Communities Field Note: Growth and the Environment

China is one of the world’s fastest-growing countries! The cities are booming and people are moving into them at fast rate. The countryside doesn’t have the same growth.

With all of this mixed grown and change going on, China is trying to find a way to deal with all of its waste. As factories and cities grow, the chemical and human waste increases. Where can they put it?

China has a major environmental problem. Clean water is a problem, the air is heavily polluted, and waste management is something that is becoming a very big issue. Join me as we discuss some of the ways China meets its communities’ needs, and some of the ways it can improve!

Nations meet their needs in many different ways. In NYC, we have clean drinking water, relatively clean streets, and relatively fresh air. After living in Shanghai and traveling around China, I have learned to appreciate what real pollution is like! Many of my friends and I have constantly sore and congested throats here. People cannot run outside. Some people have developed asthmatic systems. Our skin is worse and breaks out more. The list goes on. Clean air is a very valuable thing, so don’t take it for granted!

The same goes for water. In China, we only drink bottled water. Every apartment and dorm has big jugs of water that we buy. It is very common in the cities to have bottled water. However in the countryside some people do not even have access to bottled water.  Unfortunately, the people living in the countryside have to drink polluted water.

With all of this bottled water, plastic is really an issue. In the United States, environmentalists say it is best to have a refillable water bottle and use tap water, but here that is not an option!

We do have the basics here. We have bins with places for trash and recyclables. There are people cleaning the streets and public areas frequently. Bottled water is in every convenience store. The one difficult environmental issue to avoid is the pollution in the cities. In the rural areas, air pollution is better because there are less cars and factories!

China has taken some very good steps to try to help with waste management. Since 2008, at supermarkets and stores, shoppers have to pay extra money for plastic bags. This change lowered the use of plastic bags by 10 percent. When you think about the size of China’s population, 10 percent is a very large amount! When I go to the supermarket I rarely see people using plastic bags for their purchases!

Do you guys have any ideas with how we can try to fix some of these environmental problems? I wrote last week about wetlands. I think that is a very sustainable (remember this new word?) solution. Wetlands clean the water and air naturally.

There are many different ways one can try to solve some of these environmental issues. I work with the Global Health and Education Foundation on an education project here in China. They are holding their Global National History Day competition this year on biodiversity!

Like I talked about last week, China is working with environmental experts to help solve these issues. Environmentalist Dr. McLaughlin was asked by the Chinese government to come teach a class to students studying environmental engineering at university. In my opinion, this is one of the best solutions. Working with students will educate the generation!

Do you guys have some more solutions we can think of? I think one of the hardest solutions to come up with is for pollution. Industrial plants and factories are so important to China’s growth. However, all of this construction and factory operation is really polluting the air. Can you think of any ways to promote growth, but limit pollution?

As Dr. McLaughlin told me, there are ways in which humans and the environment can live together without harming one another. The goal is to have growth and a diverse environment. Limiting either one is not the best possible solution. The question is, “How can we both live happily without harming one another?”

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