Home » business, julie horwitz's travel blog, society & culture

Chinese college students express views on the environment

By 20 June 2009 No Comment

“Desert has now come within 200 miles of Beijing,” said Liu Gengyuan, a doctoral student in environmental studies at Beijing Normal University, in a briefing he gave to our Reporting China workshop in Beijing in early June entitled “China and the Path to Environmental Sustainability.”

As Liu pointed out, in addition to desertification, key environmental issues facing China “are air pollution mainly caused by coal and vehicles, [and] water pollution.” And not surprisingly, university students throughout China are interested in how to solve such issues for the sake of their country’s future. This was evident when I had the opportunity to speak with a group of  students at Xi’an International Studies University in central China, where I learned that peoples’ opinions on environmental issues are just as diverse and passionate in China as they are in the United States.

The 2006 book “China: The Balance Sheet” succinctly summarizes the pollution problem in China. “China’s economic explosion has created an ecological implosion,” its authors note. “Severe air and water pollution along with water shortages are threatening human health, industrial production, and crops. Land degradation and deforestation are exacerbating floods and desertification, as well as endangering the country’s rich biodiversity.”

One of the main environmental concerns students in Xi’an discussed was the quality of the air they breathe. Wang Juaning, a recent English language graduate, said the air quality and the environmental conditions were better in her hometown in Hubei province than in gritty, booming Xi’an, which, like many large regional cities around the country, is experiencing both buoyant economic growth and rising levels of pollution at the same time. ”In Xi’an, there is a lot of dust in the air and it is very crowded, ” Wang said. “I think most people here are concerned about the air.”

Lance Niu, an English major, from Shanxi province, said the air quality in Xi’an was not that bad compared to where he was from. ”In Shanxi province, there is a lot of trash in the street, and many factories and coal mining plants,” he said. “It makes the air very difficult to breathe.”

Namkha Tashi, an English and Chinese studies major from Qinghai, Tibet, said that although the pollution in Xi’an was difficult to get used to at first, he had adapted, though he acknowledged that it remained a problem: “Here in Xi’an, the air is not good, and the water is not good to drink,” Namkha said. “The environment is really nice where I’m from. I want the environment here to get better. I want it to be just as good as my hometown.”

Qin Yuanyuan, a business English student from Guangxi province who has been living in Xi’an for three years, had a complaint for almost any type of pollution you could think of. “I think the pollution is very bad here,” Qin said. “The noise pollution is bad, the air pollution is bad, and the destruction of plants, soil erosion, and white pollution is also very bad.” White pollution is terminology for litter caused by materials like plastics and paper.

The level of optimism about finding a reasonable solution to some of the pollution problems in China varied among the Xi’an students. Qin said that international organizations should put more time and energy into dealing with these issues. “Cooperation between nations, especially developed nations, is important,” Qin said. “Developed nations should help developing ones instead of selling them materials that contribute to more pollution.”

“The Balance Sheet” said the largest obstacle to strong enforcement was the devolution of environmental stewardship to local officials who prioritize economic growth over pollution control and sound resource management.Its authors suggested that more involvement from NGO’s and citizens would help  environmental laws to be better enforced.

Qin said that while China has proposed many sustainable development policies, the country allowed programs that are destructive to the environment if they contributed to economic gain, and that this was a practice that needed to end.

Wang said she cared a lot about environmental issues in China, and believed that these were issues that were on many Chinese peoples’ minds. “The quality of the water and the air around us affects how we live, and I want to be sure we can live an environment that can give people a better life and make them in good health,” Wang said.

Leave your response!

Add your comment below, or trackback from your own site. You can also subscribe to these comments via RSS.

Be nice. Keep it clean. Stay on topic. No spam.

You can use these tags:
<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

This is a Gravatar-enabled weblog. To get your own globally-recognized-avatar, please register at Gravatar.