Our Communications Director Tamara is next up in the blog relay - a whistle-stop tour of Greenpeace staff here in the UK. Click here to catch up on the other entries.
Having spent the last three years living in China, I and all of my Chinese colleagues became somewhat accustomed to what we referred to as "China bashing" by some of the international media. You know the sort of thing: the over-the-top, almost hysterical cry of "China's eating up all the world's resources!" Since China is now one of the world's largest manufacturing centres, the claim was applied to almost anything - timber, coal, or even the cobalt used to make our cell phone batteries. To a certain degree, therefore, there is a kernel - but not much more - of truth to the claim.
But generally in these stories, there was little mention of the fact that much of this production and related use of resources was intended for overseas markets such as our own. And almost never did the journalist mention that even with growing affluence in some parts of Chinese society, per capita consumption still remains a fraction of what we westerners consume. I mean, did you know that on average a Chinese citizen consumes about one-seventh the amount of paper each year that an American does?
Quite literally, if the level of paper consumption in China ever reached American levels this would require a complete doubling of the world's timber harvest. To meet the demand we'd need an entire new planet - and last time I looked that doesn't exist!
So even though China is far from perfect and is still undergoing a lot of growing pains as it becomes more industrialised, as you can imagine it was often a little frustrating to not see the efforts they are making on the environment front acknowledged.
For example, take their investment in renewable energy. Every year, there is more wind power capacity installed in China than the UK has installed in its entire history. The UK is currently near the bottom of the EU in terms of investment, only just managing to top Malta and Luxembourg. Surely a G8 country should be doing better than this?
It was within this context that I saw today's announcement that Vestas is debating the future of their wind turbine manufacturing plant on the Isle of Wight. Yep, it's a potential closure, with over 600 jobs at the plant at risk - and to a large degree it's because the UK government hasn't adequately supported the growth of the green energy sector.
They've claimed that they'll support green job creation, but to date almost nothing has happened. The budget announced last week says more money will go into this, but will there be new financing, policies and active support for this sector? I guess we'll have to wait and see.
In the meantime, 600 jobs are at stake and Vestas isn't looking at investing much in the UK or even Northern Europe renewable sector. Instead they're looking at... yes, what a surprise - China, along with the US! That's where the smart money is going. Which quite frankly is a shame - because the UK has a lot of potential for creating green jobs that would help ease the financial downturn, create a secure energy-friendly future, and protect us from dangerous climate change.
As a former resident of China I'm happy to see the country make some environmental progress - but as a new resident of London I'd be more than thrilled to see the UK government step up and show some real leadership. A race to the top, rather than the bottom, would come as a welcome change, I'd say.