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Beijing

Giving conservationists and nature lovers (some) reason to hope for the future

Tony Whitten's picture

It’s high time I write something which doesn’t seem to be the work of a manic-depressive. Many of my blogs have majored on the negatives, but I honestly wouldn’t be in this business if I didn’t have within me a deep-rooted hope for the future. As I have remarked before, conservationists are a wonderful band, but put a group of ebullient conservation friends together, and within half an hour the conversation has quieted down, turned grumpy, and you need to watch out in case any of them looks as though they are contemplating jumping from the office balcony or a handy cliff. We don’t celebrate the successes, or even the potential ones, enough. It’s a cliché to say that the war is being lost while battles are being won, but we should at least encourage each other with battle victory parties.

Call for a green China: permanent improvement, with room for more

David Dollar's picture

Children perform during "Call for Green China" – a unique cultural tour to raise awareness about pressing environmental issues in China and possible solutions.
The old people in the park are saying that this was the best April in 20-plus years in terms of air quality here in Beijing. There has been permanent improvement based on some of the changes made for the Olympics: some factories relocated to less populous areas, restrictions on private car use, improved public transportation as an alternative.

Other factors are more long term – the sandstorms common when I lived here in 1986 are largely gone, owing to successful re-greening efforts west of here. There was a frenzied pace of construction as modern Beijing was being built, which has naturally slowed down – construction dust was a key part of air pollution here.

There is more room for improvement, but the progress was notable during a lovely April. One key issue going forward will be to continue to control private vehicle use.

Beijing closing ceremony opens new era of international multi-polarity

David Dollar's picture

 The Olympics closing ceremony. Photo courtesy of rich115 under a Creative Commons license.
The closing ceremony for the Beijing Olympics was as impressive as the opening.  In between, China put on an amazingly well-organized set of games.  China also won the greatest number of gold medals and came in second behind the USA in total medal count.  This splashy performance definitely caught the attention of people in the West and set off a lot of speculation in the press about what it all means.  Robert Samuelson discusses in a recent column the Beijing Olympics as a metaphor for China overtaking the U.S. as the world's biggest economy.

What struck me most during the last week of events and at the closing ceremony is that we really are living in a new, multi-polar era without one single dominant country.  I was fortunate to see Guo Jingjing win her springboard diving gold; Russia-USA men’s volleyball semifinal; Argentina-Nigeria soccer gold medal game; Jamaican runners dominate the sprints; Ethiopian and Kenyan runners dominate the long distances; and American runners sweep a couple of middle distance events. And while the Americans and Chinese can be justifiably proud of their medal totals, don’t forget that the member states of the EU won vastly more medals and gold medals than either of those countries.  (My informal count as of mid-day Friday was that EU states had won 234 medals including 74 gold.)

On the eve of the Olympics (II) - Let the Games begin!

Mara Warwick's picture

On the eve of the Olympics, there is a collective holding of breath amongst Beijing office colleagues.  Will everything go smoothly?  Will it rain tomorrow?  Who will light the flame?  How will the flame be lit (will the phoenix come home to roost in the bird’s nest or will the sleeping dragon finally awake)?