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August 3rd, 2008:

‘Earthwalker’ Put Off Stride By Tight Security

Elaine Wu – SCMP – Updated on Aug 03, 2008

Instead of walking from Tianjin to Beijing, “Earthwalker” Paul Coleman will be taking the train today after abandoning his goal of reaching the capital on foot for the opening of the Olympic Games.

Coleman, who had been trekking across the mainland since September, decided to take the train after being frequently stopped by police amid tighter security controls ahead of the Games.

His 10-day tourist visa also expires on Wednesday, which would have meant a 35km trek to stay on schedule – a difficult task given the heat.

“We think we have done enough for this country,” Coleman said from his hotel in Tianjin yesterday.

“This is absolutely ludicrous. We don’t feel any urgency to complete the journey because of the way we have been treated recently.”

Coleman, 53, and his wife Konomi Kikuchi, 42, have trekked more than 3,300km since they left Hong Kong last year. Their goal is to raise awareness of the environmental issues that plague the mainland.

Coleman has planted trees and met local officials along the way, and has been documenting his journey on his blog.

He was shocked by the mainland’s water pollution. He said he was only able to swim on two of the 330 days he had been on the road.

At the Hebei border near Shandong province, he saw black water that looked just like oil near some oil factories. A reservoir he found in Fujian province was just as bad, with some dead baby pigs nearby.

“We certainly understand the problem here now,” he said. “But I don’t think we’ll be coming back anytime soon.”

Coleman has trekked through 39 countries since 1990.

He arrives in Beijing today for interviews with Japanese media.

He will then head to Seoul, where his latest book is being published.

Seeker After A Greener Earth

A climate-change expert joins a quest for heroes trying to save the planet

Dan Kadison – SCMP – Updated on Aug 03, 2008

Sir Crispin Tickell has an asteroid and a Costa Rican moth named after him – and, soon, an observatory will also bear his name. While he’s honoured by the tributes, the British climate-change expert came to Hong Kong to celebrate the achievement of others.

On Friday, Sir Crispin helped launch the Hong Kong Earth Champions Quest – a search for specialists and everyday heroes who have made an environmental difference in this city. The quest “gets individuals recognised for their efforts, and that has an infectious effect”, Sir Crispin said after the kick-off event at the Foreign Correspondents Club in Central.

“It’s like a sort of an epidemic of concern, which individuals and Earth Champions can promote.”

Moments earlier Sir Crispin, 77, had delivered the keynote speech, in which he described the costs of “human-driven change” on the climate.

“The most likely effects in China, as indeed elsewhere, are that we’re going to see changes in weather. And we’re going to get more extreme events – that’s to say more storms … more destabilisation,” said Sir Crispin.

“We’ve got an accelerated melting of the Antarctic and the Arctic ice, and, of course, the Himalayan glaciers.”

Sir Crispin soon switched gears, and said it would take a local, national and global effort – with individuals, businesses and governments getting involved – to better the planet.

“To cope with this intimidating set of problems, we have to accept a sort of bewildering complexity of responsibilities,” he said.

“We need individual champions to see what should be done, we need community champions, we need government champions, and we need global champions – all interacting with each other to try and cope, as cope we must.”

A day before Sir Crispin helped launch the Earth Champions campaign, he spoke at his Hong Kong hotel.

Sir Crispin – who in the 1970s wrote Climatic Change and World Affairs, a pioneering book about climate change – said he had visited Hong Kong several times over the past 40 years. He has seen the air pollution move in and out with the winds.

“It’s a lot like Beijing, it happens one day, it’s gone the next,” he said. “Then it stops for one day, and it’s back again.”

Hongkongers, like people anywhere, can improve their surroundings. People can reduce their carbon footprint, “which means not wasting but conserving energy”, Sir Crispin said.

Solutions, he said, ranged from choosing the right light bulb to reducing your amount of travel.

Governments and industries must do their part, too. For example, China must pursue new energy policies and become less dependent on coal, a premise “the Chinese leadership fully accepts”, he said.

This year, Sir Crispin, a former member of the China Council for International Co-operation on Environment and Development, delivered a lecture about environmental sustainability in China. Towards the end of his speech, he said: “Within China, the environmental costs may be high, even unworkable.

“The struggles will continue. But the government seems well aware of the risks and hazards, and knows better than its critics that it has to do a lot more to look after the only China, indeed the only Earth, there is.”

Tomorrow, Sir Crispin will meet the Business Environment Council, and, later in the day he will deliver a speech, “The Meaning of the 21st Century”, at the Royal Geographical Society in Hong Kong.

Sir Crispin is currently director of the Policy Foresight Programme, a think-tank in the James Martin Institute for Science and Civilisation at Oxford University.

His resume is vast, and includes many highlights.

He was British ambassador to Mexico from 1981 to 1983, and was the British permanent representative to the United Nations, as well as permanent representative on the Security Council from 1987 to 1990.

He was also the president of the Royal Geographical Society from 1990 to 1993. He was knighted for his diplomatic work in 1983.

Nomination forms for the Hong Kong Earth Champions Quest, of which the South China Morning Post is a media sponsor, can be obtained at

Blue-Sky Thinking Could Be The Games’ Best Legacy

Updated on Aug 03, 2008 – SCMP

President Hu Jintao broke new ground when he met representatives of foreign news organisations on Friday. It was his first press conference of this kind in Beijing in nearly six years as top leader. Even when travelling abroad he has not had such exposure. The move was a timely one, coming just a week before the opening of the Olympic Games. Mr Hu’s comments generated wider coverage than if they had been conveyed through the state media. And what he had to say about China’s economic strategy prompted a positive reaction from stock markets on both sides of the border.

The press conference came at a time when China has been on the receiving end of much negative publicity. Concerns over censorship and pollution during the Games, the government’s Tibet policy and the mainland’s human rights record have threatened to spoil the party. Senior Olympic and government officials have had their hands full with damage control. It was the right time for Mr Hu to come out and say where China stands.

It was important to offer reassurance to the international community that Beijing remains committed to legal, administrative and political reforms that will give people more rights. Indeed, he suggested that the 30th anniversary of China’s opening up would be the occasion for unveiling more policy initiatives. That is something the outside world has been wondering about as the anniversary draws near. It remains to be seen how far such new measures will go, especially those concerning democracy and the rule of law. But the pledge to push ahead with reforms is welcome.

Mr Hu also tackled concerns about Beijing’s short-term economic strategy. He pledged efforts to maintain fast, sustainable growth after the Games despite the unprecedented challenges China is facing.

Worries remain about the media freedom promised during the Olympics, although the authorities have restored access to some sensitive websites that were blocked in the Olympic press centre. Mr Hu did little to ease them. He merely urged journalists to abide by mainland laws and regulations and not to politicise the Games. Beijing has eased restrictions on journalists, but there have been complaints that authorities are selective in implementing the rules.

One significant message is to be found in Mr Hu’s remarks about the legacy of the Olympics. While China would inherit sports venues and infrastructure, it would also treasure more highly what he called the spiritual legacies. Environmental protection and the concept of a green Olympics were among those that would be good for the future development of the nation and efforts to create a better life for the Chinese people.

Despite unprecedented measures, including industry shutdowns and traffic restrictions, doubts remain about whether Beijing will, during the Games, be able to shrug off the cloud of smog which often envelops the city. The environment of the Games is now down to the elements, such as wind direction.

If one enduring positive emerges from the Olympics, it will be increased awareness across the nation of the importance of environmental protection. Given the largely ineffectual efforts China has made to contain pollution, significant progress in protecting and restoring the environment would on its own be a priceless legacy. As Mr Hu spoke, Beijing breathed easier under clearly visible white cloud and blue sky, thanks to some cleansing weather conditions. It is to be hoped that is a good omen for the Games and for their legacy.