It was the global meets the local at Wednesday night's Environmental Commission meeting held at the Edgemont Park Boathouse. Mayor Jerry Fried presented findings from his recent trip to China that took place as part of an initiative to create partnerships between Montclair and the city of Binzhou.
In a trip paid for by the government of Binzhou, Fried participated last month in an economic sustainability forum—formally titled the International Forum on Development of the Yellow River Delta Efficient Eco-Economic Zone—while also meeting with business leaders.
Michael Weinstein, Director of the PSEG Institute for Sustainability Studies at Montclair State University, accompanied Fried on the trip to China and also attended Wednesday night's meeting, offering his perspective on issues facing China and the United States. Fried and Weinstein asked Montclair's Environmental Commission to be part of the recommendation process for creating a partnership between Montclair and Binzhou.
Fried and Weinstein described the new cities that China is building. According to Weinstein, "The country is building these magnificent new cities with state-of-the-art green initiatives. The cities' names, translated, literally mean, 'Eco Harmonious Cities'." Even so, Binzhou's Bohai Sea has recently experienced a collapse of its fisheries. Weinstein said that, "China is saying the right things about environmental issues. But for a country whose GDP is growing at a rate of 10 to 12 percent per year, China has a ways to go."
Weinstein added that, "Systems we depend upon will ultimately be gone unless we take notice. At MSU's Institute for Sustainability Studies, we are trying to bring all levels of expertise together: the science and the social and the human issues." Finding that intersection between public policy and the scientific community is where initiatives such as the partnership between Montclair and Binzhou come in, he said.
While on the trip, Fried said he noticed signs of China's progress. The keynote speaker for the international forum on development was a scientist from Beijing who in fact spoke critically of the way China is developing. Fried said he was impressed that such a critique was allowed. Said Fried: "Montclair is a mature, built-out culture and village, and Binzhou will have much to learn from us."
Fried asked the Economic Commission to make a recommendation to the Township Council that this partnership with Binzhou be carried out. Montclair already has an EPA Climate Showcase grant that has created a Climate Committee. This Committee could be at the center of a continuing partnership with China.
Fried stated his desire to raise the profile of Montclair's Environmental Commission by bringing it in on the Montclair/Binzhou collaboration. The Environmental Commission has been instrumental in carrying out green initiatives in Montclair's new Charles H. Bullock Elementary School and in creating the Sustainable Montclair Planning Guide.