Thursday, June 5, 2008

Building Up for Beijing

Shawn Butler waving in front of a hazy perma-fog enshrouded Bird's Nest at the site of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games
China is experiencing a quick build-up of population, infrastructure, and business investment visible up and down the eastern coast. This growth is fueled by the impending 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. The awarding of the Games to Beijing on July 13, 2001 was seen by the Chinese as a sign from the world community that China has arrived. Peter Frank, the Olympics program director for UPS, defined the Chinese feeling for these Games by saying, “The Beijing Olympics are really the China Olympics. Winning the bid really vindicated China as a world power. The people here really look at the Games as a Coming Out Party.”

The idea of the Beijing Olympics as a “Coming Out Party” for China is echoed by many organizations across major industries in the country. Susan Davis of CARE, on loan to the Coca-Cola Company in Beijing for the duration of the Games, said “It’s a Coming Out Party—a chance for China’s big appearance on the world stage.” China has invested billions into the building up of facilities and infrastructure to support the Olympics and the forecasted eight million guests and visitors that will hit China’s major cities, airports, and traffic patterns during the summer of 2008.

China’s growth has transformed the once conservative nation “from Miser to Glutton.” China is now the worldwide top consumer of Coal, Water, Steel, Soybeans and Crude Oil. The nation is also facing head-on the very real effects of a shortage of clean air and water, as well as deforestation and desertification of land reserves. Respiratory and heart diseases related to air pollution are the leading cause of death in China. These horrifying statistics reveal the effects of rampant and unregulated growth without regard for the environment.

Coca-Cola & CARE
This issue has particularly come into focus as the eyes of the world settle on China for the 2008 Games. CARE’s Susan Davis states that these Games have already been subtitled “The Green Olympics,” with incredible focus being placed on sustainable or renewable resource usage, recycling of materials, and environmentally friendly practices. Davis says that CARE’s work with the Coca-Cola Company has aimed at “water, packaging, and climate.” All three are hot topics for the green-friendly movement that is late in coming to the Chinese people. Davis enumerated Coke’s goals at the Games “to give back all the drops of water they use, to take back all the bottles they make, and to grow the business, not the carbon.” The final goal relating to being “carbon neutral” refers to the act of off-setting carbon emissions created during the manufacturing and distribution of a product. Coke’s lead on the issue of improving environmental practices and being green-friendly could make great inroads for the Chinese people as they have a chance to see these ideals put into practice for the Olympic Games. But strong, grassroots governmental intervention and public education will still be required in order to create real change. The current environmental issues stem as much from the Chinese culture of indifference to nature as from the lack of environmental protection laws. --Shawn Butler

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