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OP-ED: Helping China become environmentally aware
July 31, 2013, 05:00 AM By George Yang

George Yang

Kids who were just chilling at the Foster City VIBE July 19 were treated to a surprise performance. Performing a song and dance for them was a group of students from the Beijing Yucai School, a school founded in the early 1930s by the teacher of Mao Zedong. Both hosts and guests had a great time interacting with each other amidst sunshine, fresh air and blue water reflecting the blue sky.

There is a larger purpose for the visits by these Chinese students: because sunshine, fresh air and blue sky have become a rare commodity in China. Twenty years ago, when I took the train from Canton to Hong Kong, rice paddies and papaya orchards lined the train tracks. The Pearl River Delta was one of the most productive farmland in the world. Now the same areas are lined with factories, dormitories for migrant workers and high-rise apartments. Industrial pollution is rampant. While these changes had helped improve the lives and living standards of millions — and some could argue these changes are essential in the modernization of any society — the price has been high.

The problems are enormous. How does a country the size of China balance economic progress and poverty reduction with the needs to protect the environment? Thankfully, there is also a growing willingness to discuss and urgency to tackle these environmental issues in China. Both the government and the people are searching for solutions. As Americans, we cannot dictate to China what she should do. But we can share our experiences and expertise, and facilitate communities and organizations inside China to formulate solutions that fit their community and specific conditions. The America Chinese Environment Protection Association, of which I am a member, works actively to assist these exchanges.

To do this, we rely of local volunteers and the support from various agencies and local businesses. In Palo Alto, Vice Mayor Nancy Sheppard, Utilities Director Val Fong and staff member Christen Creed helped organize a lesson about sustainable living. In Foster City, Mayor Pam Frisella, Councilman Art Kiesel and former mayor Linda Koelling, along with Beatrice Pascual at the VIBE discussed ways and ideas to plan communities that match the need for health, recreational and cultural service with local decision making. In San Carlos, Faustina Mututa of Recology offered to give lessons on the treatment of wastes and the importance of reduce, reuse and recycle.

The Bay Area is America’s window to the Asia-Pacific: from the time of Angel Island, when immigrants from China were interned, just as immigrants from Europe were at Ellis Island, to today’s San Francisco International Airport. San Mateo County, because of our proximity to the airport, benefits greatly from the increasing commercial activity and tourism. But we should also take advantage of these opportunities to impart on our guests the need to grow with forethought, to grow with input from communities and citizens and to grow with full consideration of the price to future generations. The young students among them are the future leaders of China. This is also our opportunity to share with them our principles of freedom, liberty and the importance of responsible citizenship necessary to make freedom and liberty work.

Together, we have much in common; together, we have much to share; together, we have much to gain.

George Yang is the vice president of American Chinese Environmental Protection Association. He is a green technology advisor currently living in Menlo Park.



Tags: china, these, living, share, together, communities,

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