China Rocks Out For A Cause

Chinese band, Catcher in the Rye, plays at a four day rock fesitval promoting environmental change.
I'm Barry Petersen and this Letter from Asia comes from Beijing.

It is spring here, a time of year that makes you want to be outside and enjoy nature's re-awakening. Well, maybe if your taste in music runs a bit rock, you want to be here.

Once a year, people from all over China gather in this Beijing park for a four-day festival. You really do need to remind yourself this was once Mao's China.

Now the idea is to mix music with a message from one of the organizers, Greenpeace. Fish Yu, from Greenpeace says, "The message are one, the environmental problems are here right now in Chine so people are feeling it, very serious. Second, you can do something."

It is a message with an urgency. China's race to the future has created some of the worst pollution on the earth. It will soon surpass the United States as the biggest emitter of carbon pollution.

In some towns, water from manufacturing plants puddles in the street or runs into rivers. The government now says it is so bad that 10-percent of China's farmland is now polluted that's equal to the whole state of Mississippi.

And that's one reason the band Catcher in the Rye is performing. "Our fans tell us they do environmental work at their university," says Xiao Wei, who adds that things are improving. Music, said Wei, can be the bridge.

In most Beijing parks, you can't even walk on the grass. Here there were cozy tents for fixing makeup, places to buy stuff and distinctive hairstyles. But the message got through.

"Chinese or foreigners," says one man, "we're not doing enough."

"Environmental awareness," says one girl, "starts with small things like the tiny drops of water converging to make a stream."

"I don't think we're doing so good," another man said. "We need to work harder."

The weather was perfect, the music to the crowd's taste, call it the good life. And that is what will get lost unless China and the rest of the world start cleaning up.
By Barry Petersen