China has announced, via a United Nations report, that it will be covering nearly a quarter of the country with forests by 2020. The plan is to turn China into an “ecological civilization” and function as a model for future building projects.
“The outdated view that man can conquer nature and ignore the bearing capacity of resources and the environment should be completely abandoned,” said Zhu Guangyao, executive vice president of the Chinese Ecological Civilization Research and Promotion Association. “Conscientious efforts should be made to live in harmony with nature, allowing for a new approach to modernization characterized by such co-existence.”
Surely inspiring but, as always, actions speak louder than words. For example, what is their role in the deforestation of Indonesia? Here you go:
China’s Pressure on Southeast Asia’s Forests
Ioannis Gatsiounis wrote in the New York Times: “China’s thirst for natural resources and its determination to play a larger role in Southeast Asia are overriding the effort to sponsor sustainable development in the region. China is the world’s largest importer of illegally logged timber, said Kevin Conrad, director of the recently established Coalition for Rainforest Nations at Columbia University’s Earth Institute in New York. “Unless they stop, there is nothing we can do about illegal logging in the region.”[Source: Ioannis Gatsiounis, New York Times, December 16, 2005]
In August 2005, the Chinese government proposed to fund the conversion of 4.4 million acres, or 1.8 million hectares, of Indonesian Borneo into the world’s largest palm plantation. The proposed plantation site is mountainous and not well suited for palm production, leading some, like Tom Dillon, a director at the World Wildlife Fund, to wonder whether the project is “really about oil palm, or subverting forestry laws?”
And there is also their love of wooden chopsticks (please turn yours down when enjoying Chinese in restaurant or carry out eating adventures.
Disposable Chopsticks in China and Japan Strip Asian Forests
Rachel Nuwer wrote in the New York Times, Though the chopstick is the quintessential cutlery choice throughout most of Asia, Japan and China in particular seem prone to using the disposable variety. In China, smaller restaurants prefer disposables while larger ones tend to go with plastic. In Japan, disposables are found even at nicer sit-down establishments. [Source: Rachel Nuwer, New York Times, October 24, 2011]
“Each year, the equivalent of 3.8 million trees go into the manufacture of about 57 billion disposable pairs of chopsticks in China, according to statistics from that nation’s national forest bureau. About 45 percent of disposable chopsticks are made from trees like cotton wood, birch, and spruce, while the remainder are made from bamboo. Half of the disposables are consumed within China. Of the other half, 77 percent is exported to Japan, 21 percent to South Korea and 2 percent to the United States. Chopsticks add to a plague of regional deforestation. According to a 2008 United Nations report, 10,800 square miles of Asian forest are disappearing each year, a trend that must be arrested to fight climate change, given the vital role trees play in absorbing carbon dioxide. [Ibid] SOURCE
What about their deforestation efforts in Africa? Yes, they’re doing it there also:
Deforestation is rampant in West Africa. In Sierra Leone, all but 4 percent of the country’s original forest cover was wiped out by the 1920s, according to the United Nations Environment Program. The small amount of forest left is in danger of disappearing by 2018, according to the U.N. In Liberia, agriculture has eaten up about 20 percent of the country’s dense forests since 1979, according to a government report. Guinea has lost about 20 percent of its forests since 1990, according to U.N. data.
Those changes to the environment can increase concentrations of wild animal populations in the remaining forest, bringing previously untouched reservoirs of Ebola into closer proximity with humans.
And development has increased the mobility of people in Africa. As countries like China have poured billions into developing West African mineral deposits, new roads and infrastructure have cropped up in once remote villages. That brings new opportunities not just for people to travel to previously hard-to-reach areas but also for increasing contact with those who may be infected with Ebola. SOURCE
Reforestation isn’t as wonderful as it sounds either. Lots of time the trees are planted and then forgotten which results in a large percentage of loss. Plus we’re talking about taking down old growth forests – those cannot be replaced. So, again, talk is cheap in more ways than one.