Sunday, July 17, 2005

Green Cities in China

So a huge chunk of my reading this summer has been about how abysmal China's environmental record has been, both in the Mao years and in the new capitalist years.

Yet everything I read in the papers says that the government has a clear eyed view of the environmental future, and has long term strategies to deal with the problems ahead. Here's another example. Over at the Beeb, there is an article about an ecologically minded design firm that has been given quite a mandate by the Chinese government. (Via /.)
Mr McDonough's ideas for the Next City are about to be played out in China where his company has been charged with building seven entirely new cities.
McDonnogh's plans sound good at the newspaper level, to be sure.
Waste is energy in Mr McDonough's Next City vision; methane is used to cook food. A quarter of the city's cooking will be done with gas from sewerage.

"The energy systems will be solar energy. China will be largest solar manufacturer in the world," says McDonough.

The link /. provided to the project page doesn't work, though. Navigating from the firm's homepage, I can find a list of projects, but the work in China is not on it. On Tuesday, when I finally get back to the office, I will try to see if this is all greenwashing. The book McDonough co-authored looks good.

Combine this move in city design with China's move to buy Unocal and we start to see a government that is aware of peak oil and preparing to weather it. Krugman also had an article recently where he suggested that the Chinese were pursuing a more rational strategy of buying US assets than the Japanese did when their economy was booming.

Foresight. I wonder what it would be like to have a government with foresight.

Judith Shapiro has argued that the aspects of civil society generally associated with democracy--things like free speech and responsive government--make for better environmental policy. Is this a counter example to her thesis? Is the greening of China not real? Or is the Bush administration so undemocractic that they can be outstripped on environmental issues by China?

PS: Someone at Auntie is not doing their copyediting:
The buildings and all around it work like biological, growing beings, photosynthesising and producing and re-using their own energy.

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