East Meets West in California: A Dialogue on Environmental Issues in Asia
September 23, 2009
Natural resource depletion, development, energy demand, and climate change were all on the table at The Asia Foundation during last Friday morning’s launch of the China Environment Forum’s USAID-funded publication: “Asia’s Future: Critical Thinking for a Changing Environment.” Featured speakers included Dr. Jennifer Turner, Director of the Woodrow Wilson Center’s China Environment Forum in Washington D.C., and Dr. Robert Collier, visiting scholar at the University of California, Berkeley. This unique convening of East and West Coast expertise to discuss the most pressing environmental problems facing Asia brought a packed room and a lively exchange of ideas and perspectives.
Dr. Turner began the discussion with an introduction of the complex, interconnected trends shaping Asia’s future. Most of the drivers behind these trends were directly related to changing economic and social forces that have altered demand for energy and resources, including fresh water. It was also evident that China’s rapid economic development is a major contributor, as the country’s robust growth and demand for resources has only increased its already strong presence throughout Asia.
A map of Cambodia brought this point into closer view, as it outlined the construction of new dams, roads, and mines in direct proximity to natural resource and biodiversity hotspots, many of which were financed by Chinese companies. I recalled my own travels from southern China, across the border and into Laos and Cambodia along the Mekong River, seeing and feeling the physical connection between China and its southern neighbors. In China, bulldozers working around the clock re-shaped the land in a cloud of dust. Downstream, poor villages floated on the Mekong River, every boat strung with fish nets, almost completely dependent on the resources in the water. Vulnerable to dam construction upstream, climate change, and increasing demands for natural resources, these towns needed measurable solutions.
The Asia Foundation’s Environment Program is approaching the problem from this perspective. In Laos and Mongolia, monitoring river water quality establishes a baseline with which to measure environmental impact, whether from large mining operations upstream, or locally based pollution. It also engages and empowers local stakeholders who conduct water quality tests and directly experience environmental impact on the river.
While many of the trends facing Asia’s environmental future are troubling and disconcerting, an overarching message highlighted by the meeting was the need for greater East-West Coast collaboration. The California-based audience represented innovators in environmental policy and action addressing many of the same challenges that Asia faces; businesses developing new and efficient technologies; and NGOs directly engaged with Asia through their geographical proximity to the region. The combination of these perspectives, along with those of international policy-makers and think tanks represented through the China Environment Forum, will prove to be a powerful, fresh, and much-needed contribution to implementing effective action.
Read more about the publication Asia’s Future: Critical Thinking for a Changing Environment.
Lisa Hook is a Junior Associate in The Asia Foundation’s Environment Program. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About our blog, In AsiaIn Asia is a weekly in-depth, in-country resource for readers who want to stay abreast of significant events and issues shaping Asia\’s development, hosted by The Asia Foundation. Drawing on the first-hand insight of over 70 renowned experts in over 20 countries, In Asia delivers concentrated analysis on issues affecting each region of Asia, as well as Foundation-produced reports and polls.
In Asia is posted and distributed every Wednesday evening, Pacific Time and is accessible via email and RSS. If you have any questions, please send an email to email@example.com.
ContactFor questions about In Asia, or for our cross-post and re-use policy, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Asia Foundation
465 California St., 9th Floor
San Francisco, CA 94104
PO Box 193223
San Francisco, CA 94119-3223
THE LATEST ACROSS ASIA
The Asia Foundation Names Thomas Parks Country Representative in Thailand
February 16, 2017
Asia Foundation Appoints Kim McQuay Managing Director of New Program Specialists Group
February 16, 2017
Tackling Poverty: Could Universal Basic Income Solve India’s Problem?
February 15, 2017
2017 Asia Foundation Development Fellows: Twelve Emerging Leaders Selected
February 9, 2017
Asia Foundation Hosts “Afghanistan Going Forward” – A Conversation with Ambassador Karl Eikenberry
February 8, 2017
State and Region Financing, Planning and Budgeting in Myanmar
February 8, 2017
Asian Views on America's Role in Asia
Recommendations for the Incoming U.S. President on Policy Towards Asia