Thursday, December 30, 2010

Good news from China

"For years, humans have tried to conquer nature, but in doing so, they themselves became conquered. They lost their connection with the earth. They destroyed the land they were tilling. In Buddhist belief, there are no pesticides, no bad insects, no good ones. There is only imbalance in the world. We must restore that balance." Says Han, a new farmer in China.

As a reaction to the last decades of breakneck growth and environmental destruction, similarly as what happened in western countries in the sixties and seventies perhaps, there is a counter reaction in China with an increased interest in organic food. Also, a number of people, mainly rich, take a step further and go back to the land, start farming. This all according to an article in the Washington Post. Read more. At least some good news at the end of 2010.

(oh my, it feels like the much feared Y2K (if you are below 25 I am sure you have no idea what Y2K means, and I almost forgot it myself, but came across it the other day, and smiled a bit) was just a few years ago. What happened with those 10 years. Someone stole them?).

Even if most people expect nothing good from China and the other BRICs when it comes to the environment, I believe the future of humanity rests in the hands of those rapidly growing economies, for the better and the worse. In Garden Earth, I write:

There will be winners and losers among countries, regions, organizations and individuals. The people that are privileged today, like myself, will see their privileges diminish. But to lose privileges mustn't be a disaster, it can also be liberating in the same way as the abolition of apartheid in South Africa didn't only liberate the blacks but also the whites from an undignified relationship. If I might venture a guess, it is that we will find the winners in the middle income countries. This may sound surprising as they are the ones that also are well known for break-neck growth and environmental degradation. But they are not yet stuck in the high energy society, and in any case, it doesn't offer them the same prospects as it did the high income countries as returns, both economic and energetic on the use of more energy are diminishing. They have, hopefully, learned something from our mistakes ad they can challenge the high income countries politically and economically. There is a middle class that can be engaged in a political change project. They also have a very big part of the world's population, so their choice is to some extent the choice of humanity. In Europe and the USA, environmentalists have for decades used a rhetorical question: “what will happen of the Chinese adopts western lifestyles and consumption patterns?” Now, this question is no longer a rhetorical question. It is reality; soon but it will not be answered by western environmentalists but by the Chinese themselves; because whatever the global impact is, the impact in China itself will be even greater. In 2006, there were 16 million electrical bicycles in China, in 2010 their numbers were probably 120[1] million (NYT 2010c). They are for sure no ideal and not unproblematic from an environmental perspective, they spread led from batteries and they need coal-generated electricity (ADB 2009). Nevertheless, they are clearly favourable compared to cars, and the infrastructure needs is the same as for the benign snail-bicycle, and they represent just one of many examples of how they can avoid the mistakes of high-income countries. China is also the number one producer of solar technology. Countries, such as the USA, which whole society is stuck in and fed by high-energy consumption and a world order where it has profited from the weakness of others will have difficulties to find new ways. The poorest countries, on their hand, will be stuck in the wish to be rich and they will also lack social, manufactured and human capital to make a comprehensive and fundamental change.

[1] In the Swedish edition of the book, I wrote: in 2009 there are probably 50 million...

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