Nu River Saved, Jack Ma Buys Preservation Land

A great piece of news came from China on the night of December 16, that the Yunnan provincial government in southwest China has announced its decision to not develop hydro-electric projects on the Nu River, also known as the Salween (link in Chinese). The news soon exploded on Chinese social media, especially among conservationists such as Ms. Wang Yongchen, who cried upon hearing the news. Below is a trailer to the award-winning documentary film about the green movement in China, which featured Wang and other environmental activists in their fight to save rivers and traditional culture along them. (Asia Society gave the film, Waking the Green Tiger, which we screened during our Environmental documentary film festival in 2014.)

Beijing Under Red Alert (PM2.5 December 16-21, 2015)

PM2.5 readings taken by the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, December 16-22, 2015. Zero readings mark data not avaialable.

Right now, Beijing is experiencing its second ever red alert for high pollution levels. People are once again dealing with the inconveniences of finding childcare and half of cars unable to drive on the streets. In a recent post, netizens posted jokes criticizing the government’s handling of the high pollution levels. The post was taken down, but here are a couple excerpts:

The population was too high, so you adopted family planning policies. There were too many cars, so you adopted odd-even license plate number restrictions. Could you be more incompetent? It’s ok if you are incompetent, but if you still hang on to your positions when you are, that is shameful! If you can manage [the pollution], just do it; if not, then get out without further ado. We all support your resignation, and we will get someone else who is capable enough to manage!

You guys [officials] have gone to London, Paris, Tokyo, and New York 120 times—even your relatives and mistresses have gone there—and what did you learn? Can you take charge [of managing the pollution]? You spend all the taxpayer money on those study tours to the big cities of the all-evil capitalist countries, and come back with just this: odd-even license plate number restrictions. Aren’t you f-ing ashamed?

As I write, Beijing’s smog has been reigning for two days, and the wind isn’t helping, unfortunately. Click here for a real-time wind map. For those who will be deep in the smog in northern China in the coming days, you can check the map to see whether the wind in the north is blowing your way to get a sense of when the air is going to become more breathable.

Alibaba’s Jack Ma said during the COP21 climate talks in Paris this month that he has learned a lot from the U.S. and from NGOs such as The Nature Conservancy. He talked about a conservation fund he and over 40 other Chinese entrepreneurs have established. “We bought land to protect forests, to help the pandas,” he said. The land referred to is the Old Creek Nature Preserve in Mianyang, Sichuan province. The conservation fund told farmers they could no longer cut down trees, but the farmers said they had to survive and asked what else they could do. Ma and his fund investors have worked to teach farmers how to keep honey bees and sell honey online.