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The Greening of Asia

The Greening of Asia: The Business Case for Solving Asia's Environmental Emergency

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  • Book Info
    The Greening of Asia
    Book Description:

    One of Asia's best-respected writers on business and economy, Hong Kong-based author Mark L. Clifford provides a behind-the-scenes look at what companies in China, India, Japan, Korea, the Philippines, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Thailand are doing to build businesses that will lessen the environmental impact of Asia's extraordinary economic growth. Dirty air, foul water, and hellishly overcrowded cities are threatening to choke the region's impressive prosperity. Recognizing a business opportunity in solving social problems, Asian businesses have developed innovative responses to the region's environmental crises.

    From solar and wind power technologies to green buildings, electric cars, water services, and sustainable tropical forestry, Asian corporations are upending old business models in their home countries and throughout the world. Companies have the money, the technology, and the people to act--yet, as Clifford emphasizes, support from the government (in the form of more effective, market-friendly policies) and the engagement of civil society are crucial for a region-wide shift to greener business practices. Clifford paints detailed profiles of what some of these companies are doing and includes a unique appendix that encapsulates the environmental business practices of more than fifty companies mentioned in the book.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-53920-3
    Subjects: Business, Environmental Science, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-IV)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. V-VI)
    (pp. VII-XIV)
  4. Introduction: Green Shoots Under Soot-Stained Skies
    (pp. 1-12)

    Beijing’s air is “crazy bad,” according to the U.S. Embassy: choking pollution regularly smothers the capital, reducing visibility to near zero, grounding planes, snarling traffic, and forcing city dwellers to don protective face masks while outside. A widely used air quality index, which in the United States rarely goes above 100 and exceeds 300 only during forest fires and other extreme events, approached the 1,000 level in Beijing in early 2013.

    The effect, says a Chinese researcher, is to blot out the sun as effectively as a nuclear winter. Office workers in the capital’s skyscrapers cannot see the streets below,...


    • [PART I: Introduction]
      (pp. 13-16)

      If this was a murder mystery, coal would be the villain hidden in plain sight.

      A century ago coal powered the trains and ships that ushered in the modern age. Today, it still plays an outsized role in fueling the electricity plants on a continent whose people are literally coming out of the darkness—out of the enforced darkness of poverty, where streets are dim and students study by a kerosene light—into our electricity-driven age.

      Coal is plentiful and cheap: coal-fired electricity powers eight of every ten light bulbs in China, a country that burns almost half the coal...

    • 1 The Sun Kings
      (pp. 17-43)

      In 1992, Shi Zhengrong completed his doctorate and found himself an expert in a field that wasn’t quite ready for him. He’d studied physics at Australia’s University of New South Wales, focusing on crystalline technology, the basic scientific building block of photovoltaic solar power. This knowledge, however, did not yet have much real-world application. Shi, originally from China, thought setting up a Chinese restaurant in Sydney was his best idea. As he told an audience in Hong Kong in 2008, his wife vetoed the restaurant idea and convinced him to look for work more closely related to his studies. He...

    • 2 Blowin’ in the Wind
      (pp. 44-62)

      The hypnotic grace of wind turbines makes them the ubiquitous icons of a fossil-fuel-free future, the photogenic symbols of the clean-energy revolution. The thin, elegant towers, their clean, white lines capped with slowly twirling pinwheel blades, have the playfulness of a toy coupled with the technological brilliance of a new electricity source.

      Wind has become a serious part of the energy mix. In Denmark, wind accounted for more than 30 percent of the country’s electricity in 2012, and the country hopes to increase this to 50 percent by 2020. Wind produces 20 percent of Portugal’s electricity and 18 percent of...


    • [PART II: Introduction]
      (pp. 63-68)

      More than half of the people on our planet live in cities, and the percentage, as well as the absolute number, is increasing rapidly. By the middle of the century, about two thirds of the human population, some 6 billion people, will live in cities—a number equivalent to the world’s total population as recently as 2000. Asia and Africa are the places with the most dramatic urbanization. China already is home to the greatest urban migration in history, one that has seen its cities swell from 200 million in 1980 to 700 million today. By 2030, Chinese urbanites will...

    • 3 Cities in a Garden
      (pp. 69-89)

      At the time of its independence in 1965, Singapore was, in the words of founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, a place where “litter and dirt, the stench of rotting food and the clutter and obstructions turned many parts of the city into slums.” He set out to mold the country into a clean, orderly, and environmentally friendly city as part of a broader campaign to instill civic order. “After independence, I searched for some dramatic way to distinguish ourselves from other Third World countries,” he wrote thirty-five years later. “I settled for a clean and green Singapore.” He was...

    • 4 Buildings for a Greener Asia
      (pp. 90-110)

      Three decades ago, most urban Chinese walked up the stairs to their apartment in a low-rise building, usually about six stories high. At home, they needed electricity only for a few lights and a handful of appliances—a refrigerator, a fan, an iron, a radio, and, for the more affluent, a television, and perhaps a VCR and a rice cooker.

      Today, most of China’s 700 million city dwellers take an elevator to an apartment in a high-rise building, often twenty or more stories. If they are at all typical, their brightly lit apartment has air-conditioning in most rooms; a large-screen...

    • 5 Asia on the Move: Cars and Trains
      (pp. 111-136)

      From rickshaw to Rolls-Royce: Through much of the twentieth century, Asian streetscapes were filled with carts pulled or pedaled by people, but today Asia’s car-clotted cities exemplify the enormous material progress of the past few decades and the environmental challenges ahead. Nowhere is this more true than in China. When China’s economic reform began in 1978, bicycles vastly outnumbered cars on the streets of Beijing, with the few cars usually carrying government officials. Now, the capital is circled by six ring roads; yet even with this huge expansion of the traffic network, the cars often move more slowly than the...


    • [PART III: Introduction]
      (pp. 137-140)

      Indonesia’s President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is dressed informally—slacks and an open-necked shirt—and pointing off-camera. Beside him is Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa, more formally dressed—dark suit, white shirt, and striped tie—and wearing a slightly bewildered expression.

      The foreign minister’s strained look is understandable. For all their seeming normality from the waist up, in this extraordinary photo the then-president and the foreign minister of the world’s fourth most populous country are standing in calf-deep water, their trousers rolled up past their knees, in the presidential palace in downtown Jakarta. Floodwaters had rolled through the city, and on the...

    • 6 “Water Is More Important than Oil”
      (pp. 141-166)

      Pigs, floating, dead, by the thousands—more than ten thousand of them were scooped out of the Huangpu River near Shanghai in early 2013. No one seemed to know if they were killed by the cold or a swine flu or why they were dumped rather than being properly disposed of. But the pictures of a mysterious flotilla of dead animals in a river running through China’s major commercial city summed up the state of Asia’s waterways.

      The response of China’s citizens, weary of polluted air, tainted food, and cancer villages, was one of sardonic resignation.¹ Although protests against toxic...

    • 7 The Tropical Challenge: Saving Asia’s Lungs
      (pp. 167-186)

      Our van bumps along an unpaved red-dirt road, a road like so many others on tropical Borneo. Although this Texas-sized island has some of the world’s largest remaining rain forests, the old-growth trees have been cut where we are driving. It is scrubby country, trees and brush making for a landscape as open to the sun as not. The day is hot, with low clouds and flat light adding to the bleakness of a degraded landscape.

      On the left shoulder, a motorcycle is parked, probably an underpowered 175 cc Yamaha or Honda. Two men are just off the road. They...

    • 8 “Adhere and Prosper”: One Company’s Quest for Green Power
      (pp. 187-208)

      What does a company do when it faces the prospect that its traditional business will disappear? Former photo film maker Kodak and tech giant IBM are just two of the many companies that have faced radical changes in their traditional businesses, changes that they have met with varying degrees of success. The challenge of a seismic shift is much bigger in a capital-intensive business like electrical power generation. Each power plant typically represents an investment of several billion dollars and is meant to stay in service for many decades, often a half-century or more. The prospect that these assets could...

  8. Conclusion: From Black to Green: Asia’s Challenge
    (pp. 209-214)

    Asia’s environmental emergency threatens personal and even national survival. Every year, air pollution causes some six million premature deaths around the region, and climate change and sea-level rise threaten to put some countries completely underwater. Lakes and rivers are undrinkable. Tropical forests are being stripped.

    There is not one single model that all countries can follow to improve their situation; Asia is large and varied, and what works in Singapore might not work in Indonesia. Still, some basic principles are the same everywhere. Smart and strong policies, innovative and incentivized companies, and an engaged civil society are all crucial. Government,...

  9. Appendix: Companies to Watch
    (pp. 215-228)
  10. Notes
    (pp. 229-266)
  11. Bibliography
    (pp. 267-290)
  12. Index
    (pp. 291-306)