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Earth Day’s Token Efforts Show Need For More Awareness

Stephen Chen – Updated on Apr 23, 2008 – SCMP

International Earth Day passed without much fanfare on the mainland yesterday, with environmentalists saying much still needed to be done to raise public awareness.

The event is usually marked clearly on the mainland’s political calendar, but it did not make even a brief story on China Central Television’s evening news – compared with the minute the programme gave to the Beijing car show.

But mainland leaders still say they are devoted to improving environmental protection. They have set the goal of doubling the amount of energy coming from renewable sources such as water, wind, solar and biomass by 2020.

With environmental awareness rising slowly, various public activities and events were held in cities around the nation. But few of these activities concerned global warming, and environmental activists had to admit that there was still a way to go to promote public awareness of the dangers greenhouse gases pose to the mainland – the world’s biggest emitter of the pollutants.

In the northeastern city of Dalian , the Women’s Association launched a Save Chopsticks campaign to encourage households not to use disposable chopsticks, which consume more than 25 million mature trees a year on the mainland. Trees absorb carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas.

More than 1,000 volunteers put half a million young fish into a river in Nanning , Guangxi , in the hope of restoring some ecological balance and improving water quality.

Supermarkets, developers and car makers have sponsored environment-friendly-bag campaigns in big cities such as Beijing, Guangzhou, Shanghai and Hangzhou , Zhejiang , urging consumers to stop using plastic bags and choose more sustainable products.

At a primary school in Shenyang , Liaoning , a pupil painted a picture of an ailing Earth with a thermometer sticking out of its mouth.

“The Earth has a fever, and we must cure it,” the 11-year-old told the China Business Morning Post.

Yang Ailun , climate and energy campaign manager for Greenpeace on the mainland, said the group had noticed that most mainland citizens failed to recognise global warming as an imminent threat.

“Most people don’t know what an ordinary person can do in the face of such a big issue,” she said. “You can ask them to stop using plastic bags because it could make them feel rewarded instantly. But global warming is more distant and indirect.

“Air quality, water pollution and food safety are probably more imminent issues in China.”

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