China is eating the Earth…this is a commonly held sentiment among environmentally-minded folk. To be fair, many other nations, including the USA, are heavily involved in sating their gluttonous appetite for the planet’s raw resources around the world and the profits to be made, but China is particularly busy in many of the world’s most vulnerable forests and seas and its’ demand is sky-rocketing. Yet, the People’s Republic of China can quickly become a global conservation hero through 5 key actions that, if enacted, would do little to dent their growing economy, vastly improve their contribution to biosphere stewardship, and garner a reputation as a global savior worthy of the accolades:
1. Shut Down the Trade in Wildlife – China can rapidly enforce a ban on the import or export of all wildlife, dead or alive, whole or parts – turtles, bear and tiger parts, ivory, sharks, rays, frogs, octopus, birds, snakes, rhino horn, sea turtles, seahorses – basically any creature taken out of the wild, with the only exception being fish from certified sustainable fisheries. It should shut down any purveyors of wildlife or parts both at home and abroad.
2. Stop Logging Tropical Forests – China should enforce a ban on importation of all tropical hardwoods, raw logs or finished wood, and prohibit overseas direct sales of tropical hardwoods to international markets (for example, logs from the Congo are sold directly to Europe).
3. Protect Rivers – China should protect forests in the headwaters and wetlands in the lowlands of all major rivers and tributaries, whether in China or in other nations were they are involved in development. Building dams at home and abroad should cease as they are now counterproductive to sustainable societies and environments.
4. Implement China’s Biodiversity Strategy – China’s National Biodiversity Conservation Strategy and Action Plan will effectively conserve much of China’s distinctive biodiversity if fully implemented over the next few decades.
5. Exert China’s Global Influence – China can pressure other nations and trading blocks, such as the European Union, to similarly stop their involvement in the international trade in wildlife and tropical timber.
China may be uniquely positioned among nations to act quickly and effectively, catalyzing other nations to follow suit, and their initiative can coalesce efforts to create a functional biosphere stewardship program that enjoys the support of all nations. Life on this planet is rapidly changing and we, humanity, likely have only two to three decades to take decisive action to avert great hardship. China can be a true Earth hero.