Trouble in the Green Zone – Sarah Schafer

Newsweek gives the low-down on an ambitious project to build an environmentally-correct village gone wrong:

070510 Greenchina XtrawideAccording to plan, by now the Huangbaiyu project should have been well on its way to becoming a world model for environmentally friendly living, not to mention the kind of international cooperation between the developed and developing world that many leaders say is essential to combat big environmental problems. Instead, it has become a cautionary tale in what can go wrong with grand plans to save the world from environmental catastrophe. The project appears to be a mess.

…From the beginning, the nonprofit China-U.S. Center (which has high-ranking Chinese ministry officials and U.S. donors on its board) and the locals seemed to have held vastly different expectations of what the project should be and the benefits it should bring to Huangbaiyu. McDonough and his team seemed convinced the local government and the villagers understood that the Americans”including several major corporations who provided technical expertise”were willing to supply the vision but not the investment. But from early on, the locals thought the project would bring them money and jobs”and were even convinced that one of the big U.S. corporations would build a factory in the village. Even among villagers who initially supported the program, it’s clear that the concept of sustainable development, at least the way McDonough envisions it, doesn’t mean much to them. [Full text]

Read about the project on the China-U.S. Center for Sustainable Development website. See also a video, filmed in 2005, of William McDonough discussing his vision for a sustainable city.

(Photo: What William McDonough’s model city was supposed to look like, via Newsweek)