we will really be moving forward with the rest of the world.

So now, what can we do? We shouldn't be bewildered by the size of the problem., because in fact some of the most effective ways to reduce our impact on the planet are simple, cost-effective, or both. World renowned environmental spokesperson, David Suzuki has encouraged the people of Canada, and the rest of the world to get involved with his Nature Challenge, where hundreds of thousands of people and families have pledged to make some changes in their daily lives in order to protect the environment.

Suzuki and other scientists have done their research and came up with the most effective ways for everyday people to help the planet.

Choose a fuel-efficient vehicle
As Chinese people build more wealth, the desire to show it, sometimes leads people to think that “bigger is better.” However, China may soon realize the lesson that America learned through the demise of the Hummer, a massive luxury SUV, known for it's terrible fuel-efficiency. The vehicle has become an embarrassment to many of its owners, as Americans realized how harmful the vehicle is. Interestingly, General Motors was so dissatisfied with the dropping Hummer sales, they looked for and eventually found a buyer in China's Tenzhong, a company who must presume that Hummer's bad reputation will not follow it to China.

Bigger isn't better, and the Smart Cars and hybrid (electric) cars now seen on the 2nd Ring Road are showing that environmentalism takes many forms, and simplicity and efficiency are on the cutting edge.

Walk, bike, or take transit
Beijing traffic is a problem that needs no introduction, but we can consciously make a decision not to be a part of it, for our own sanity, and also to reduce the carbon emissions created by the millions of cars slowly crawling over the asphalt.

The new subway lines are a much needed addition to Beijing's infrastructure. Using subway and bus even once a week as an alternative to driving makes a positive impact in the long run.

Better yet, if you can walk or bike to your location, so much the better. The days when Peking was clogged with Pigeon and Feng Huang Yong Jiu bicycles may be gone, but their spirit is returning, as millions of Beijingers take advantage of the city's bike lanes to avoid traffic jams and get a little exercise. Electric bicycles are also surprisingly energy-efficient.

If you must drive, driving to your destination with friends or coworkers again keeps traffic down, and keeps the air cleaner

We should also note that choosing a home near your school or workplace is ideal to make transportation-related pollution unnecessary, as well as saving you headaches and time wasted in traffic.

Support organic food industry.
China has a long way to go in this area, as organic food is not easily available for most people yet, and it is a high value item. But the amount of pesticides and fertilizers used in the production of most produce would not be allowed in many western countries, and the havoc these chemicals wreak on the natural soil (and potentially our bodies) should be important to all Chinese.

Eat meat-free meals one day a week
The meat industry is well-known for using massive amounts of energy, water, and land, while also creating pollution, all of which are adding stress to the environment. In 2006, the UN reported that meat production is "one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global." Last year the UN declared that eating less meat is an effective way to help stop global warming. Luckily, Beijing has no shortage of fantastic of vegetarian restaurants!

Buy locally grown and produced food
Although the temptation to eat foreign foods may be hard to resist, we should consider that supporting local farmers also supports the environment and keeps energy usage and pollution levels down.

Reduce home energy use by 10%
China is ahead of the game in terms of solar power, as millions of Chinese rooftops are home to millions of solar water heaters. But we can do more by ensuring we use energy-efficient light bulbs, using air-conditioning sparingly, and not using appliances if we don't need to. For example: we can turn off televisions or other appliances when they're not being used, or even turning off the water heater if you're going away for the weekend.

Choose an energy-efficient home & appliances
More and more energy-efficient appliances are becoming available in China. Like energy-efficient light bulbs, they will cost more at the start, but they will pay for themselves in the long run from electricity savings

This is an important time for China, as it quickly moves into this new phase of history. So far, the Chinese government has taken a few important steps towards sustainability, but China is still using more and more energy (largely from heavily polluting coal power plants). In the end it will be Chinese individuals, not the Communist Party who will carry the green revolution forward. Chinese people are talking more and more about environmental issues, and are making deliberate choices to live green. Westerners have educated themselves about the environment, and Chinese people will too. The changes may start in small ways, but like a drop of water in the pond, the ripples can reach out and touch all. The drop is hitting the water at this very moment, and it is up to us to carry it out to our family and friends and beyond.

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