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Three Ideas for a Fairer and Cleaner Asia


Three Ideas for a Fairer and Cleaner Asia

Hemantha Withanage, Sam Cossar-Gilbert

This week on the 12th and the 13th of July there will be the International Forum for Sustainable Asia and the Pacific (ISAP 2016) in Japan. An annual forum that brings together frontline experts and stakeholders from international organisations, governments,businesses, and NGOs to discuss sustainable development in Asia and the Pacific. An important topic since Asia faces two destructive and entwined crises – growing inequality and climate change. The sustainable future of our planet depends on whether Asia can rise to these challenges and transform its economic and political systems.


Great, timely ideas... especially The Revolving Fund which reminds me of India's micro-loans. They enabled women weavers to become independent entrepreneurs.

And I sure hope the forest preservation efforts work in Indonesia. Having visited the rain-forest national park there, I know how fabulous it is... and that giant mega corporations are indeed rabid about "paving paradise to put up a parking lot."

  1. Realize that if countries don't balance their birth rate with their death rate and population growth, environmental and economic problems will also grow until sustainability is lost and dependence becomes the norm. Dependence makes a place (like Puerto Rico) subject to debt slavery and confiscation of its resources.


Vietnam has gone from around 48.7 million in 1975 to a population of just under 96 million today. The country has roughly the same areas as the UK and New Zealand. China has gone from 650 million to 1.3 billion in the last 60 years. The Indian population has similarly exploded. Likewise Indonesia. Likewise the Philippines.

There has been a huge increase in consumerism in all Asian countries. Last time I was in Jakarta one could barely see through the smog to the other side of the airport. The last time I was in Vietnam, Chinese industrial pollution lay thickly across the non-industrial northwest of Vietnam to an altutde of 6500 feet and the visibilty (3-5km max) was as bad as anything I have ever seen in the UK. In Thailand it is the same; and oustide each Thai village one comes across mounds of plastic rubbish that gets washed into the waterways and ultimately out to sea.

Face and status are key ingredients of Asian culture, and status is granted by possession of the newest whatever. Vietnam has a 200% tax on the cost of a new car, and yet cars now flood Vietnam and gridlock what was once a delightful city with clean air, Ha Noi. One's car shows one's status. Not unique, but that type of thinking drives ambition.

The only change in Asia, as across the world, will come from the grass-roots upwards. But given poverty and the lack of education, particularly among women (and women also demand consumerism to show status), how quickly will it occur?