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Drop Seeds, Not Bombs: China’s Military Combats Air Pollution

Updated: Aug 13, 2019

Eboy Bolter Looks At China’s New Military Initiative To Plant 60,000 Trees.

Photo by John Cameron

In February 2018, China reassigned over 60,000 soldiers from their posts on the northern border to the mainland, and their new mission: Combatting air pollution.

The regiment intends to plant 32,400 square miles of trees around Beijing, which is approximately the same size as the state of Utah, or the country of Ireland. Both the nation’s police force and a large regiment from the People’s Liberation Army (the armed forces of the People’s Republic of China) have been recruited to tackle the problem.

The overall objective; to increase China’s forest coverage by 2% (from 21per cent to 23) by 2020. Then, to 26 per cent by 2035.

Much of the planting will occur in the Hebei province, which is infamous for producing the smog that coats Beijing. Despite the new posts not being militarily in nature, the members of the armed force support the environmental plan.

The industrial Hebei province suffers largely from air pollution and other northern provinces, especially during the winter months. With 6.66 million hectares of new forest, China can attempt to reduce their challenge their environmental reputation of being the world’s largest polluter. Shockingly, they produce nearly double the amount of carbon dioxide than the U.S., which is the world’s second-biggest polluter.

Beijing’s socio-economic devastation: This air problem has damaged crops, closed schools and forced parts of the affected area to become a standstill. Unsurprisingly, parents are worried about sending their children outside to play due to breathing problems being caused by levels of potentially deadly pollutants, sometimes reaching up to 40 times the recommended exposure limit in Beijing.

These fears are warranted. Studies show that children exposed to high levels of air pollution can cause permanent lung damage. In 2013, a Deutsche Bank report was released showing that air pollution is predicted to worsen by 70 per cent by 2025.

Since the Paris climate change agreement was made in 2017, China is asserting its leadership within the field of climate change. Chinese President Xi Jinping stated climate change is “[…] a responsibility we must assume for future generations” at Davos last year.

This complements China’s attempts to enforce more renewable energy by investing humungous amounts of money in research and utilisation of solar and wind technology. Along with this, they are coming to the fore to be the world leaders in electric car development.

“Honey melons hang on bitter vines; sweet dates grow on thistles and thorns”

A seemingly fitting metaphor from an old Chinese poem perfectly exemplifies the knife-edge of environmental concern and technological developments.

Whilst we are dealing with a plethora of life-altering, devastating environmental issues, the tech advances should be utilised as much as possible to cushion the blows.

If our powerful military forces could come together through our World Summits to create copycat plans that are enforced in quick succession, we may be able to fight the common war that is our environmental problems. #dropseedsnotbombs | Tru. 🌱


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