Every month, TiME’s newsletter features people who are on the frontlines of environmental preservation, who share TiME’s underlying belief in our responsibility and ability to save the natural world. This month, we spoke to Dr. Jian Wu, a professor of environmental economics at Renmin University of China in Beijing and a member of TiME’s scientific advisory committee. She has worked extensively in China and abroad, fusing the fields of environmentalism and economics.
What is the role of an environmental economist in China?
In China, action on environmental protection or conservation always has to be balanced with economic development. That is the speciality of an environmental economist: to manage trade-offs.
How does your approach differ from a biologist or ecological scientist?
Biologists or ecologists may provide scientifically ideal goals of conservation to society, but society may not accept them because of other constraints. Environmental economists, using trade-off analysis, present economically ideal goals that may be more practical and acceptable to society or seek the least expensive approach to achieve political goals.
What are the largest threats to biodiversity in China?
Habitat loss or fragmentation driven by economic development are significant problems. We also face poor incentive mechanisms, insufficient financial support and institutional conflict.
How does China's population size - now nearly 1.4 billion people - affect its environmental decisions?
China is a centralized country. All big decisions come from the central government, while local governments do the implementation. However, the central and local governments have different interests, and this leads to a lot of policy failures.
How can a donation to TiME help environmentalism in China?
TiME could do a lot of work that complements the government’s efforts. For example, TiME could help buy land to build corridors to link currently separate protected areas, or demonstrate best practices for conservation, or provide expertise.