I was just reading in Time Magazine about Jack Ma, a billionaire in China (the founder of Alibaba, a Chinese version of Amazon), who has recently decided to “make it his mission” to help China recognize and deal with its environmental mess. And a mess it is; some economists estimate that a huge chunk of China’s annual GDP growth comes from sacrificing its environment, in a rob-Peter-to-pay-Paul sort of situation. By any measure—air quality, water quality, cancer rates caused by pollution, heavy metal deposition, etc.—China’s environment is a disaster, and getting worse.
(A link to a site delineating China’s problems in this arena– http://factsanddetails.com/china.php?itemid=394 . It’s a bit shocking.)
Anyway, my point—Ma’s idea for how to change China? Get this, “…countless individual actions adding up to real change.” And another quote, this one from him directly, “…the environmental situation is not something that can wait”. So, my short version of Ma’s vision—we all need to act, and act now. My points, exactly; it’s like I have a kindred spirit in a billionaire Chinese businessman.
And this is all the more heartening, because something that has given me pause in my idea that we all just need to change for change to happen, is the question of what forces will make places like China change? My proto-thought was that if the rich nations could fix themselves, then they could set the example, develop systems that could be replicated, develop economies of scale with regard to the production of green technology, provide demand for those technologies, regardless of where they were produced, and, if need be, use actual economic pressure to support or boycott Chinese businesses, depending on their environmental impact. But wouldn’t it be easier if we all started to act, here, AND everyone started to act, in China, AND everyone started to act, in India, etc.?
The internet is global, commerce is global, corporations are global—why shouldn’t the push to fix the planet be global, too? Residents of Beijing or New Delhi can view this blog (or any other) with just a few keystrokes, just as easily as my co-worker in the next town. I think we might be shackling ourselves if we view solutions only through national lenses. True, we can only vote for political change in our own countries, but when we vote with our dollars we can vote anywhere in the world. And everyone in the world can participate. Why fight with an army of 300 million, when you can fight with an army of 7 billion?
I think this is an important thought.
Image credit: long10000 / 123RF Stock Photo
8 June 2013—Update/further thought— Ma’s reasons why it will take “countless small actions adding up to real change”? Because China’s government is too big to move. My reasons for the same thing in the U.S? Our government is too divided to move. Similiar problems, half a world apart. -tb