History is a witness that if humans make decisions against nature’s rules, they could face the rule of nature very quickly
You have stolen my dreams and childhood with your empty words. People are suffering. People are dying. The entire ecosystem is facing destruction. The world is moving towards extinction. But you are only dreaming of wealth and eternal economic development. These are the words of Greta Thunberg, a young environmental activist from Sweden. In September 2019, she addressed world leaders attending the United Nations Environment Summit. She was harshly critical of those who imagined an endless spring of economic growth. Her emotional speech aimed at making the leaders of powerful countries realize that they are responsible for the deterioration of the world’s natural environment.
China has been actively pursuing the dream of unparalleled growth and economic power. The country has achieved an impressive scale of economic and industrial might. If you look at China’s economic power and centers of economic development, your mind is stunned. You can take the city of Kunming as an example. The city is the capital of China’s Yunnan Province. It is best known as the “City of Eternal Spring” due to its pleasant climate and year-round blooming flowers. With a history spanning more than twenty-four hundred years, it was once called the gateway to the Silk Road.
The Kunming region historically provided trade routes to the states of Tibet, Myanmar, India, and beyond. It has become an ideal city with its amazing urban culture and unprecedented economic growth. It has earned a lot of fame due to its tall buildings, strong road network, extensive parks, waterfalls, lakes, beautiful coastline, and rapidly developing economy. If it is held up to the world as an example of China’s amazing and dreamy development, it rightly deserves that honor.
For the past several decades, China’s leadership has pursued economic development as its sole goal. Although this is an unprecedented development, it has lifted millions of its citizens out of poverty. But the natural environment has paid the highest price. Therefore, independent and neutral environmental organizations, activists, and observers doubt China’s increased attention and focus on environmental protection; especially their desire to play a leadership role in this regard. In this context, China was going to host the top leaders of countries around the world to hold a COP 15 summit in the beautiful city of Kunming in December 2022. The UN Biodiversity Summit was a rare event to resolve the issues facing the environment and biodiversity. This summit has been postponed for the last two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
From the environmental and biological perspectives, very important and key decisions on global biodiversity issues were expected from this summit. So, the city of Kunming has been rightly attracting global media attention since 2020. However, nature wants to run the world in its own way, and sometimes it hinders the realization of individual and collective dreams. History is a witness that if human populations started making decisions against the rules made by nature, then these communities could face the rule of nature very quickly. Many top scientists have done interesting research into how the COVID-19 virus spread at the beginning of the pandemic. They have also traced this outbreak to a large animal market in the Wuhan province of China, where many species of live animals were also sold.
In January 2021, over a hundred scientists, immunologists, researchers, and experts working on the virus were asked whether it was possible to completely remove the coronavirus. About 90 percent of them believed that it would continue to plague the world’s population for years to come. The same thing happened with China, which was feared. The 2022 Biodiversity Summit was moved from Kunming to Montreal, Canada, only because China was not ready to lift the restrictions imposed to deal with the coronavirus.
Whenever the key subsidiary bodies of the United Nations come together on a major global issue, world leaders, ministers, experts, academics, and decision-makers are invited to organize numerous programs related to such events. They get a rare chance to get to know the local culture, development, and progress in the host city. From this perspective, this was also an unusual opportunity for China to discard the global criticism, put forward its environmental agenda, and position itself in front of the environmental agenda, showcasing its incomparable development and economic success as an example in the eyes of the world’s leaders.
Industrial and economic development and climate change are interrelated topics. And in the present era, the debate on both of them is gaining momentum. A large group of environmentalists believes that China and the United States are among the rich countries that destroy the world’s natural environment. The United States has already become a part of the global effort to support initiatives on global greenhouse gas emissions, as the country itself is paying a heavy price for the negative impacts of unusual industrial and economic growth.
However, environmental campaigners believe that until recently, the global environmental agenda was not at the forefront of the Chinese leadership’s priorities. Although it is among the richest countries in the world, it is spending many times more wealth on improving military and industrial capacity than on climate finance. It is among the top ten countries in the world regarding contributing to greenhouse gas emissions. Yet, the eternal spring of economic growth that China is dreaming of cannot and should not be realized at the price of an existential threat to millions of species on earth.
The life and growth of billions of people and countless living organisms are connected to the safety of the biological landscape. So far, sweeping decisions that are connected to the dream of eternal economic development in rich countries have been made. It is good that the wealthier nations have improved millions of lives; yet, these decisions are also taking away the hope of life from countless organisms. The dreams of unprecedented growth and the super-rich status of a few countries are making the lives of millions of people miserable; millions of breaths are becoming difficult, and life has become challenging for millions of souls.
The writer is a London-based researcher, educator and author. He can be reached on Twitter @MIMazhar, [email protected], www.pressforpeace.org.uk, and on [email protected] +447488253889.