Following India’s campaign against the use of wild animals in circus shows, China has caved to international pressures. In a giant leap forward, the mass ivory consumer is finally placing a near-total ban on the material. Things will definitely be looking up for 30,000 African elephants slaughtered by poachers each year.
China and the U.S. both agreed to “near-complete” ivory bans, which prohibit the buying and selling of all but a limited number of antiques and a few other items.
Ivory is in demand for intricate carvings, trinkets, chopsticks, and other items.
With no proven clinical use, ivory used as medication is purely based on superstition. Despite previous international bans, China has consistently managed to quietly condone black market trade — until now.
“The Chinese government’s ban on its domestic ivory trade sends a message to the general public in China that the life of elephants is more important than the ivory carving culture,” said Gao Yufang, a Ph.D. student in conservation biology.
With no means to curve laws, China is finally bound to the positively inescapable ban. There is no guarantee to a drop in poaching, but when society gets it, it seems everything falls naturally into place.
Thanks to over-harvesting, over-fishing, and overdoing pretty much everything, alternative food sources are all the rage. In the near future, the dory in your fish taco could be lab-grown. Your oatmeal may even be 100% renewable. And, if Chinese scientists prove it a success, rice will flourish in saltwater and create enough food for 200 million people.
The rice was grown in a field near the Yellow Sea coastal city of Qingdao in China’s eastern Shandong province. 200 different types of the grain were planted to investigate which would grow best in salty conditions.
Per hectare, scientists predicted an output of 4.5 tons. Much to their surprise, and because nature is cooler than we think, the yield hit 9.3 tons. With 1 million square kilometers of previously unused high-saline land now on the market, rice production could rise by 20%.
“If a farmer tries to grow some types of saline-tolerant rice now, they most likely will get 1,500 kilograms per hectare. That is just not profitable and not even worth the effort.” [says team leader Yuan Longping.]
A kilogram of the stuff goes for around $8, a whopping eight times more costly than regular rice. Still, some six tons have already made their way into kitchens. Beyond everything, the price is rice!
With dogs acting as cleaners for polluted rivers, it’s safe to say China isn’t taking in any more trash. As a large producer of waste, China has also become a dumping site for countries like Australia. In the hopes of getting clean, the world’s densest country is putting an end to foreign waste imports.
“The real opportunity in Australia is to create that circular economy that’s happening overseas and that’s what China is moving towards, where they’re saying we produce that material, we actually want to recycle that material and reuse it back in the economy,” said Gayle Sloan, the chief executive of the Waste Management Association of Australia.
The ban covers 24 categories of solid waste, among other things. In a single year, China will get to kiss 30 million tons of trash goodbye. However, the ban is forcing Australian recyclers to get creative. Recycling systems are getting a makeover, while startups are beginning to emerge.
“It’s unfair to create waste in the first instance without thinking where it’s going to go and how it’s going to be re-used.”
The ban may be tricky, but it’s also encouraging nations to take responsibility for the trash they produce. Anyway, it isn’t always another man’s treasure.
You can never go wrong with tree-planting. It is popular in India, where natives planted 66 million seedlings in record time. In Burma, engineering groups are using drones to restore forests. However, tree-planting in the Gobi desert is addressing a more urgent matter — desertification. In order to address erosion and degradation, the Chinese government is working on building a giant wall of trees, otherwise known as the Green Great Wall.
By 2050, the government intends to plant 88 million acres of forests in a belt nearly 3,000 miles long and up to 900 miles wide in places.
As a country swallowed by deserts and that is oddly skilled in wall-building, the project makes sense. Over the years, it has stabilized deserts and reduced the frequency of sandstorms. However, it has faced backlash. Most of the trees are planted in areas they don’t grow naturally and eventually die out. Thousands of farmers have been forced off their land to make way for trees.
“Combating sand is the [government’s] project, so it has deep political meaning. There are bureaucrats in every province and county. They get a lot of money for planting trees.”
There is no denying that the scheme is problematic, despite being well-intentioned. While a Green Great Wall may seem the easiest solution, perhaps we ought to be smarter about where we plant our trees.
Trains are getting much-needed makeovers and it’s about time we all hop on board. In July, India launched the world’s first solar-powered train, running for up to 27 hours on a single charge. Not to be outdone, China unveiled Fuxing, the world’s swiftest high-speed railway traveling at speeds of 350 km per hour.
“The purpose of raising the speed is mainly symbolic,” [said] Zhao Jian, economics professor and commentator. “The train is the fastest in the world, which implies the strength of Chinese train technology and science,”
So it may be an ego thing, but if passengers can get from Beijing to Shanghai in 30 minutes less, why not? In 2011, for safety reasons, engineers limited bullet train speeds to 300 km per hour. However, it seems China is willing to up the ante for economic benefits.
“Nobody predicted that the high-speed rail link between Beijing and Shanghai would be profitable when it was built… But after a seven to eight-year development, it gains, so it can work in other regions as well after eight to 10 years,”
While it is a giant leap for eager travelers, I sure do hope it’s a secure one as well.
Bamboo as a building material is rising in popularity. Panyaden International School in Thailand hosts a sports hall made entirely of bamboo. Now, students at the University of Hong Kong, along with the craftspeople of Peitian, have created a bamboo pavilion for local farmers.
The shelter’s concept derived from a desire to regenerate the area’s tea houses, which are used as resting spots for farmers working on the surrounding land and to provide shelter from storms in rainy seasons, or from the sun during the hottest part of the day.
The structure pays homage to traditional bamboo weaving, an art form that has seen great decline over the years. While students incorporated digital software to map the structure’s features, locals managed to assimilate traditional techniques.
“Historically, these pavilions were often used by craftsmen to demonstrate their skill or to trial new construction methodologies. Today these structures have, for the most part, been replaced by generic outbuildings in concrete and brick,”
With only one surviving bamboo weaver in Peitian, the pavilion is a valiant attempt to keep Chinese customs alive.
It’s time for China to kiss face masks goodbye, because ofo has just come up with an even better solution for the smog-infested country. Partnering up with TEZIGN, ofo has developed a high-tech bicycle that cycles and purifies air, soon to be available to 20 million people.
The bicycles work similarly to Roosegaarde’s Smog Free Tower by providing “a healthy and energy-friendly solution for urbanites, combatting both traffic congestion and pollution issues in the city.” Both the Smog Free Tower and the smog-free bicycles are part of Roosegaarde’s larger vision to fill cities with fresh air.
The project is currently being productized in China and the Netherlands. The eco-bike is not only a huge breakthrough in China’s air pollution problem–it is also reviving a centuries-old bicycle culture.
“Beijing used to be an iconic bicycle city. We want to bring back the bicycle as a cultural icon of China and as the next step towards smog free cities.”
Looks like China can now bid jars of air adieu.