Posted by: jmtoriel | September 21, 2010

Greening China with “c”onservatism

“…you can be critical of a lot of regimes around the world, and you can question how worthwhile democracy is in a lot of countries right now which are, frankly, ignoring the biggest crisis in the history of our species which is climate change. That’s where you see the Chinese government taking radical dramatic action in investing in turning the ship around. And you do not see that in Western governments right now, democratically elected, and that’s because they’re afraid. And that’s not serving the greater interests of society.” — Mayor Gregor Robertson
I’m no fan of authoritarian rule and, having lived in China, I was astonished at how conservative (small “c”) the Chinese were on waste . It took me a long time to find out where the 15 story building’s garbage was because there was so little of it! The building’s weekly scraps unbelievably fit into an average sized GLAD bag. I was equally impressed at their diligence to saving electricity, water, heat for the benefit of the Motherland- something entrenched in their collective psyche- much like it was for us during the Great Depression and during the wars. They do not waste anything (with exception to the “nouveau riche” who have adopted to our modern western ways…
Imagine — for all those “over-population” types out there– if the Chinese gov’t had not implemented the 1 child policy in ’79, there would be over 300 million more Chinese people (roughly the population of Europe) on the planet or nearly 2 billion. Conventional wisdom in China has been that controlling China’s population serves the interest of the whole society and that sacrificing individual interests for those of the masses is justifiable and the new prosperity that has grown leaps and bounds since Deng Xiaoping. The reduction of population has helped pull people out of poverty and been a major factor in China’s phenomenal economic growth. The same applies for climate change and investment in clean energy and technologies. The use of conventional fossil fuels that already reek havoc on our planet due largely to our over-consumptive western habits. Yes, they make our pink flamingos and we drive out to buy them.  The Conservative (big C this time) values in Canada play into the notion that if we are fortunate to live comfortable lives because of our over-reliance on extracting resources (we choose to forget stole under the noses of our First Nations people) and spewing carbon to our hearts content while we play laggards on climate change abroad and a thriving clean tech industry sits idle and our leaders heads are firmly stuck in the tar sands.
The other angle on this is the opportunistic spirit the Chinese embody in business and daily life. I often stated upon my return that they are more capitalistic than we are! Yes, the human rights abuses are horrible and cheap labour is the norm — but let’s not forget that it was less than 150 years ago that men were willing to fight to the death to keep slavery exploitation under a democratic banner on this very continent. Resistance to alter ways of life and standards of living for the betterment of society — let alone the survival of the planet as we know it. This is a clash of ideology and polarized political views that seems to culminate by the day in western parliaments across the board. No wonder hung parliaments are the status quo and why nothing gets done on the most critical issues of the day. I really hope we can adopt democratic reform (in China as much as Canada, US, UK, Australia, etc) before we have to learn to adapt to a less accommodating planetary future because we were unable to compromise for our selfish nature when we had the chance to turn it around and do what benefits the Mother Earth which, it turn, “serves the greatest interests of society”.
So, good point, Mayor Robertson!

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