By banning plastic bags, the Chinese show the wisdom and effectiveness of authoritarianism in responding to environmental crises, writes David Shearman, an Australian academic and environmentalist.
There must be open minds to look critically at liberal democracy. Reform must involve the adoption of structures to act quickly regardless of some perceived liberties. It is not that liberal democracy cannot react once it sees a threat, for example, the speedy response to a recent international financial emergency. If governments can recognise a financial emergency and in an instant move heaven and earth (and billions of dollars, pounds sterling and euros) to contain it, why are they unable to do the same in response to a global environmental emergency? Quite simply our system is seen to live and breathe by the present economic system; the problem is that living and breathing within the confines of the world ecological systems is contrary to the activity of progress and development as defined within liberal democracy.
The Chinese decision on shopping bags is authoritarian and contrasts with the voluntary non-effective solutions put forward in most Western democracies. We are going to have to look how authoritarian decisions based on consensus science can be implemented to contain greenhouse emissions. It is not that we do not tolerate such decisions in the very heart of our society, in wide range of enterprises from corporate empires to emergency and intensive care units. If we do not act urgently we may find we have chosen total liberty rather than life.
The Heritage Foundation’s Index of Economic Freedom lists China as 128th in the world, right in the pack with other environmentally enlightened regimes such as Ethiopia, Yemen, Guinea, Niger, Equatorial Guinea and Uzbekistan. All countries perfectly happy to imprison those who disagree with the consensus, or rather, dictatorship.
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