太湖世界文化论坛

《The Second Annual Conference》

Yan Zhaozhu: Towards a New Era of Ecological Civilization

 

—Keynote Speech at the Opening Ceremony of the Second Annual Conference of the Taihu World Cultural Forum

 

Yan Zhaozhu, Chairman of Taihu World Cultural Forum

 

      

Distinguished guests, Council members, ladies and gentlemen:

 

Good afternoon!

 

Today, friends from all over the world are gathered in Hangzhou, a historical and cultural city in China, to elaborate on the common interests of all mankind, strengthen international cooperation, address the global ecological crisis, and build an ecological civilization. On behalf of the Taihu Cultural Forum, I would like to extend a warm welcome to the Chinese and foreign guests who have taken the trouble to attend the Conference. And I would like to express my heartfelt thanks to the foreign friends, renowned experts, friends from all communities, government agencies, cultural and academic groups and enterprises and public institutions who enthusiastically supported the preparation of this Conference!

 

Since the publication of Declaration of the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm, 1972, the international community has made persistent efforts to cope with the ecological crisis and promoted countries to press ahead in afforestation and forest protection, resources conservation, clean energy development, pollution treatment, and reduction in carbon dioxide emissions. Here, we salute the pioneers in promoting environmental protection and developing a green economy!

 

At the same time, it is sobering to see that the contradiction between development and environment protection is still very acute at the global level. Statistics, scientific observations, and the turbulent international situation all show that the global environmental pollution, ecological damage, and resource shortage have not been fundamentally alleviated but rather worsened.

 

What is the crux of the problem? In the face of the increasingly serious global ecological crisis, is there anything humanity can do? What new efforts should we make to push the response to the global ecological crisis to a new, more scientific, and effective stage?

 

Here, I would like to make the following four points for your elaboration.

 

First, development remains a major theme of our time, and it is important to resolve the contradiction between development and the environment protection and safeguard the overall interests of global development.

 

The world is amid profound changes and adjustments, but the gap between North and South is still huge. At present, the United States, Europe, and Japan have less than 17% of the world's population but enjoy 60% of the world's economic output, and their economic strength far exceeds that of most developing countries. All peoples have the right to lead a more peaceful and prosperous life. Full respect for the right to development of developing countries is in line with the common aspirations of all peoples and is an important prerequisite for resolving the contradiction between development and environment protection.

 

Over the years, many developing countries have experienced promising economic growth, but the level of development is still very low. China, the largest developing country, has leaped to the second largest economy in the world, but its per capita level in 2010 was only one eighth of that of the US. Asia is one of the most dynamic and promising regions in the world today, but according to a UN report in June 2012, more than 500 million people in Asia live in slums, and more than 70% of the world's malnourished children are in Asia. To solve these problems, we must rely on development.

 

It is undeniable that developing countries, including China, have paid a heavy environmental price for rapid economic growth. Sustainable development is severely constrained by resource and energy shortages. However, development and the environment protection are not incompatible with each other. The serious ecological crisis emerges during the development which calls for proper response instead of denial. The fundamental way to solve the ecological crisis lies in the path and mode of innovative development.

 

Under the context of deepening economic globalization, China has become an important driving force of world economic development, and other emerging economies are contributing more and more to the world. At the same time, China is committed to transforming its mode of economic growth and actively developing a green, cycling, and low-carbon economy, with increasingly remarkable results. Affirming their contribution to global development and encouraging their efforts to cope with the ecological crisis is conducive to safeguarding the overall interests of global development. It is inappropriate to throw random blame on them using the technological levels and development standards of developed countries, still less should we thusly shirk our own responsibilities.

 

Second, we should carry out a comprehensive exploration on the causes of the global ecological crisis and a profound reflection on the relationship between man and nature, and the response level to the ecological crisis should be raised to a new level that aims at building ecological civilization.

 

Rome was not built in a day. The global ecological crisis is rooted in the inherent drawbacks of traditional industrialization. The industrial revolution had opened a new chapter of human civilization. Industrialization has become a necessary path to economic prosperity for modern countries. However, traditional industrialization is characterized by massive consumption of resources and emission of waste; as data suggest, since the industrial revolution, the emissions of carbon dioxide rose by 40%. This is a direct cause of the ecological crisis.

 

Ecology is interconnected and interdependent with economy, politics, and culture. Industrialization has brought unprecedented material wealth and highly developed science and technology to society, firming the concept that humanity is the master of all things that justifies the conquest and plunder of nature. This concept is integrated into the production, consumption, lifestyle, and way of thinking in the traditional industrial society. As a theory that liberated humanity from the blind worship of nature, it is indeed a historical progress. However, driven by the profit-seeking nature of capital, it has led to the unrestrained seizure of nature to stimulate and satisfy people's unlimited desires, resulting in the continuous destruction of the harmony between man and nature, as well as man and society. This is a deeper cause of the ecological crisis in a more profound way.

 

Now, the increasingly severe reality of the global ecological crisis is alarming, and the survival and development of humanity are facing serious threats. There is no way out by following the traditional concepts and modes of industrial civilization. This forces us to reflect deeply on the relationship between man and nature since the industrial revolution. We should raise the response level to the ecological crisis to a new level that aims at building an ecological civilization, rebuilding the harmony between man and nature, as well as man and society.

 

Ecological civilization is a new form of civilization that transcends industrial civilization. With the core concepts of respecting nature, conforming to nature, and protecting nature, it inherits and harnesses the positive achievements and beneficial experiences of industrial civilization. In this way, it fundamentally changes the traditional production and lifestyle featuring excessive consumption of resources and excessive emission of waste; it develops a green, recycling, and low-carbon economy considering the carrying capacity of resources and the environment, following the laws of nature, and aiming at sustainable development; and it builds a resource-conserving and environmental-friendly society, promoting harmony between humanity and the society. This is not only the urgent need to deal with the global ecological crisis, but also a long-term plan for the progress of human civilization.

 

Third, we should deeply understand of the wholeness and complexity of building ecological civilization, establish the concept of the community of shared future for mankind, and strengthen international cooperation to build ecological civilization.

 

Building ecological civilization is a strategic choice to innovate the development path and mode to cope with the ecological crisis. It is not only a serious issue for developing countries, but also a major challenge for the humanity, which requires the cooperation of all countries. It is not only a scientific and technological issue with strong technical and professional requirements confined to the local area, but also a comprehensive and profound issue of cultural, social, and strategic significance, requiring joint efforts of science and technology and humanities. It is not only directly related to the sustainable development of the economy involving fundamental changes in the mode of production and consumption, but also to all aspects of political, cultural, and social construction involving fundamental changes in people's lifestyle, exchanges, and way of thinking, which requires wide participation of the state, society, enterprises, and especially the public.

 

The ecological crisis is the result of the combination of history and reality, driven by a variety of factors in the era of industrial civilization. To deal with the ecological crisis and build ecological civilization, it is important to strengthen international cooperation. From the 1930s to the 1960s, environmental pollution incidents occurred in developed countries, represented by the "Eight Major Pollution Incidents", causing alarming economic loss and social hazards. It triggered a series of green movements against environmental pollution in the West, and aroused experts and scholars to reflect on industrial civilization and study environmental protection. However, it also attracted some developed countries to transfer their environmental pollution industries and even garbage to other countries, the phenomenon of which continues to this day. We have only one Earth, our common home. We must establish the concept of a community of shared future for mankind and put an end to all acts of beggar-thy-neighbor that transfer disasters.

 

In today's world, countries, different in terms of population, resources, environment, historical and cultural traditions, social systems, etc., are at varying stages of economic development. We should learn from the experiences of other countries and earnestly explore the path and mode of ecological civilization construction suitable for our national conditions in a pragmatic manner and the attitude of is "unanimous consideration on different paths towards the same destination". Developing countries are still facing the historical task of industrialization, thus they should proactively explore the new industrialization path featuring green, recycling, and low-carbon development and realize industrialization during the construction of ecological civilization. Developed countries have entered the post-industrial society, so they should not only rely on their technological and economic advantages when helping developing countries to reduce emissions and combat pollution, but also boldly assume the historical responsibility for causing environmental pollution, rid the inertia of traditional industrial civilization, and build a new ecological civilization. If we adhere to the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities, the principle of fairness, and the principle of respective capabilities, we will achieve a win-win situation in the international cooperation to cope with the ecological crisis and build ecological civilization.

 

Fourth, the construction of ecological civilization is a systematic project, which requires us to rely closely on the people and carry out long-term struggle to move towards a new era of ecological civilization.

 

The change of human civilization is a long-term historical process. Ecological civilization is a new form of civilization that requires arduous exploration and systematic construction for a long time. We should not only seize the moment but also not refrain from impatience.

 

The global ecological crisis is the result of human behavior, so humanity can overcome it using our own ability. To build an ecological civilization, we must mobilize global strength and wisdom, and strengthen exchanges and cooperation among civilizations. In the process of civilization, human understanding of nature is constantly enriched and developed, and countries and peoples at different stages of economic development have accumulated unique ecological wisdom and experience, which are assets for us to deal with ecological crisis and build ecological civilization. The universe finite, yet exploration is infinite. So far in the development of human civilization, our understanding remains quite superficial or inadequate when it comes to the development of nature and the short-term and even long-term impact of human activities on nature. Therefore, the construction of ecological civilization is arduous and long-term cause.

 

We peace-loving people look forward to development. We must guarantee development through peace and the long-term construction of ecological civilization. Nowadays, the international situation is volatile and unstable, with resources shortage being an important focus of international disputes. We must follow the trend of the times and learn from the lessons of history. The more resources are in short supply, the farther we must stay away from the Cold War mentality and the more important it is for us to resolve to struggle for the long term, develop peacefully, and rebuild the harmony between man and nature as well as man and society. Development requires resources, so we must consider the situation of future generations and others, instead of focusing only on the present and selfish interests. Disputes over resources should be resolved through peaceful negotiations.

 

People are the creators of history, and we must rely closely on them to deal with the ecological crisis and build an ecological civilization. Some experts point out that changes in the consumption patterns of residents have a more significant impact on the sustainable development of resources and the environment than changes in energy consumption patterns. In fact, building an ecological civilization involves fundamental changes in all aspects of society, which will bring about a dramatic change in social customs, prompting every member of society to deeply adjust their ideals, lifestyles, and behaviors. In these areas, any grand plan is but a lip service without the conscious participation of the public. If the carrying capacity of the Earth's resources and environment is ignored and everyone in the world pursues a high-consumption lifestyle, ecological civilization will remain a castle in the air. Therefore, it is necessary to ensure the people's right to information, supervision, and participation, and to continuously improve their literacy about ecological civilization. If the people start consciously from themselves to take responsibility for the ecological crisis, new victories will be achieved in the great project of building ecological civilization.

 

Distinguished guests and Council members:

 

In crisis hides opportunities, and challenges fuel development. Coping with the ecological crisis and building ecological civilization will bring mankind into a new realm of harmony, peace, and sustainable development. The Chinese people are striving for the cause. Building a beautiful China with lush mountains, lucid water, bird chirping and fragrant flowers where people and nature harmoniously coexist and where people and society simultaneously develop is an important part of the "Chinese Dream" that will make the world a better place. Let's work together for a better future of the world.

 

Thank you!

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