Sunday, 26 August 2007


Being Green is now POP. The ex-future president Al Gore has added allure to this otherwise often sniffed-at cause, previously championed mostly by bearded environmentalists. The likes of Zac Goldsmith has brought even more glamour to being green and everyone is seemingly jumping on the bandwagon. Or at least in appearance.

This makes a veteran Green freak such as myself rather more proud. I was green since I was a teenager, many years ago, way before the word Green existed in its current meaning. I understood intensely the problems of overpopulation in China since I was in high school, when China started applying the one child policy. I vowed to never contribute to this overpopulation mess by having children of my own unless I must do, for the love of a man. I strongly believed and still believe now that China would never be a match to the other great industrial and developed powers of the world unless its population size is dramatically reduced -where on earth would China be able to find all the natural resources needed to sustain the appetite of a huge population of 1.4 billion with the same standard of living as that of Europe, even less the US???!!! It is scary for me to even imagine that day coming, with several hundred million cars that go around in circles in a great number of densely populated cities in China. To be frank, the China I grew up in under Mao was far far less polluted than now-we used to see beautiful blue autumn skies. With China’s modernization came industrialization, whose inseperable twins are pollution and resource depletion. I dread to go to my home town Beijing now as the air is foul and blue skies have altogether disappeared. The Chinese government is trying to clean up and doing everything they can, but with 1.4 billion people on the road to modernization and westernization, what can you do????

I have chosen to live in the great city of London, where there are at least some control on carbon emissions. We do not even own a car here. I love the London underground despite its exuberant fees which the next mayor should cut by at least half to encourage more use of public transport. One can have a glimpse of Londoner’s life through the underground and feel in touch with reality. Just yesterday, there was an announcement in the London Underground, as quoted in the free Lite newspaper, to this effect: “If you see a German standing and if you have a free seat next to you, do not offer it to him. Take it yourself”. This is London! One can not- not love it!

Despite my happy sacrifice of personal conveniences for the health of the planet, I am not sure that the whole issue of Green awareness is getting anywhere in terms of action. Of course Al Gore’s Live Earth Concerts attracted a lot of folks and raised quite a bit of money. But where is the action in the daily life of 6 billion homo sapiens, growing fourfold since 1900 and to reach 9.2 (to be conservative) billion by 2050!

I can’t say for the British, the Europeans or the South Africans. But I can say that every Chinese is acutely aware of the problem of overpopulation and pollution in China. Yet, how many are willing to forego the pleasure of proudly owning a brand new car which shows off one’s hard earned social status that comes with the acquisition of the vehicle?? The car manufacturers are certainly not there to discourage folks from buying any for the sake of the Chinese environment?! Not a Japanese carmaker, not an American Carmaker and not even an European car maker! And even less a Chinese carmaker who is on the race to become the cheapest and most profitable carmaker in one of the largest markets in the world!

Pity those last primal forests around the world- they will be made into quality tables, beds and shelves to adorn the houses of the newly rich Chinese and Indians. Yes there is illegal trafficking. But government policy is one thing and law enforcement is yet another. And the health of the planet is still very very far from the agenda of world leaders judging from both points.

Even with government policy, how do you police six billion people (and increasing exponentially)? And on a personal level, why should someone like myself continue to care when other homo sapiens who have offsprings do not?!

And even the most benign intentioned green person such as myself has her dalliances. Yes I do not own a car in London, but I take the planes a lot. I hate planes still I like to be in interesting places, particularly where there are ancient civilizations and big wild cats. I am more than happy to forego the process of taking those dreadful flights-if you can tell me how.

In the meantime, I continue to take my London Underground.