Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

A Heap of Concerns over Great Wall Garbage ; along the Great Wall Are Gentle Reminders of Ecological Responsibility, Signs That China Is Slowly Opening Up to Environmental Activism

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

A Heap of Concerns over Great Wall Garbage ; along the Great Wall Are Gentle Reminders of Ecological Responsibility, Signs That China Is Slowly Opening Up to Environmental Activism

Article excerpt

The "Wild Wall" is not for the faint of heart. With hundred-foot drops below this treacherous section of the ancient barrier, climbers hug steep faces of loose stone. But it is a refreshing change from the typical photo booths, gondolas, and tour buses that exist along the more familiar stretches of China's Great Wall.

Along with spectacular views of lush farmland, this section of the Wall offers an unusual sight: Caretakers armed with hatchets and litterbags who pick up after tourists, making trails safer, and guiding lost hikers. The rangers' quiet actions often keep visitors from leaving behind newspapers, cigarette butts, and plastic water bottles. Several "green" signs ask visitors to be ecologically responsible with their litter.

Their work is just one fledgling effort in China to promote ecological responsibility. In 1998, after an 11-year absence from China, Briton William Lindesay was appalled by a Great Wall that was "drowning in trash." He started organizing cleanups, which have grown into the more self-sustaining work of the trained farmers- made-rangers, whose pay is partly subsidized by Norwegian conglomerate Norsk Hydro.

Mr. Lindesay, a Great Wall activist who has walked the 1,500- mile length of the UNESCO World Natural and Cultural Heritage Site, coined the name "Wild Wall" and directs the program, called "Defending the Great Wall from Modern Attack."

Erected to protect China from outsiders, in growing ways the Great Wall is now being protected from the people. In a country with 3.7 million square miles at its disposal, many are accustomed to doing just that - using China's vastness as one big dumping ground. During one of Lindesay's earlier cleanups at the Wall, 120 volunteers collected 45 bags of garbage; one young cleaner found 15 champagne bottles left behind by banquet-goers from one of the many five-star hotels that serve guests at the wall.

But according to a recent study by the Polytechnic University in Hong Kong, done to measure the public's receptiveness to the marketing of "green" products, about half of the population recognizes China's environmental challenges and may be willing to do something about them. …

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