Note: This post was put up by Dr. Jambeck on behalf of Luran from China who wanted to communicate these environmental issues (embedded with culture) for open discussion.
From my perspective, the environmental issues in America are nothing compared to those in China. China has many serious environmental problems including air pollution, water pollution, littering and landfills, natural resource depletion and impact on wildlife. However laws and regulations have little effects. The culprits are Chinese culture and system.
China has almost 1.4 billion people. Overpopulation means less resource, poverty and unemployment. In traditional Chinese culture, more children meant more prosperity. So Chinese people want to have as many children as possible, especially in rural areas.
They burn firecrackers for celebration and burn ghost money in memory of their dead relatives, which contributes to deforestation and air pollution. According to Chinese tradition, burning fireworks can scare away evil spirits and burning ghost money means sending money to the dead. So they can live wealthy lives in another world.
Chinese tradition medicines can cure disease. It is still widely used in China today. However it has a negative impact on wild animals. For example, they harvest bile from the bear and scale from the pangolin.
The central government cares more about GDP, which is the most important evaluation criterion for officials. So local governments sacrifice environment to maintain GDP. The corruption in China is serious. Officials of the government get money from polluting factories (bribes) and then they protect them. Chinese officials are not elected by people. Their leadership is determined by officials above them. So many local officials are trying their best to make their leader happy but don’t care about people’s well-being.
Improving technology can contribute to a better environment but it doesn’t work in China. In China, both a talent shortage and graduate unemployment have emerged as problems in recent years. It is because China’s graduates are not qualified for the jobs. The Communist Party controls almost the whole education system. The only way to get into a good university is to win the national college entrance exam. The students need to study from early morning to late night and do tons of practice homework. They must accept what the Communist Party wants you to learn even though it is useless, fake or biased. Most universities or collages are owned by the government. They are not allowed to recruit students and create academic programs independently. They have poor facilities and teachers. Such colleges will never collapse because they are supported by the government. Students have no choice but go to these colleges. They come out narrow-minded, weak and lacking in knowledge and skills. That’s why there are more and more unemployed graduates. In order to solve the unemployment and keep economic growth, China has to rely heavily on polluted industries.
I think the most effective and efficient way to solve China’s environmental issues is westernization (adopt Western culture, values, democracy and Capitalism). What’s your opinion?