To be sustainable, China must implement bold innovations

Apr 01, 2010

Complex issues have hampered China's environmental protection efforts, but bold innovations can help it become a global sustainability leader, says a noted Michigan State University environmental scientist.

"China is the most populous country with the fastest growing economy in the world -- everything it does has a big impact," said Jianguo "Jack" Liu, MSU University Distinguished Professor of fisheries and wildlife who holds the Rachel Carson Chair in Sustainability. Liu is internationally known for his work on and coupled human and natural systems. "Environmental sustainability in China is crucial, not just for China, but for the rest of the world."

Liu traces China's road to sustainability over the past six decades in the April 2 issue of the journal Science. The paper is Liu's second in the prestigious journal in three weeks, a distinction held by only a handful of scientists.

"Jack's scholarship in the broad area of coupled human and natural systems is highly significant and cutting edge," said J. Ian Gray, vice president for research and graduate studies. "We highly value his research and his presence at MSU."

While China's environmental path has been rocky, Liu makes the case that strong leadership, including government officials who are evaluated on their efforts to promote environmental sustainability rather than , can strengthen China's environmental efforts.

"The has implemented a number of policies with good intentions, but the results haven't brought the expected benefits," Liu said.

The one-child policy, for example, has slowed by about 300 million people since its implementation in 1979. However, the number of households has increased much faster than the population. China added 125 million households from 1985 to 2000 and there are now fewer people in each household because of more divorces and fewer multigenerational households. More households consume more resources, generate more waste and use resources less efficiently.

"Humans and natural systems are coupled together and have complex reciprocal interactions," Liu explained. "Many socioeconomic and political forces both promote and hinder sustainability. Integrating natural and social science research can help us understand the complexity of the interactions among the forces that affect environmental sustainability so the desired results can be achieved. In addition to scientific research, institutional innovations also are essential for to achieve sustainability. One idea may be to create government incentives such as tax credits or subsidies to promote multigenerational housing and housing shared by friends and other non-family members and to discourage divorce."

Explore further: Average temperature in Finland has risen by more than two degrees

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Peer pressure plays major role in environmental behavior

Jun 29, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- People are more likely to enroll in conservation programs if their neighbors do -- a tendency that should be exploited when it comes to protecting the environment, according to results of ...

To catch a panda

Dec 10, 2007

Michigan State University’s panda habitat research team has spent years collecting mountains of data aimed at understanding and saving giant pandas. Now a graduate student is working to catch crucial data that’s black, ...

China's policies treasure both environment and people

Jul 07, 2008

Two of the world's largest environmental programs in China are generally successful, although key reforms could transform them into a model for the rest of the world, according to new research published this week in the Proceedings of ...

U.S. EPA helps to clean Beijing air

Nov 24, 2005

U.S.-supported Chinese scientists have outlined strategies to dramatically reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and other air pollutants in Beijing.
The recommendations come in preparation for the 2008 Summer Olympics.

Recommended for you

Rising anger as Nicaragua canal to break ground

Dec 21, 2014

As a conscripted soldier during the Contra War of the 1980s, Esteban Ruiz used to flee from battles because he didn't want to have to kill anyone. But now, as the 47-year-old farmer prepares to fight for ...

Hopes, fears, doubts surround Cuba's oil future

Dec 20, 2014

One of the most prolific oil and gas basins on the planet sits just off Cuba's northwest coast, and the thaw in relations with the United States is giving rise to hopes that Cuba can now get in on the action.

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

nappy
1 / 5 (1) Apr 03, 2010
"Sustainibility" is another word for collectivism. The one thing that will not be sustained is the economy or the lifestyle we live. If this silliness is continued, the United States will be done. And the climate and the environment will not care. The earth will go on spinning and the human race will enter another Dark Ages with wholesale starvation, disease and death. Why do this?

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.