I knew about China’s reputation for its air and water pollution long before I moved here. It is also the first thing people notice when they visit China, especially, in the capital city of Beijing. China’s mainland is now the world’s number one polluter and the pollution is taking its toll on people’s health and well-being. It has also become a major embarrassment for the Chinese Government and the Chinese people are now demanding Government regulations to curb the amount of carbon emissions that is being emitted into the atmosphere.
One in five people in China would consider themselves conservationists and they speak out against industries that have a reputation of polluting the air and waterways.
The pollution in China is also a major concern for the country’s tourist industry. People in the past have traveled to China to experience the country’s rich cultural heritage but what many are finding today is a consumer driven society with its worship of money. The old ancient customs and beliefs are being kicked to the wayside for modern consumerism.
Millions of Chinese however are now trying to reject the influence the western world is having on their culture. Many Buddhist, Taoist, and Confucian temples that have been condemned decades ago by the government are drawing many tourists willing to explore the ancient Chinese beliefs.
It was during China’s Cultural Revolution, that many Buddhist temples were destroyed or defaced. Today, these temples are alive with worshipers. By some accounts, one out of every five Chinese call themselves Buddhists. Many scholars believe the search for faith may be linked to China’s massive environmental problems and the Country’s economic growth.
Many in China see their world of capitalism and socialism and consumerism as a kind of industrial behemoth that is just thundering ahead, that is draining life out of the villages. That is polluting the soil and the water and the air, the world in which they live is becoming a heartless world.
The single-child policy is believed by many to have created the most selfish generation in China’s history, because each child has been brought up as the center of attention for the family. Nothing is too much to give to them. This played a part in China’s massive economic rise to world dominance.
Many in China however believe their country’s new growing interest in Buddhism may bring some compassion back not only for their fellow human beings but for the environment and for the growing endangered species population within the animal kingdom. The majority of the Chinese grew up believing that beliefs in Buddhism are nothing more than a superstition. However, many are now rediscovering the rich traditions associated with Buddhism.
An area rich in biodiversity that many conservation groups say is greatly imperiled is Tibet, China. It is home to the headwaters of the Yellow and Yangtze Rivers, quite literally a lifeline to hundreds of millions of people downstream. Conservation and respect for all living things has long been an intrinsic part of life there.
Tibet has seen so much political upheaval and social change, but Buddhist values have endured. The Buddhists in Tibet believe whether you are a newborn or an 80-year-old, we should all be protectors of life because we are all responsible for the life around us.
What impact will the polluted environment have on the Children of China? That is a question that many in China are now asking. When a child sees hundreds and thousands of dead fish floating down rivers and streams do they become desensitized to their country’s polluted waterways? Do they just accept pollution as a fact of life?
It would appear though that the Chinese Government is actively supporting a traditional culture as a way to lead people back toward a more environmentally friendly lifestyle. The ancient Chinese culture has always promoted harmony between humankind and nature and it encouraged limited consumption and a simple way of life. The average Chinese person doesn't oppose taking from nature. They oppose the over-exploitation of nature that is harmful to the environment.
Many in China see a return to the ancient Buddhist ways as a step toward not only healing the environment but humankind as well.
But only time will tell …….
Always with love from Suzhou, China
Thomas F O’Neill
U.S. voice mail: (800) 272-6464
China Cell: 011-86-15114565945
Other articles, short stories, and commentaries by Thomas F. O'Neill can be found on his award winning blog, Link:
Click on author's byline for bio and list of other works published by Pencil Stubs Online.