Asia: Desperately Seeking Sustainability


Desperate times in Asia call for desperate green measures to achieve clean air (pollution is proving a major killer), pure water (so long, mountain glaciers) and enough food to meet the crushing demand.

Witness frantic and frenetic China where a massive industrial build up has come at the expense of the environment and human health. They knew they were forgetting something during that crazed development of resources. But now, with predictions of energy consumption doubling by 2030, something has to give.

Spurring immediate change was the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. Literally offering a breath of fresh air, the government played catch-up, erecting buildings using strict green guidelines, shutting down polluting factories and restricting traffic. This pop-up example of  sustainable community development triggered action by eco activists to maintain the blue skies and cleaner air. Money is the strongest talking point.

Games or no games, Asia can now see a dramatic cost cutting incentive to lowering the impact of development, and change is coming at a faster pace. For this reason, progress is a mixed bag as environmentalists there work to pressure those most responsible for poisoning the air for personal gain.

Playing Catch Up on Improved Shipping Methods


A whopping 80 percent of global trade is done on the sea. Improved methods are crucial to improving air quality since seaborne trade is expected to double by 2025. Carbon emissions from shipping amounts to four percent of all emissions, globally, and the U.S and Europe have and pushed for more responsible methods, introducing green initiatives such as more efficient operating systems and reworking ship design for more effective trafficking.

News Asia reports that adoption for green initiatives by shipping companies has been slow in Singapore and Southeast Asia despite the fact implementing measures can save some 30 percent on fuel and energy costs. Plus, those who have invested in measures such as scrubber systems to remove pollutant particles have reported a one to three year return on that investment. While all of this is convincing, what might allow Asia to catch up is the threat its ships won’t be able to enter international waters without adhering to tighter regulations.

China Advancing Cleaner Energy out of Necessity


China is now reportedly ready to let wind energy soar as it makes a commitment to a renewable energy revolution. According to the Telegraph, that commitment is most apparent in Beijing, where edicts are being issued weekly including a pledge to generate 100 gigawatts of power from wind by 2020, tripling the original target of the national energy strategy.

In describing the new wind farms in western China, the Telegraph found they have even emerged as a tourist attraction where fascinated couples pose in front of the giant white propellers for photos. “Today, the same winds that struck fear into traders of the Silk Road, swallowing whole caravans in blinding storms of dust, are being used to power plans for a new, green revolution for China’s energy-hungry economy,” wrote the Telegraph.


Meanwhile in the city, the government has installed solar panels to power street lights in Beijing as well as solar water heaters in some of the remaining houses. In fact, the Telegraph tells us China will now spend more than six times America’s green stimulus spending to reduce emissions and create alternative energy by revamping nuclear, solar and hydroelectricity.

In terms of working together, a consortium of U.S and Chinese companies are investing $1.5 billion in a 600-megawatt wind farm in West Texas using turbines made in China. The power should meet the electricity demands of between 135,000 and 180,000 U.S. homes for a year. Chinese banks have largely paid for the farm with loan guarantees and cash grants from the U.S. government.

Japan Joins Call for Reduced Emissions

As the Japanese people also grow more environmentally aware (they were even in the dark about the dolphin slaughter) the government has pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent compared to 1990 levels, while upping environmental-related employment. Subsidies also are being flaunted for home solar electric generators and friendly appliances and hybrid vehicles.

In 2010, a new incentive initiative was created for the purchase of eco-friendly houses, and in 2011, the government will expand the Feed-in-Tariff range and set an emissions rights market. Other incentives encourage research and development. Investment Week suggests Japan’s primary focus is energy-saving technology. It is considered the most energy-efficient country in Asia. China’s share of greenhouse emissions is 19 percent – five times larger than Japan’s – and the country is expected to widen its ecology and tech markets for solar and hybrid cars, nuclear energy, water conservation and purification and waste disposal. Other growth areas include LED lighting, fuel batteries, smart grids, carbon dioxide capture and storage.

Forging  Green Dwellings for Emerging Middle Class



Asia is also advancing in the uphill battle of energy-efficient housing, taking its lead from the West. Japan might be slightly ahead of the yuppie housing game but all that newly acquired income from making all of our stuff has seen a rapidly emerging middle-class in China. That populace now seeks the same green standards for cleaner materials, energy and water efficiency in residential dwellings as the educated and informed in Europe and the U.S.

China Daily tells us a number of real estate developers are answering that call by adopting green industry systems for residential buildings. Shenzhen Fountain Corporation, for example, is slated to develop LEED-registered residential buildings in Zhuhai in Guangdong province and Changsha in Hunan province. Apparently, this will bring world-class environmental standards to China.

Officials see they can save 20 to 60 percent on energy consumption, and better yet, LEED-certified buildings, though more costly to build, see good returns on investments in the long run. Developers see it can give them a competitive edge while meeting increasing demand.

Hybrid Rice to Replace Disappearing Fields

Hybrid seed growers want the government in the Philippines to act now and urge local farmers to adopt the use of hybrid rice technology which has proven effective in doubling or tripling their farm yield as high as 17 tons per hectares. This is comparison to the output of four to five tons per hectare for certified inbred seeds.

Expanding land and using old technology is no longer a viable option. Still, the Aquino administration has said it would continue using inbred seeds. Advocates of a hybrid rice program argue without it, China would not have busted out to become the second-largest world economy able to feed more than 1.3 billion people.

China embraced the technology in the 1960s when a famine threatened starvation, and has since led the world in the research of hybrid rice and development. In describing the technology, Commodity explains that in conventional rice plants, inbreeding take place since each flower has both male and female organs, allowing the plant to self-pollinate  to produce. But Hybrid rice seeds come from two genetically distinct parents requiring three breeding lines (male-sterile line, the maintainer line, and the restorer line).

Complicated, no? China’s ability to master it has given the country an edge in not only feeding its own population, but providing ways to cultivate sticky rice in other parts of Asia where it is popular. Farmers must buy new hybrid seeds every season and China is now developing super hybrids from parent lines that are genetically more distinct than typical hybrids and contain a greater degree of heterosis, and therefore, higher yields.

Images: Ivan Walsh; Kiwi Mikex; Dmytrok; FHKE; Muji; Bionicfarmer

Luanne Bradley

Luanne Sanders Bradley is the West coast Editor at EcoSalon and currently resides in San Francisco, California.