Henricus Peters NAEE’s e-journal Editor writes from Shanghai:
Sustainability, the key concept interwoven with the 2016-17 UN Year of Sustainable Tourism, is seen in many facets of daily life. Since the United States stepped aside from its role as a world leader regarding the environment, via its withdrawal from the Paris agreement and UNESCO, China is now arguably stepping up to be one of the front-runners of countries that are at least trying to ‘live within its means’ and leading by word and example. Two examples, amongst many, are illustrated here.
Shanghai Tower is the second tallest tower in the world — and my 4-and-a-half year old son William is thrilled to be close enough to connect to this amazing construction! Whilst the tower is sleek and beautiful, its design features are actually extremely eco-friendly. For example, the ‘sleek design’ was specifically de-signed to enable wind to travel around and past it; the inner shell houses a multitude of green spaces, so people who are in its offices, shops and hotels are actually benefiting from the natural, clean, green air produced by the many trees. The whole construction is, quite literally, a ‘city within a city’, shifted to the upright rather than lying horizontal. Why is this important? As China and the world grows, we need to consider ways to solve traditional problems in increasingly unconventional ways.
Shared bikes are everywhere in Shanghai. The concept of ‘scan to unlock, ride anywhere, set down, lock, go about your business’ is booming. This has its good points, as well as its problems. On the positive side, more people making use of shared bikes means fewer pollution-generating cars on the road, and cycling is good for health and exercise! I am a cyclist with my own bike, and its certainly pleasant to see Chinese and foreigners out and about on two wheels, some of them children. However, safety is always on my mind, as cars still dominate and cycle lanes are only ‘so-so’. The downsides are a few, unfortunately. The shared bikes sector is, or has been, unregulated, there’s been little ‘policing’ of them, until very recently, as they are run by private companies. There are now upwards of a dozen such operators, with two major players. The sheer numbers of these bikes parked on the footpaths actually creates big problems – to the extent that I need to walk….you guessed it….on the road, to get past them!