Article written by guest writer Kecia Lynn

What’s the Latest Development?

Last month, two demonstrations by pro-environment Chinese turned violent, drawing international focus to a growing green movement in that country. Having long accepted the environmental costs of economic progress, citizens are now using cell phone technology and the Internet to mobilize against socially irresponsible companies and opaque government policies. As protests grow in size, and move from rural to urban areas, one Chinese NGO’s suit against a major chemical company has the potential to open the door to significant environmental change. In a legal first, Friends of Nature seeks compensation of US$1.6 million from the Yunman Liuliang Chemical Industry company for damages sustained from discharging massive amounts of waste into the Pearl River.

What’s the Big Idea?

Local and international groups are hoping that a win in court will pave the way for the fulfillment of other demands, including increased access to companies’ development plans and easier methods for appraising environmental damage. However, some observers have expressed concern that this is only the latest in a series of initiatives that have faded into insignificance once out of the public spotlight. To its credit, China’s historically opaque government has made efforts to become more sensitive to the concerns of its citizens. However, as is often the case, it is the actions of ordinary people that make up the primary driving force for change.

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