Saturday, December 12, 2009

Red China Far from Green

While the negotiations and discussions are happening in Copenhagen to determine how the world will save itself, it seems many people in China are completely obtuse when it comes to environmental protection and how they can do their bit to help out.

In Beijing I see many people, but in particular young people who have no idea how they can make a small but accumulated contribution in cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

On the sidewalks and streets are numerous cigarette butts. They are particularly abundant near bus stops, where half lit cigarettes are carelessly thrown away without even bothering to stamp them out. And when men of all ages buy a pack of cigarettes, they tear off the cellophane and wrapping and drop them on the ground as they walk. There is no thought to holding onto their garbage and looking for the nearest garbage can.

The same goes for outdoor food vendors, especially those selling chaur, or barbecued skewers of meat, or mala tang, that cook balls of meat or seafood, tofu, and the like on bamboo skewers in spicy hot soups. Those things are consumed by these carts and the used sticks thoughtlessly left behind.

No one thinks to have a garbage can nearby; the thought is, well someone else is going to clean it up anyway. The next day the poor street cleaners have to deal with the mess. They should be paid even more to have to deal with picking up after selfish people.

At work we use water dispensers as tap water is not potable. A man comes in everyday with a giant load of water barrels to stock our office up and takes away the empty ones. This all costs money. I have someone come in once a week to deliver a water barrel to my place for 19RMB ($2.78) for 19 litres. So imagine an office with about 10 water dispensers, each using more than one barrel a day. That adds up.

Yesterday I watched in horror as I saw a young woman in our office fill up her little humidifier with water from the water dispenser. Is she too lazy to go a few steps away to the washroom to fill it up? Or does she think purified water is better for her skin?

And now that it's winter, restaurants have to spend more money to heat up the place, thus keeping the doors closed to keep the heat in. However, some patrons will walk in and leave the doors wide open without a thought that perhaps the customers inside may be freezing and also to help conserve the heat? Didn't their parents teach them that wasting energy was wasting money?

Another observation is seeing many cars idling -- most of them government cars -- whether it's for the air conditioning in the summer or heat in the winter. Can they not park the car, turn off the gas and wait inside a building? Or is their boss is too much of a pansy not to suffer through a bit of chill when they start the car again? These people are not only wasting taxpayers' money, but also precious fossil fuels.

Most of these crazy action are due to ignorance. The government is not doing enough in educating its people on how they can protect the environment. An easy first step is teaching people on how to separate their garbage and recycle it or compost it if their buildings have those facilities. Also the government needs to setup infrastructure in order for people to recycle and compost. Marking public garbage cans with recyclable and non-recyclable labels doesn't help because to most people they look the same and don't bother to dispose of things properly.

In many other countries like Japan, there are separate garbage disposal units for different types of waste and the public is educated on how to use it. This could easily be implemented in China. If the government established the proper recycling infrastructure where those people collecting cans, bottles and cardboard boxes can send them to government-sanctioned collection sites and be paid properly this could be a way of creating employment.

Right now these collectors are paid very little which explains why so many of them ride bicycles hauling gigantic mounds of bottles, cardboard boxes, and styrofoam. If the government is giving out so many subsidies for people to buy cars and pollute the environment, why not balance it by giving those helping China green the environment more financial support too?

1 comment:

gung said...

these are the growing pains of a developing country coming out from thousands of years of feudalism and foreign domination. the chinese need to be educated for sure. public education is the basis for a civilized country. give it some more time.