Let’s all go green and ex­plore its real eco­nomic ben­e­fits

China Daily (Canada) - - BUSINESS - By MACHENGUANG

Prose writer Liu Liangcheng wrote his book In Xin­jiang with a trib­ute to the an­cient town of Kuqa, claim­ing that “in this field, grass can grow old heartily with­out wor­ries of be­ing erad­i­cated. A tree does not need to worry about choos­ing a wrong place for growth ... Birds nest in the branches and catch in­sects in the wheat fields un­der­neath.”

But, he laments, “in many places, peo­ple have been too dili­gent, chang­ing the Earth to an un­earthly state that only suits them­selves for a liv­ing ... There, ex­cept for the ed­i­ble grain, the land no longer has any right to grow any­thing else.”

Much so in an era of in­dus­tri­al­iza­tion and ur­ban­iza­tion, so I tried to find an ex­am­ple which goes against this trend, and got one: Wuhu, a city in An­hui prov­ince sit­ting on both banks of the Yangtze River.

This past spring, I toured its God Moun­tain Park. Strolling around, I could hear birds chirp­ing, see many peo­ple walk­ing, play­ing or do­ing ex­er­cises, and en­counter lakes dot­ted with lo­tuses and reeds, five moun­tain ridges flanked by trees, flow­ers and weeds, as well as small rivers abuzz with fish and in­sects.

I told the city’s in­for­ma­tion of­fice chiefMa Tao, who ac­com­pa­nied me on the trip, that the city must have for­gone a lot in pre­serv­ing this 326hectare park­land, as the area might have been packed with many cas­hearn­ing high-rises, asWuhu is renowned for its Ch­ery cars, Conch ce­ment, Fantaw­ild travel and boom­ing in­dus­trial and high-tech zones.

He nod­ded, adding: “But you can see so many peo­ple en­joy­ing them­selves here. On week­ends, there are more. Their en­joy­ment and en­su­ing im­proved health are our gains. We all know that for ev­ery­thing for­gone, there’s a gain.”

So that’s their gain. By for­go­ing a trade-off of pos­si­ble high-rises, they gained plea­sure and bet­ter health.

Years ago, when I read Thomas Sow­ell’s A Cit­i­zen’s Guide to Eco­nom­ics, I was deeply im­pressed by its quo­ta­tion from Ann Lan­ders: “You can’t have it all. Where would you put it?”

Wuhu gave us an an­swer. And so do nu­mer­ous other places. Nan­jing’s Trans­la­tions mag­a­zine re­ported re­cently that in the Ger­man city ofHanover, lo­cal res­i­dents have fought for more than 600 years to pro­tect theWald­sta­tion Eilen­riede, a 600-hectare sea of forests from oc­cu­piers, log­ging thieves, builders, de­sign­ers and even the city gov­ern­ment. They even­tu­ally saved this for­est sanc­tu­ary for them to seek en­joy­ment and peace.

The Chris­tian ScienceMon­i­tor re­ported the US Fish and Wildlife Ser­vice on Oct 25 com­pleted the es­tab­lish­ment of the Great Thicket Na­tional Wildlife Refuge, in­clud­ing 15,000 acres of land mainly con­sist­ing of shrub­land teem­ing with an­i­mals and in­sects. It will be the coun­try’s 566th, join­ing a net­work of pro­tected ar­eas cov­er­ing over 150 mil­lion acres of land.

But, are there real gains be­hind green eco­nom­ics?

Wuhu in­for­ma­tion of­fice chief Ma pointed out res­i­dents’ en­joy­ment and their en­su­ing im­proved health, which I be­lieve might lead to re­duced med­i­cal bills.

The US group De­fend­ers of Wildlife said that the ma­jor ben­e­fit of the Great Thicket Na­tional Wildlife Refuge would be that it would at­tract bird­watch­ers and other vis­i­tors.

The US Fish and Wildlife Ser­vice cited a 2013 na­tional re­port, say­ing that spend­ing by vis­i­tors to the refuge gen­er­ated nearly $343 mil­lion in lo­cal, county, state, and fed­eral tax rev­enue in 2011, while sup­port­ing more than 35,000 jobs.

In Guang­dong prov­ince, seven vil­lages at the foot of Luo­fuMoun­tain have trans­formed them­selves into a “sea” of flow­ers— in­stead of plant­ing crops— since 2015, at­tract­ing ur­ban dwellers to take week­end tours there.

Nan­fang Daily re­ported that the vil­lagers’ gains are ob­vi­ous. Dur­ing theMay Day hol­i­day this year, they at­tracted around 80,000 vis­i­tors, net­ting 5.6 mil­lion yuan ($836,000) from fruit and veg­etable sales, and ca­ter­ing.

So that’s real. Let’s all go green, and fully ex­plore what it can bring.

Con­tact the writer at machenguang@chi­nadaily.com.cn

LAI XINLIN / FOR CHINA DAILY

Women in tra­di­tional Chi­nese cos­tumes en­joy a spring tour at Fantaw­ild park in Wuhu, An­hui prov­ince.

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