Why and how should we protect our environment?

09:18, June 07, 2010      

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June 5 marks the World Environment Day. Traditional thinking of environment is just about cleaning up the rubbish at home or in the street. Twenty years ago, when my classmates graduated from environment study, there were no jobs for them, why? Because the need was just in the surface at that time.

After 20 more years of industrialization, we find out similar problems happened in the west some 80 to 100 years ago. Now most developing countries or emerging economies face the similar problem. We find that there are poisonous and harmful particles in our air, water and soil.

In agricultural development period, we take environmental issues for granted because that was a time when people’s impact on earth was not big enough.

When industry is developed, environmental cost was neglected. Trees were logged, water and soil were contaminated. Suddenly we find the fish in the river or lake dead. Over a period of ten or twenty years, our rivers even disappeared due to over use of water and climate change.

Industrialization is good on the one hand, in the sense that it liberalizes a lot of people from working in the field. But on the other hand, the damage to the environment by industry is also fast and enormous before we realize it.

We must face the reality and there is no simple solution to it. Industrial production is complicated, the damage to the air, water and soil is also complicated.

Thus it is imperative to realize that the solution should be at various levels with the mobilization of the whole society. June 5 is just one day that reminds us to protect our environment, but in fact, we should pay attention to our environment everyday at any situation.

Preventive action is the most effective action in protecting our environment.

First, to prevent air pollution, for China, it is very important to desulphorize the power plant which uses coal. China has already done it in many major power plants, but 75 percent of our energy supply coming from coal mines should do this preventive action because the money spending here is still cheaper than cleaning it after polluting the whole sky.
Another way to avoid air pollution is to drive less. It is understandable that for Chinese people to dream of having a car. But my suggestion is that one can buy a car, but buy an environmentally friendly car. The government has already decided to reward those who buy the green car. This is a very good policy. Driving in the big city like Beijing is not that fun because of the traffic jam. It is better to take public transport to work and over the weekend, one can drive the car to the suburbs to have some fresh air and relax. If the cars in Beijing are reduced by half in the street, the traffic will be much better for everybody and the air will be better too.

This needs both government incentives and individual's awareness and action.

Second, water pollution is very serious and that concerns whether our economy can achieve sustainable growth. Due to bad quality of water, some very high quality products cannot be produced. This is just one kind of restrictions caused by water pollution. To make polluted water useful, people have to spend a lot of money and energy to clean it. Thus to prevent water pollution is very important. How?

Factories and business must take their social responsibilities. Whatever they produce, they must treat the water before they discharge. In particular chemical plants, they must treat their waste water because if they don’t do that and discharge it to the river, sooner or later, it will have big problems like the blue algae in the Taihu Lake. People must take lessons from it. When the scale of contamination is too large, it will be too expensive and even impossible to make the water clean once you contaminate it.

Any individual should be a good police in this sense; the law enforcement sector must act accordingly. Without serious and strict law enforcement, there is no meaning in making the law.

In addition, one must save water in the situation in most part of China. Except people along the Yangtze river, most part of China is dry and lack of water.

Third, to prevent soil pollution, both farmers and industry need to take action. According to experts, the farmers’ use of pesticide and chemical fertilizers can cause pollution both to the soil and water. Some industries can cause soil pollution too if they discharge untreated water to the ground.

Again chemical fertilizers and pesticides make agricultural production improve substantially. But we find that the taste of food is not as good as before when it was organically grown. Thus the ecological organic food is more than welcome now. In a way, fast growth makes the land deteriorate in the long run. Now many people in the west realize that Chinese traditional cultivation is quite sustainable since it feeds thousands of millions of people for thousands of years.

Thus, big quantity doesn’t mean good quality. People must realize that quality is very important once it can meet the basic needs of the people.
To better protect our environment, let us all join together, government, business, nongovernment organizations and individuals to act with better laws and regulations, better implementation and better behavior of our individuals.

China invested a lot in green energy, let our people also enjoy it so that we can grow green and live a quality life. Let’s strive for a blue sky, clean water and clean soil so that we can continue to live on our precious homeland.

By Xuefei Chen, People’s Daily Online correspondent in Stockholm, [email protected]


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