When we travel to China or India, two things are likely to happen. You will be legitimately and understandably shocked by the pollution in China and the poverty in India.
Re China: the blogosphere is full of heated debate re: what China and her development means for the environment and the rest of us.
On the one hand, if China follows the western pattern of energy consumption and lifestyle (as it lectures China on its bad development habits and how polluted it is), many feel that we are all pretty much screwed.
On the other hand, respected commentators like James Kynge are more optimistic. In his well received book, China Shakes the World: A Titan’s Rise and Troubled Future, Kynge points out that the earth simply cannot support 1.3 billion Chinese living like Americans so the Chinese and others will have no choice but to adopt different and better technologies, ways of living and consuming energy, and they will need to do so quickly, etc. The CCP leaders are not dummies and they know that stability in the country is key to their own survival so it will be in their political best interest to not adopt the western model of energy consumption as their wealth grows, simply because they likely can’t keep up with such demand and/or they can’t afford to pay for such a crazed energy shopping spree.
This Wall Street Journal article, Technology Levels Playing Field in Race to Market Electric Car, made me think of Kynge’s “the glass is more full than empty” view of how this may play out. Per this article, China is leading the field on this one.
Other examples of China leading, not following in this area:
– I recently met an entrepreneur couple in the Santa Barbara area who developed a new technology and system that would help load cars onto a moving train. The thought being that said system can help get cars off the road, give people more of an incentive to take the train, etc. They depressingly noted to me that nobody at the US Transportation Agency, Cal Trans, or in private industry had any interest in said system because (paraphrased) “things are as they are and there is no hope for any such technology to take off in the US as other ways of doing things and special interest groups are too entrenched.” Yet, the Chinese were willing to talk to them and the were close to entering a deal with a local or provincial Chinese government to test and develop said technology and system in China, where many of the rules have yet to be made and determined in this regard.
–Another example is that did you know that new cars sold in China must satisfy more stringent fuel exhaust standards than those sold in the US (or so a local auto dealer recently told me)?
So while these examples are a start, the reality is we need more of them and China still has a long way to go in this regard. I, with others, am hoping for the best but also bracing for the worst.
It will be up to the current generation, and our grad students in particular with their business training and expertise, to help or hinder how China and India develop in this regard. Clearly, on this issue, the environment and new technologies to minimize energy consumption, cooperation will be in everyone’s best interest. And think about how places like India and China can be testing grounds for new green and sustainable technologies that simply don’t have a chance to get off the ground here given our existing bad consumption and spending habits and existing rent seeking industries, government agencies and special interests groups seeking to maintain the status quo (see above WSJ article for Example A in this regard).