Lester R. Brown Comes to Beijing

The eminent Lester R. Brown, respected agronomist and founder of the Worldwatch Institute and Earth Policy Institute, descended on the Beijing Bookworm to plug his new book, “Plan B 3.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization.” In front of a crowd of about 95% caucasians and 5% Chinese, Mr. Brown began his doom and gloom war time motivation speech.

Actually, I agree completely with many of the things that he said. We do need to have a wartime mentality to deal with climate change issues. And not a “war on drugs” or “war on terror” kind of mentality, but one that mobilizes all of society to try and deal with this one problem that humans the world over need to deal with in a hurry. Wind power is a great idea, and biofuels are going to cause a whole lot of problems.

Indeed, as he mentioned: Saving civilization is not a spectator sport.  However, I don’t think Mr. Brown’s approach is going to work in China if he continues the way it is.

  1. Right off the bat, Lester encouraged everyone to engage their elected officials to prevent coal power plants and support alternative energies.  Um, hello?  We’re not in Kansas anymore, Mr. Brown.
  2. After the talk, my colleague (a Chinese girl who studied environmental economics overseas) said to me, “it was alright, but he was so negative.”  I realized after hearing this type of comment a zillion times from all sorts of Chinese people, that Chinese culture doesn’t deal with negativity very well.  People don’t want to listen to it, and don’t want to react to it.
  3. China has a whole lot of people that it doesn’t know what to do with.  Digging coal and heaving it around keeps millions of unskilled people employed and relatively happy – or at least distracted.  I’m sure President Hu doesn’t want dissatisfied unskilled labourers with nothing to do on his hands, regardless of the environmental impacts.

I don’t mean to be negative, but I think if Americans or any other westerners with fantastic visionary ideas are going to come to China and hope to have an impact on the public, they are going to have to do better.  They have to realize that there are 4 times more people to convince here than in the US, and all of them have a different way of looking at the world.

Doom and gloom and calling your representative aren’t going to cut it in China.  And Lester Brown should know it.  I hope we can all learn a lesson from this.


Lester R. Brown Comes to Beijing — 1 Comment

  1. Well, after 4 years living in China, I think you have known a lot of real commom Chinese people’s thinking and real China’s situation, that’s good. We call it “国情”; I Hope others who really want to help China can come here and involve in this society, to help dear with environmental problems, not just as spectators or speechers.