Viewpoint: Why China Could Turn Green

Time Magazine reports on a new intiative by former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and martial arts star Jet Li to introduce solar power to villages across China:

When former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and philanthropic Chinese martial-arts star Jet Li made their own tour of inspection on Aug. 22, they chose a place that wasn’t shrouded in toxic vapors or ravaged by illness. It was the bucolic village of Baigong, in southwestern Guizhou province—a community of blue skies, grape trellises, freshly painted houses and colorful sprays of drying peppers hanging from doorways. Where China’s industrial wastelands symbolize its present and past, Baigong may be a tiny herald of the future: its streetlights are solar-powered under a program by Li’s One Foundation and the nonprofit Climate Group, which Blair helped launch. “If all Chinese cities had these, we could save a lot of power,” said Li. “And also provide a lot of employment,” chimed in Blair.(See “10 Next Generation Green Techologies.”)

In its breakneck quest for economic growth, the world’s most populous nation has created no shortage of environmental disasters—just as other countries did when they, too, industrialized. But the Chinese people are growing impatient with the costs of unchecked development. Around the country, citizens are volunteering for cleanup projects. A small, courageous network of NGOs is naming and shaming the worst polluters. The huge number of pollution-related protests—an estimated 50,000 took place in 2005—unambiguously demonstrates grass-roots resentment of the ecological burden of industrialization. So did a survey by the Pew Global Attitudes Project about a year ago, which found that some 80% of Chinese felt protecting the environment should be a priority—a stark contrast to the global perception of the Chinese as a people in feckless pursuit of wealth.

Read more about Blair and Li’s project from The Examiner:

“Thousand Villages Project” is focused on changing the way electricity is consumed in China and hopefully the rest of the world.

Jet Li and Toni Blair went to Guiyang, China to launch the project and launch a collaborative project with the Climate Group and One Project. “Solar-powered LED Lighting the Thousand Villages Project” is the first collaborative project between the two groups since the signing of a strategy memorandum in March 2009.

Jet Li represented One Foundation while Tony Blair represented the Climate Group. The goal of the collaborative is to involve 400 villages around China in the first two years and add 600 more in China, India and Africa in the following three. Li and Blair hope to get these villages to learn about solar power, renewable energy and about changing common lighting to LED lighting which takes less power and can be used for longer.

Jet Li also wrote about the project on his blog.

Watch a promotional video from Tony Blair’s office about the initiative: