Q&A: Sam Geall on China’s Green Awakening

At Bloomberg Businessweek, Christina Larson talks to chinadialogue‘s Sam Geall, lecturer at Oxford University and editor of a new book, China and the Environment, about the Chinese public’s growing environmental awareness:

Who are China’s environmentalists? How would you characterize today’s green advocates?

Journalists and broadcasters founded many of China’s most prominent green NGOs—after all, they witnessed the scale of the unfolding environmental crisis. China actually has a long history of civil society, which was suppressed during the Mao era. But the past 20 years have seen a flourishing of green NGOs. Now there are thousands registered, and many more unregistered. Today all sorts of people get involved in China’s environmental campaigns, from university students and middle-class urban residents protesting against the construction of polluting petrochemical factories or incinerators, to villagers in the countryside angry about pollution ruining their crops and their health.

[…] Why is public participation in environmental issues so important for China?

Without the public pressure to act responsibly, local officials will continue to chase short-term economic gains and disregard environmental concerns. A greener society needs journalists who can expose environmental problems, NGOs who can lobby for conservation measures, and lawyers who can represent communities that have been affected by pollution. That’s why citizens have been at the forefront of China’s environmental movement.

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