At the meeting of academicians of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Chinese Academy of Engineering held in June 2004, President Hu Jintao emphasized the need to energetically strengthen scientific progress and innovation in the field of energy resources, improve the utilization efficiency of China's resources, especially energy and water resources, reduce wastes of resources and develop renewable resources, so as to provide technical guarantee for the establishment of a resources-saving society.
A resources-saving society contains two concepts, one is a resources-saving national economic system, not a certain one or several links; the other is a resources-saving society, which refers mainly to the field of consumption. Establishing a resources-saving national economic system and a resources-saving society is the bounden duty for the Chinese engineering and scientific circles and the Chinese Academy of Engineering.
Founding a resources-saving society is the common orientation for the sustainable development of various countries around the world, which is especially important and urgent for China. Along with rapid economic development, China has been sustaining increasingly heavy pressure of energy and other resources. If we want to realize the goal of comprehensively building a relatively affluent society wherein gross domestic product (GDP) is quadrupled and the capability of sustainable development is kept enhancing in the year 2020, we must, from now on, energetically reduce the consumption of energy sources, improve utilization efficiency and establish a resources-saving society, otherwise, there will be no way out for us.
As I'm engaged in the work of engineering sciences, I like to discuss things from the perspective of my own specialty. The most important point in material engineering sciences is to try hard to "make the best use of everything". The keyword here is the "best", I think it contains three-faceted meanings: First is to make a correct choice of material, one can neither make petty material for big use, nor high material for low use; second is to put the material in its proper position in light its characteristics; and third is to make full use of the material according to its size, trying to reduce as much as possible "leftover bits and pieces" generated in the course of processing. Only by doing so is it possible to achieve the optimum price ratio of material.
The misuse of high material, or making petty use of large material, not only is a practice that must be avoided in the design and choice of materials, but it also violates the engineering ethical principle. Making the best use of everything is a minimum requirement for an engineer in his or her professional ethics. An engineer should not design at random in accordance with the idea of a proprietor who does not mind the waste of material because he is wealthy enough to afford it, doing so is violating engineering ethics and the professional morality of an engineer. The construction of vocational morality in various professions and trades is an important ethical basis for the founding of a resources-saving society.
China is now in the stage of large-scale capital construction. Large public infrastructure projects, such as the construction of roads, power stations, energy facilities and public places need to consume huge amounts of materials. On the premise of satisfaction of functional requirement, security and reliability in the designing and construction process, efforts should be made to ensure that the projects are simple and practical, and to reduce as much as possible the consumption of energy and other resources, and make the projects compatible with the ecological environment. For example, there is no need to build subway stations into sumptuous structures. The Stockholm Subway Station in Sweden, for instance, was built with many unadorned rock structures of unique styles, which is locally called an ecological subway station.
The State has all-round consideration and work plan for the construction of a resources-saving society, the crucial thing is to promote the work of implementation, supervision and inspection. I think in building a resources-saving society, it is particularly necessary to grasp two aspects of work: On the one hand, leaders should take the lead. In work they should reduce the numbers of meetings and paper work, and emphasize practical results; in daily life, they should do everything possible to avoid extravagance and encourage frugality. For instance, it is advisable for attendants to conference of governments at various levels to take self-service meals, furthermore, according to common international practice, if the foods on the trays are unfinished, the diners have to pay extra money. On the other hand, the idea of building a resources-saving society should be inculcated in people during their childhood. China's basic national condition of the shortfall of per-capita resources should be included into the textbooks for middle and primary school students; the traditional ideology on the practice of economy as expressed in the saying "every single grain on the meal tray is the fruit of hard work" should run through the whole education and teaching process, so that youngsters can unconsciously establish the awareness of practicing economy and the virtue of diligence and thrift and become the core force in the future construction of a resources-saving society.
The author is vice-chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) and president of the Chinese Academy of Engineering. Carried on the front page of People's Daily (Overseas Edition) March 4, the above article is translated by People's Daily Online