Diamond-Cut Life

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Is Zhang Yue A Diamond-Cut Businessman?

December 8th, 2010 by Alison · No Comments · energy, global warming and climate change, simplicity, sustainability, work

I learned awhile back that China passed the U.S. as the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases.* What’s more interesting, though, is that Zhang Yue, one of China’s wealthiest businesspeople, has been slashing his own emissions as he conducts his business.

Not because any regulations are making him do it. In fact, Mr. Yue has rebuked his own government (a rare and risky thing to do in China), telling them they should have stricter regulations on energy consumption.

Mr. Yue kept his office at 81 degrees this past summer rather than making steady use of the air conditioning that his own company sells. And he has parked his pricey cars and grounded his three private jets.

Now, I personally can’t relate to owning any private jets, grounded or otherwise. However, consumption is relative. The typical human tendency is to take and use all that one can get (which is the reason our planet is in the shape it is in). Given that context, we might say that Zhang Yue is China’s answer to the diamond-cut life.

There’s more to the story. There’s always more to a story, if you want real answers instead of fast, easy answers. Mr. Yue’s business is Broad Air Conditioning, and because its absorption chillers run on diesel and natural gas rather than electricity, his business benefits from limits on electricity consumption. Most electricity, especially in China, comes from coal. Burning coal is a major source of greenhouse gases.

The larger story: solutions to global warming do lie in economic development, in finding the opportunities that change presents. I heard that last night at the Climate Solutions dinner here in Portland, I heard it at the Climate Change Summit in Eugene, Oregon three weeks ago, and I’m convinced it’s true. We — the world — need to reshape our economy.

I also think we need to practice voluntary simplicity, creating limits for ourselves and reducing our excess consumption, whatever that means in the context we’re living in.

I don’t think such limits will always be voluntary. But there’s more joy when they’re voluntary.

* Higher emissions are not surprising, given that China’s population is 1.3 billion and the U.S. population is 310 million (data here).

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