Mar. 23, 2023

Why we talked about descendants first

Writer: Yongchen Wang         Source: Beijing News 

April 23, 2011 

I am certain that one day my grandchildren will ask me why, given my understanding of current environmental issues, I have never openly discussed these issues with them.  So now I want to publicly address the issues of space and climate change.

The [BRICs?] conference has come to a close, and Earth Day 2011 has also passed, yet the topics of climate change and China’s duty in its response remain globally relevant.

Last November I attended two international conferences, and being Chinese something that really struck me was this: in all the presentations the words ‘China’ and ‘Chinese’ were used very frequently. That may not be surprising given China’s attention received in the European media on this topic. I attended a climate change [negotiation] held in Brussels as one of the representative reporters from Asia, and participated in a video conference with negotiators from the USA. At this meeting, negotiators from the USA told European journalists that China will take the lead in the fight against climate change during the Cancun Mexico talks in December 2010.

Hearing this, I asked some of my European counterparts whether they agree with this statement. In answer, some said that China was a country who had the highest consistent GDP growth rates in the world, and also said the Chinese government made a promise to the world. Of course, there are also some who said that Americans are passing the buck of responsibility.

At the large climate change conference I attended in Hong Kong, one of the sessions I went to was the mayors’ roundtable meeting.  [Mayors from each and every country addressed the topic of China and were quite positive about the steps the Chinese government has taken to address the issue of climate change].

Global climate change is possibly the most important problem humankind will address in this generation. Climate change is not just an environmental problem and an economic problem, but also a safety issue for it concerns human beings. The consequences of climate change such as increased storms, tornados, typhoons, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions,  mud-rock flow pose a very serious threat to humankind.

At the Hong Kong conference, NASA officials James [no last name?] and four-star Air Chief Marshal of the U.S. Army Michael Moseley explained the safety problems brought by climate change in their mind from the perspective of military personnel. This is the first time I heard about the safety issues to military personnel brought about by climate change.

James from NASA said that per carbon emissions in the United States is 20 times that of China and 25 times that of India. He also said our space shuttle burns a lot of petrol, creating significant carbon emissions. This issue of the environmental issues associated with technological progress is a question that in the past no one thought of. Air Chief Marshal Moseley predicts that one day his grandson will make a promise to protect his sister from the threat of climate change. However, in this meeting this general also posed the poignant question: if we continue with our current course of action, will my grandson be able to protect his own sister?

Air Chief Marshal Moseley also said that the competition of resources is very real, and the result of this competition potentially tragic. Therefore, we should view consumption for resources from a strategic point of view. Regarding troops, we can cooperate more closely in an effort to reduce the human cost of climate change. A lot of people asked me why I pay attention to these issues after my retirement. My answer is very simple - that all my life my duty is to help ensure the security of our nation. I am a soldier, but I have three granddaughters also.

At the mayors conference, the participants all began their remarks with a poignant reminder of their descendants, the generation to inherit all the problems of climate change.

In addition, the Mayor of New York Michael Bloomberg said if we want to encourage people not to use private cars we can look to taxation mechanisms in order to encourage people to use public transportation rather than drive.

The mayor of Johannesburg South Africa, Amos Masondo, spoke from experience on how to balance economic development and environmental protection. In terms of urban planning, Johannesburg has had success planting trees - the city currently has more than 1 billion trees.

The suggestions of these two mayors can be implemented by ordinary citizens. Although these actions do not individually make a significant difference, in order to make a great contribution we may still start with small things.

We also can do more things to protect our environment. New York City Mayor Bloomberg said that 80% of per capita greenhouse gases in New York are from transportation and 20% from buildings. It is still a problem who should pay for the old house renovation, the owner or tenant.

The Mayor of Toronto David Miller said regarding home renovation, the government cooperated with petrol and financial [corporations] to renovate buildings in order to make them more environmentally friendly. Currently there has been 3,000 square feet of office space renovated, and this has created 1.7 million jobs.

The Hong Kong Secretary for Environment Tenghua Qiu said the government appropriated 450 million [RMB?] to renovate buildings last year, and at this point it has completed two. He said there were more than 4 million buildings needing renovations, but the process would be slow because the city has many old buildings that are quite difficult to renovate.

Hearing this I thought about a number reported by the media that the average lifetime of [houses in China] is 30 years.

Truthfully, I want to allow more people to hear the words of these NASA officials mentioned above. And if of course relates to the question I posed initially:  I am certain that one day my grandchildren will ask me why, given my understanding of current environmental issues, I have never openly discussed these issues with them.  So now I want to publicly address the issues of space and climate change.


Translator: Xiaoxin Ding

Proofreader: Mary O’Loughlin; Angela Merriam


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