Oct. 5th, Chongqing China
My Shanghai Conference is back on, the 2021 World Forum on China Studies in Shanghai, postponed from early September due to a minor COVID outbreak at the Pudong airport. China is once again mostly COVID free, but there are a couple of cases of concern up north in Harbin and in Fujian where a family who returned from Singapore quarantined for 21 days and passed nine consecutive negative tests before testing positive and causing a local outbreak 39 days after returning to China. This is, of course, a concern and will be monitored closely; either the containment facility had loose protocols and they got sick while leaving the quarantine hotel, or they are one of the 0.01% of cases Dr. Zhong Nanshang had discussed that could hibernate infectivity much longer than the average and we must prepare by perhaps, extending the self-monitoring period extra several weeks or month to contain future incidents. I am looking forward to testing my thesis connecting China’s incredible success with COVID-19 pandemic prevention efforts with the greater struggle to come: the transition from burning fossil fuels and being a coal-burning CO2-creating global superpower to a carbon-neutral or even carbon sink or carbon sponge green energy country. The current CPC plan calls for carbon neutrality by 2060 and in itself is an ambitious goal, even if it’s 40 years away.
Can we keep the pedal down and do even better? It might be hard, but I do hope some breakthrough technologies, such as China’s planned solar farm in space by 2025, might allow for such incredible leaps.
I do feel a swelling sense of hope from the pit of where my despair used to live. Let me explain. For 20 months I’ve watched China succeed in the pandemic where many countries could not, and have been sickened and frustrated while many pockets continue to debate the efficacy of masks, or the mandating of vaccines as ‘invasions of freedom’, as if the highest freedom was the freedom to walk around infectious and sicken your family and loved ones.
It’s been depressing and frustrating for many science-minded and reasonable people to watch this ‘debate’ crawl on while people continue to get sick and die; because while the vast majority of hospitalizations and deaths are among the minority of unvaccinated people, children who are not able to vaccinate safely yet, are the casualties of this ‘debate’ and flex of ‘Free Dumbs,’ and it’s a very unfortunate situation for teachers and parents to have to see happen. But it dawned on me, many times over the last 20 months that the West’s inability to make the hard choices today for a better tomorrow with COVID, such as a long lockdown with adequate contact tracing, testing and quarantine, and containment to isolate infected people that would have slowed and halted the outbreaks in their country, what they said was impossible, in many ways was a dark mirror and a microcosm for their complete inability to honestly discuss and address the issues of climate change and global warming that they’ve generally ignored since 1982, for more than 50 years, as it’s worsened and created general climate instability, warmed the ice caps, changed gulf streams, flooded some areas and created dry forests rife with constant fires in others.
This was the darkest, hopeless feeling before the dawn; when I realized the yin to our yang was China, who fought so diligently, who did what 99.9% of other countries said was impossible, to do the hard thing today for the promise and hope of a better tomorrow.
We fought for every CM of freedom and spared no expense to beat back COVID, making countless hard decisions and sacrifices today for the promise of a better tomorrow. What country could be better able to work harder today for a better environment tomorrow, could better demonstrate the cooperation and hard work needed to transition from black to green energy, and create the leapfrogging of technologies not yet invented that would help us to rocket towards our carbon neutrality goals than China also?
This is my hope, that we will quickly turn the corner from the world’s largest emitter of C02 (from a recent video on CGTV, 28% of global emissions despite being only 18.5% of the world’s population), to the world’s largest producer of solar power and clean energy.
It’s true, China’s been the world’s largest manufacturer of solar panels since 2008, and since 2011 produced the majority of global photovoltaics annually, but also the world’s top investor in clean energy for 9 out of the last 10 years according to the Frankfurt School of Finance and Management. To me, this is an incredible moment to witness in the history of China and the world, and it’s been a light switch moment for me, when I went from feeling creeping despair: how can I teach my students for their future without feeling sorry; for the world, we are going to give to them, to, while knowing we have an epic struggle ahead of us, they will, if we are triumphant, get to tell their children and grandchildren that they witnessed the end of the age of coal and fuel-burning black power and the dawn of the green energy revolution, won the fight against climate change and the dawn of the age of our Solar Punk future: Humanity living in harmony with nature, and high technology, and an age of peace and prosperity.
I believe with all of my heart that China will be the global leader of this new age, and am excited to go to Shanghai and make that case, that we and the youth of China that I’ve been invited to address must cooperate fully with the government, encouraging the rapid transformation rather than dragging our feet, we must accelerate the technological transformation for the sake of our future and our shared planet with billions of humans and billions of animals of all kind that depend on us. The Holocene might be over, but our Anthropocene can be a beautiful thing if we make it so, so, let’s ‘make it so.’
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