Saturday, March 7, 2015

We Should Stand with Chinese Pollution Activists Because They are Standing for Us

By Bob Ferris

Screen capture of CNN broadcast of  amateur video of Chinese
protesters and pollution.
When I worked in DC, I had a number of opportunities to meet with people working on environmental and conservation issues in other countries.  One that sticks out in my mind was a meeting with a Chinese activist who wanted to talk with me about saving panda bears.  He came to me because he thought that I was successful and he wanted to know how to be successful too.

He and I talked first in terms of professional toolboxes.  What did each of us have in terms of approaches we could apply towards our own issues?  My toolbox was embarrassingly full with environmental laws and regulations, activist lists, media and a whole host of options that I could use alone or in concert with others.  His toolbox was absolutely empty.  Not only that, but if he tried to use his empty toolbox the lid would likely slam down on his hand.  The meeting ended well but awkwardly and I remember feeling tremendous admiration for the gentleman and at the same time thinking: Dude, you are so screwed.
Chinese factory by High Contrast (Own work)
via Wikimedia Commons

Through the years I have followed some of what has been happening in China particularly as it applies to the shipment of coal and other fossil-fuels eastward as we, Wal-Mart and others supposedly externalize the environmental costs of our hyper-consumerism and continue our own march towards being a resource colony once again.

In this I remember the Panda man, because while we in the US and Canada stand up to the utter ridiculousness of coal trains, pipelines and tar sands, there are those in China who are doing the same thing at much, much greater personal risk (1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10).  We may not hear about it or see but that does not mean it is not happening.

There are many catalysts for this column but the most recent is a documentary called "Under the Dome"  which in many ways is the Asian equivalent of "An Inconvenient Truth."  Taking nothing away from Al Gore, but this is really the same act performed “without a net” and therefore deserves a thumbs-up on the YouTube video (above) as well as supportive comments that demonstrate worldwide support for this undertaking.  Their courage also challenges us to do more and show more courage in our own campaigns.

There are many, many reasons for wanting to stop coal from the Powder River Basin, Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) derived from fracking and tar sand (or shale) oil from being shipped to China. But if your only reason for doing so is to salute the courage of these protesters and activists in China who are fighting their fight (and through extension ours), that would be more than enough rationale. Perhaps through this collaboration we can also demonstrate the true promise of globalization which is not the shipping of products that many of us do not need from place to place but rather the establishment of some collective consciousness and the coming together to identify and solve our shared problems.

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