News yesterday showed that China is the leading investor in environmental technology. The US Pew Environment Group published a table showing that the Chinese invested $54.4bn (£34.1bn) in 2010, up from $39.1bn in 2009 an increase of almost 40%.
Other news discussed the UK’s Royal Society study showing that, at the current rate, China’s scientific output (measured in published scientific articles) will surpass the US within a scant two years! Previous estimates placed this milestone as possibly occurring after 2020.
At the same time as we see this news we also see western cultures increasingly cutting back on basic science research, access to higher education and in many cases completely ignoring any concept of environmental responsibility.
China seems to understand two very fundamental issues that others miss.
Firstly, that education (and especially in areas of science) is paramount in determining a culture’s future role in the world. Without investment in education, a country is destined only to slowly go backwards until it collectively devolves back into the mud and slime from whence it came. This wouldn’t happen overnight of course, and would be undoubtedly accompanied by lots of blustering about how it isn’t really so.
But it’s inevitable. A country or society that declines scientifically is destined to become increasingly dependent on others for any kind of progress. When that dependency becomes total, the end is there.
The second issue that China seems to understand is that ‘environmental issues’ are really just about efficiency. It really is that simple. All the vested interests and their collected bang-drumming buffoons trying to confuse everyone into thinking that environmental is the equivalent of poison. “We have the right to continue to waste precious limited resources in just the same irresponsible manner we have always done” is their cry.
Vested interests are always very good at spreading FUD. That’s the card they always play when threatened. “If we do that the economy will be ruined. Thousands will lose their jobs. Industry will be crippled.” etc. Completely ignoring (and deliberately hiding) the fact that, as with all changes, what really happens is simply a displacement of jobs from older technologies to newer ones.
Acting in an environmentally responsible way and researching technologies to support that position is about looking for efficiencies – being frugal with resources rather than lavishly squandering them like a drunken gambler in Las Vegas. China seems to understand that, where the likes of the US want only to maintain the precious status quo.
As for all the fear for the economy, jobs and industry? Well, take a good look around! Propping up that status quo hasn’t done us much good has it?
That isn’t to say that China is in some way flawless – they have their share of problems and issues certainly. I would like to think that our western civilisations will continue to lead us in to the future. If we collectively have the will and are willing to make the sacrifices necessary, we certainly could. If we can’t do that and cultures like China can – then they deserve to take the lead and humanity will survive.
Looking around I fear that our western cultures have become too soft, too unwilling to take risks and too greedy to take and implement the kind of hard decisions necessary to ensure our cultural survival. Apathy is a way of life heralded by cries of “it’s all good” – when it quite obviously isn’t to anyone who has the eyes to see and the independence of thought to sidestep the brainwashing.