A look at one nation and one team that is surprising us all and making a difference.
Earth Day is a global celebration of nature and a demonstration of a united support for environmental protection. Established in 1970 by American politician and environmentalist Gaylord Nelson as a teaching day, the day of celebration did not go global until 1990 when the original coordinator, environmentalist Denis Hayes took it international by coordinating organized events in 141 nations. Today, over one hundred ninety countries are coordinated globally by the Earth Day network, including China.
What kind of an impact is this having? You might ask. Are countries like China truly invested in making a difference? Does Earth Day matter? In an era when some western countries are actually stymieing their own commitments to fighting climate change, it may mean more than we all realize that countries like China are in fact committed to reversing environmental damage and leaving the earth a better place for all of our children. Because the fact is, while China may be one of the biggest polluters on the planet, it is also the largest investor in green energy sources on the planet. Surprising, right?
In April of 2018 the “Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment 2018” report was published, revealing that solar power attracted $160.8 billion in investment, more than any other technology. China, considered a “driving power” behind the increase in solar, gets credit for over 85 billion of this investment. Keep in mind, this is just one area of renewable energy.
But what about the face of the planet? A greener, cleaner and more sustainable earth is something almost everyone wants to leave the next generation. There is one great example in China of a team that is actually making this a reality, while also proving that investing in green can and does lead to employment, new business growth, renewal of communities and a better class of life.
The Elion Group was founded in 1988 in a saltern of all places (more on this later), in the Kubiqi desert in China. Now a national enterprise, this group is Committed to preventing land degradation and transforming deserts back to cities. Starting in 2005 they brought this enormous undertaking to Earth Day by organizing an effort to plant trees in multiple sites of need with the labor of a huge network of volunteers. The Kubuqi desert alone had over 2,000 people plant more than 6,000 trees on Earth Day 2018. This is a much larger task than one might realize as these are large partially grown trees that require the sweat and work of a few people to plant just one. Larger trees are needed to sustain growth in the sandy soils of the desert. Additionally, determining the best species of trees to plant, often alongside other types of resilient foliage and crops, has involved a major investment of funds, time, science and research.
Let’s get into where this all started, because make no mistake, this company was founded as all companies are, out of a desire to make money. The saltern (an area or installation for making salt) had an issue with being located in the Kubuqi desert: frequently deliveries were severely delayed due to sand storms. Mr. Wang Wen Biao, the founder, set about planting trees in the area to reduce the blowing sand. A difficult task that required a lot of work, the eventual success of this proved to not only lessen the storms but to provide an area for more planting, encouraging livestock growth, new crops, new businesses, a more enjoyable area to live and ultimately better lives for the people in the region. This was obviously opportunity, upon which the company seized, realizing that they could do good for the lives of others while doing good for the environment. A win-win in any culture, this has grown the philosophy that you can combine being green with being wealthier, ecology with survival and industry with poverty alleviation. A unique model that shouldn’t be (unique), and one that the west could surely learn from.
Earth Day may be just one day, but it is a microcosm of what can be, a moment in time to reflect on what should (and will) at some point in time be the every day. Elion continues to take its project and ethos into Earth Day year after year, as China continues as a nation to overtake the west on green infrastructure investment.