Sunday, April 26, 2009

China's Environmental Challenge will equal a Talent Challenge

Less than a year since Science Magazine placed the title, 'China's Environmental Challenges' on its cover, the New York Times reports that China is cutting back on its environmental projects and instead focusing more resources on creating economic growth in an effort to smooth the impact from the global financial crisis.  Obviously China's leaders need to continuously create employment opportunities for its enormous population and sustain social stability. However the Government should continue to invest in environmental protection and green projects because they can ensure higher efficiency, GDP growth and lower health and environmental costs.  Critically important a clean environment will ensure the flow of global human talent required for China's future economic and technological advancement.
The China Price is especially high for the environment and its inhabitants.   The photo above shows the personal effect that Beijing's pollution had on me during an hour motorcycle ride behind scores of smoggy diesel trucks.  When I returned to my Beijing apartment I coughed up dust and blood.  A book titled The River Runs Black: The Environmental Challenge to China's Future by Elizabeth C. Economy states that the cost of being the world’s largest manufacturing center is that China is now the leading contributor to climate change. The River Runs Black states that air pollution contributes to the deaths of 300,000 Chinese people a year. In 2006, Economy delivered a grave report to U.S. gov. officials titled, China's Environmental Challenge, that states 75% of 340 monitored cities in China have unclean air.
The Wall Street Journal reported that environmental science professors at Peking University estimate air pollution killed 25,000 people in Beijing and cost 7% of city GDP in 2002 alone.  China's capitol, Beijing, has consistently led China's Environmental Protection Agency as having the fewest days that meet China's air quality standards. 

Air pollution not only kills people, but it also deters the world's top talent from moving to Beijing.   Richard Florida details in his book Flight of the Creative Class, that today's top innovators relocate globally to places that provide the best local environments, business opportunities and overall quality of life. 

Modern day Silicon Valley in California would not exist without the top innovators from around the world such as Google co-founder Sergey Brin of Russia, Sun Microsystems co-founder Vinod Khosla of India, or Intel co-founder Andy Grove.

 As long as Beijing residents face choking traffic, burning lungs and itchy eyes, the creative class of the world who can collectively fuel the high value service economy that China's government leaders yearn for, will stay at home.  


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