Just last week international new sources ran reports on Beijing’s dangerous air quality, complete with pictures on the BBC and CNN of a thick blanket of yellow smog covering the streets – apparently at record, toxic levels. This, it could be said, is the cost of China’s rapid economic expansion over the last two decades. But before cynicism takes hold, there have also been unlikely reports of new environmental agendas emerging from the most populous country on earth; positive advances in tackling water scarcity and preservation.
This may seem like an inessential area of concern, but water scarcity will emerge as one of the greatest challenges to mankind in the foreseeable future. And the BBC have just run a piece on China being the global leader in investments to protect watersheds – “preserving or reviving natural features, such as wetlands, streams and forests that can store and filter freshwater supplies.” This is good news, and also shows that governmental and private sector decision-makers are thinking much longer term, unlike the U.S. or Russia. The fact that this prudent, prescient action is probably with a purely economic motive in mind is fine; at least it’s taking the right tack on something that will affect all of us very soon.
A Forest Trend Research analyst, Genevieve Bennett, was quoted on the BBC, “China has obviously turned on the investment tap full blast”… adding that the nation had experienced economic growth at the expense of a lot of natural resources. “I think we are seeing the country embrace watershed investment as an attempt to balance that and say that their forests, wetlands and rivers also have economic value.” This is the crux of how environmental policy in the future needs to be presented, and appreciated. The sooner large nations realize that successful environmental policies make economic sense, the better everyone will be. Well done, China. Next step – air quality.