Harnessing Social Media to Challenge Coal in China

Alex Levinson
Date: February 21, 2013

In China, where coal is king, Pacific Environment is harnessing the power of social media to show that the emperor is wearing some very dirty clothes.

We just launched “The Problem with Coal,” a Chinese-language blog on Weibo.com, China’s hugely popular social networking site. It focuses exclusively on coal’s devastating impacts on people’s health and the environment. This kind of information is rarely available in China, and we’re already seeing a flurry of activities, from re-posts and comments on the stories we’re sharing to users linking to national and international coal-related news and data.

Coal is the dirtiest of fossil fuels. In China, it is the main contributor to the country’s air pollution problem, which kills 500,000 people every year. Coal burning is also by far the largest source of China’s climate change-causing emissions, which are set to double by the end of this decade.

Weibo is a critical platform for outreach and news sharing in China and it’s becoming an increasingly effective grassroots organizing and mobilization tool for environmental activists. Activists we work with used it to shut down a chemical factory along the Xiangtan River in Hunan Province.

Right now there is little awareness in China of the harm coal inflicts on local communities and the global climate. Our blog is aiming to change that. It is a first, critical step in our efforts to educate the public and mobilize a growing network of grassroots activists to address the terrible impacts of coal on people’s health and local air and water supplies. Together with Waterkeeper Alliance and our grassroots partners in China, we’ve got an ambitious public education plan to reach out all across China to communities harmed by coal.

I’ll keep you posted on our progress!