Ecological civilization – there is no other way

Azalea flowers bloom on Mount Zheduo, southwest China’s Sichuan Province, June 28, 2019. / Xinhua

Azalea flowers bloom on Mount Zheduo, southwest China’s Sichuan Province, June 28, 2019. / Xinhua

Editor’s Note: Keith Lamb graduated from the University of Oxford with an MA in Contemporary Chinese Studies. His main research interests are Chinese international relations and “socialism with Chinese characteristics”. The article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of CGTN.

At the 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP15) to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Kunming, southwest China’s Yunnan Province, Chinese President Xi Jinping delivered a speech introductory which once again went beyond the outdated story of the clash of civilizations. . Instead, speaking of “building a community of all life on Earth”, he spread the message of a common destiny of mankind where the protection of biodiversity, sustainable development and protection of the environment are a shared global responsibility.

In his speech, Xi more than once mentioned the concept of ecological civilization, which has become one of the key tenets of China’s development. As China reflected on its rapid development, which came at the cost of severe environmental degradation, the urgency of building an ecological civilization became increasingly acute.

China realized that the unhindered nature of market forces championed by the West would not solve China’s problems, and the environmental degradation it brought about would ultimately lead to de-development. , because the ecological basis, in essence, is the underlying foundation for long-term development and humanity itself. As a result, China has witnessed the rapid greening of urban areas, and gray skies have been replaced by blue; China continues to make efforts to reduce coal-fired electricity and is now the world leader in green technologies. In addition, China has planted an unprecedented number of trees and managed to green its deserts.

However, while the concept of an ecological civilization is a reaction to the negative impacts of China’s own market reforms, where it is increasingly noted that the needs of capital are diametrically opposed to a clean environment and therefore to human life itself, it has no meaning without ecological civilization being a global dream common to all. Indeed, the ecological commons of the planet are collectively shared and, as such, there can be no clean and sustainable China without a clean and sustainable Earth.

With this in mind, Xi’s remarks that ecological civilization is about “building a shared future for all life on Earth” represents China’s willingness to link its dream of clean development to a dream for all mankind. This message of building an ecological civilization is a breath of fresh air when compared to the constant propaganda of the “clash of civilizations” of the West led by the United States, where the difference outside the form liberal is defined as an enemy to be destroyed by war if necessary. These wars not only hamper our ability to meet our shared environmental responsibilities, which constitute the true universal and human right upon which all civilizations can agree, but they also wreak havoc on the environment itself. Simply put, a clash of civilizations means a collapse of civilization.

The Potala Palace in Lhasa, capital of southwest China’s Tibet Autonomous Region, June 5, 2019. / Xinhua

The Potala Palace in Lhasa, capital of southwest China’s Tibet Autonomous Region, June 5, 2019. / Xinhua

For global ecological civilizations to take shape, the old neoliberal development model and its ideology must be changed. Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, speaking of privatization and an unfettered free market for capital, said “there is no alternative”. However, she was wrong. Neoliberalism, which shipped industry to Asia for profit, only shifted pollution to another part of our common Earth. As such, Thatcher’s “no alternative” was the rallying call for the selfish interests of private capital to benefit a few rather than protect the lives of all. In fact, the mantra “no alternative” applies to escaping the current neoliberal form of development by constructing in its place a development model characterized by a lasting holistic relationship between man and nature.

Some will disagree that the selfish push of capital, which puts profits before people and the environment, is somehow a natural phenomenon that takes us to the top of human civilization. However, anyone who believes this is someone who wishes for a collective calamity on the environment and mankind. An ecological civilization where, as Xi says, we must “start a new journey of high-quality development for mankind” is not an unreachable utopian dream, but a dream representative of the fundamental survival instinct of the humanity, which is unquestionably a collective species with collective interests.

There is simply no other way. We can either choose the “cult of death” inherent in the capitalist mode of production, where war and the eventual destruction of the biosphere, as well as civilization, are the acceptable results of a “human nature” characterized by greed, and the winner takes it all, or we can consciously choose to work for the greater collective and global democratic good by viewing a healthy ecology as “not only a natural asset, but also an economic asset”.

To achieve this, we first need comprehensive planning. Of course, CBD is part of this planning process. Second, we need a leadership capable of imposing this collective planning over the long term. This leadership cannot be paid for and controlled by the aforementioned elites who profit from pollution. This leadership must be able to counter the aforementioned “cult of death” ideology and replace its nightmarish vision with a holistic dream that can motivate human civilizations towards a new model of balanced development. More importantly, this leadership must be able to have sufficient resources for this grand plan to save the Earth from impending environmental disaster.

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