|以下文字是一篇关于绿色社区的访谈，于2012年发表在《城市中国》杂志（总第51期: 78, 80-81页）。下面的翻译稿为最终中文校订版（含英文原稿），由于种种原因，此校订版未能刊印于该杂志。|
Below is the text from an interview regarding green communities that was published in Urban China (Vol 51, pg. 78, 80-81). Posted here is the correct version of the Chinese translation. This final copy did not make it into the printed volume of the magazine. Included below is also the text from the original interview (in English).
In the Name of 'Green'
Interview with Researcher Zhu Jian'gang and Alana Boland
采访+文 / 施闻+Stephanie Rudyk [加拿大] 编辑 / 张宜轩
Interview+Text / Shi Wen+Stephanie Rudyk [Canada] Editor / Zhang Yixuan
Alana Boland博士以及朱建刚博士在广州的两处绿色社区中的研究描绘出了一幅政府组织并推动 “绿色社区”发展的图景。根据Boland的 观察，广州绿色社区环保举措的开展，并非完全源自人们的彼此义务、互惠和集体观念，而更多是依赖行政体系的任务落实机制。目前，依靠个人去影响社区环境成 效甚微。但政策先行的绿色环保行动也并不意味着一定遭到民众的排斥，或无法促进大众的集体环保意识发生转变；居民是有可能认识到推行绿色社区能带来环境的 改善从而主动发起环保行动。
Through research in two green communities in Guangzhou, Dr. Alana Boland and Dr. Zhu Jian'gang paint a picture of state initiated and organized green community development in the city. From Boland’s observation, a sense of mutual obligation, reciprocity, and group consciousness is not what is primarily driving environmental action in Guangzhou’s so-called green communities, but rather, more of a bureaucratic mandate. Though it would seem that the agency of individuals to impact environmental change is limited even in their own communities, it is not to say that green policies and priorities are not desirable, or are doing nothing to cause a collective consciousness shift of Chinese citizens towards environmental stewardship. Rather, the debate is still open about whether this associational model has the possibility of shifting to citizen-based activism in the future, as residents in green communities begin to see the instrumental value that green neighborhoods have for human and environmental health.
Questions on 'Green Neighborhoods' - a conversation with Boland
A ： 我的感受是，至少在政策执行初期，“绿色社区”的推动大体上与其它通过市政层级层层落实的政策任务很相似。虽然有一些环保热心人士的参与，但从早期情况来 看，这项举措的推动者们似乎并未格外表现出是受到了环保愿望的驱使。各类不同的基层推动者——无论是身处街道办，居委会，或是物业公司——所表现情况大体 类似。
这套透过政策来动员行政人员及居民共同参与的技术，普遍存在于中国的城市治理模式中，通常会包含一套由一系列细致的标准或目标所组成的评价体系，以此来评 估可持续发展不同方面的绩效。如果某个社区在各项绩效中达标，就会被授予“绿色社区”的称号。所以从大的组织形式上来说，广州的政策并没有明显不同于中国 的其它城市。虽然不同省（市、自治区）的指标设计会有不同，但大体策略都是针对考察指标和各种荣誉奖项的。
不过广州有一些与众不同的是，至少在早期，它面临的社会挑战更大。可能是由于住宅开发的商品化倾向，在广州的社区中，居民的身份背景和社会阶层的差异化越 来越明显。人们通常彼此不够熟识，社区也还不足以作为共享历史记忆的载体。由于缺乏建立在熟悉基础上的社区意识，居民们既难以被调动起来参与集体活动，也 很难去响应那些旨在透过改变家庭行为方式而促进社区改善的号召。
我想把这个问题缩小些，仅探讨政府倡导的环保工程是如何促使城市和社区管理者们施政时，将环保问题纳入其优先考虑范围的——尤其是对于那些并不直接承担环 保职能的施政者们而言。当政府在工作内容中纳入“绿色”考量时，他们有可能会从新的维度来思考城市和社区的治理，并有可能为彰显环保优先性付出更多努力。 但是，我们很难分辨施政者们对环境的关注到底是工具性的（比如说，只是为了完成他们的工作），还是确实显现出他们在更深层次上对社会—自然关系的理解发生 了转变。事实上，上述两种情况往往同时存在——在循规蹈矩地完成政策目标的同时也可能出现所谓的“观念转变”。
最后，关于草根行动所扮演的角色，这其实是很难预知的。会有各类正式或非正式的草根组织参与到发现和解决环境问题的过程中，但我并不认为他们是一剂灵药。 环境问题涉及到多方利益，需要不同层面的干预——也包括政府。另外，我们需要注意，草根参与带来的结果可能并不反映环境和社会方面的真正价值取向。它们的 活动有时会带有“邻避”（“别在我家后院”）特征，这反倒会助长强势社会群体因其自身利益而侵害弱势及边缘群体。这种情况在世界各地都并不鲜见。所以在我 看来，类似问题往往需要同具体的背景联系起来，从而尽量避免对不同参与方（例如政府、非政府组织、投资方等等）的动机或是影响泛泛而谈。
A： 根据我之前的研究，还没有发现任何超出社区范围的直接影响。 需要注意的是，国家政策指导下的绿色社区项目针对的是具体的社区，包括资金在内的各种资源投入都指向社区本身。所以能观察到的直接影响都往往表现在社区内 部。总之，社区范围之外的直接影响还有待进一步的长期观察和分析。但一些间接效应已经在社区范围之外显现。这表现为一种“扩散效应”。作为一个“更绿 色”、“更健康”城市的有机组成部分，“绿色社区”的称号在为城市争取“环保模范城”时往往能发挥一定作用。同时，绿色社区项目也为社区居民的“公共空 间”带来了改善。例如居民们可以更好地利用社区内的场地进行健身，休憩和社会交往等，从而加强了相互之间的社会纽带。不过这里需要强调的是，绿色社区所改 善的“公共空间”，大多还是仅局限在行政管辖下的社区范围之内。
在绿色社区项目的旗号下，社区居民们似乎也更有底气去表达他们希望改变居住空间环境的诉求。我曾与几位省市级干部一起走访过江苏省内的一个社区。当一群打牌的老年人发 现我们来自环保部门时，他们便主动上前与我们攀谈，并希望能解决社区内饭店油烟污染的问题。他们反映的问题本身并不新，但正因为意识到他们的社区在向“绿 色社区”转变，于是能鼓起勇气直面有关部门，要求解决社区内长期存在的具体问题。另外，有一些居民，他们的社区没有被纳入到“绿色社区”计划中，但因为看 到了附近“计划内”社区所发生的改变，他们也会主动要求这项政策也走进他们的社区。我不清楚这是否是个普遍现象。不过，这些表达愿望的社区通常都位于老城 区。考虑到“绿色社区”工程为改善社区环境带来的显著变化，那些没有被纳入“绿色社区”工程的老城区居民们，在对比之下抱怨自己的社区被遗忘也就不足为奇 了。
A： 是的，在中国我看到了用“生态话语”来出售产品、推动项目建设的现象。这种做法有时被称为“漂绿”，在世界其他地方也很普遍。透过将“环境”、“自然”、 “生态”与“良好”、“健康”、“安全”相关联，这种“漂绿”的生态话语得以膨胀壮大，从而为那些原本应被限制的行为提供了通行证（比如改划土地用途）或 是替那些广受谴责的行为网开一面（比如对低收入家庭房屋的拆迁）。
但是也有学者提出，对“漂绿”这个概念的理解不应仅限于个人或企业利用环境而谋利这个方面。因为生态和绿色标签的运用其实也是经济转型所发出的某种信号。 环境威胁（无论是实际的或是仅仅被感知到的）正反过来为资本积累提供着新机会。从好的一面来看，这意味着我们进入了一个需要将生态成本计入经济增长的时 代。从负面来看，这种对环境的“自由市场化”，如果不加以合理约束，则会产生出由支付能力决定环境利益分配的情况——环境作为“产品”由购买力决定好的 “产品”（例如更清洁的水和空气）和坏的“产品”（例如污染）的分配，由此导致平等和社会公正方面的问题。
在当下，围绕上述情况是不是个历史“新问题”尚有争议。我想说的是，你所提到的以环保作为噱头的现象，并不能只从行销策略的角度去读解，它也是更广泛的结 构性变化的一种反映，这种变化影响着经济价值是如何被创造和评估的。正如在上述学者们的视角中，问题的焦点更多是落在那些房地产开发商和地方政府“漂绿” 城市和社区的活动背后，影响他们行为的潜在经济力量或经济诉求之上。
A：是的，我确实有留意到你所说的那种批评的声音存在。不过，针对政府的支配性话语以及“表演式”的倡导活动，我所实际观察到的更多并非是批评意见，反而是 人们的漠不关心。就表演性的倡导活动而言，虽然这些活动往往显得有些“照本宣科”，而且似乎总是流于形式。但我恰恰对这些看起来既不那么有趣甚至有点和现 实脱节的活动充满了兴趣。因为当我与孩子和老人们参与到这样的社区活动时，我发现这些活动并非毫无意义。有时这些活动会带来意想不到的变化，而有时这些活 动也多多少少会对人们产生一些潜移默化的效果。当然，也不能说这些活动就真的促成了人与环境之间关系的某种实质改变，因为这其实是另一个问题了，而我个人 的兴趣也并不在于此。我所关注的是那些更广泛意义上的行动——那些在“环保大旗”之下与社区发展，商业开发以及城市规划等领域相关的行动，以及它们的意 义。
A： 从我的研究以及其它相关经历来看，儿童们总是乐于发问，也喜欢把学校里学到的新观念带回家，这确实能改变家庭内部的某些行为方式。但是，这样的改变是否会 延伸至社区层面，那就是另一个问题了，而这取决于社区内部的“社会脉络”能否为行为的改变提供家庭以外的支持。有趣的是，在不少社区，最热衷于参与环保活 动小组的反而是退休居民。这里我想说的是，无论所谓“绿色”是出于人们的自发意识，或者是由社区的管理者或非政府组织所引入的，像绿色学校或是其他环保项 目，如果要在社区发挥作用的话，通常要嵌入到由已有的社区组织和活动所构成的社会脉络之中。
|Original interview text|
Q: How do the policies of the municipal and district governments mobilize green community initiatives in Guangzhou? Is there anything distinct or unique about the policies in this city compared to other Chinese cities, or other cities within Guangdong province?
A: My sense is that – at least in the earlier period – for the most part, the green community initiatives seemed to be approached much like other duties falling under the purview of different levels of city administration. There were some environmentally-inspired folks, but at least in the earlier years, the people in charge of implementing these programs did not seem so driven by green aspirations. This appeared to be the case for those working in the local district and street offices, shequ committees, as well as the property management companies that oversee such activities in newer commercial housing estates.
The policies that mobilized participation – of administrators and residents – involved techniques common in other spheres of urban governance. They used an elaborate system of standards or targets, which in this case, help to track performance in relation to different aspects of sustainability. When a community meets targets, it earns the status or title of ‘green community’. Organized in this way, the policies in Guangzhou were not notably different from other cities in China, at least in terms of general structure. And in some ways, that is the point. While specific indicators may vary between cities or provinces, the general approach, based on indicators and status honors, was the same.
Where Guangzhou was perhaps a bit different, at least in the earlier periods, was in terms of the social setting. Residents seemed somewhat less engaged or involved with collective endeavors within their communities. This may be due in part to the more commercialized nature of some of the housing developments, which creates a mix of residents who may not be familiar with one another nor have a shared sense of history within their shequ. Without this sense of familiarity, it can be harder to mobilize residents to participate in collective activities and heed calls to change their household practices for the sake of the community.
Q: Based on your research, do you think that the top-down model of environmental initiatives is effective in creating long-term consciousness shifts in the daily lives of Chinese citizens towards the environment? Do you think more government incentives, or more room for grassroots involvement is needed to fuel this consciousness shift?
A: I have not carried out research on the long-term impacts of these programs. In fact, it might be hard to test this given that there are so many other social factors shaping people’s attitudes towards the environment. These include the role of education, as well as influence of media, global events, local situations, community ‘cultures’ of involvement, and more.
I would bound this question, asking instead how government-led initiatives might influence the priorities of city and community administrators – the people who aren’t officially charged with environmental protection responsibilities. With the addition of new ‘green’ priorities to their administrative portfolios, they may begin to think differently about city or community governance. They may put more effort into addressing environmental priorities. The challenge of course is that it can be hard to discern whether their attention to the environment is purely instrumental (i.e., just doing their job) or indicative of a more fundamental shift in how they understand society-nature relations. And in fact, both dynamics may be at play – a combination of adhering to the spirit of policy (in form) and a process of what you call ‘consciousness shift’.
Finally, as to the role of grassroots activities, I suppose I’m somewhat agnostic on this matter. Grassroots organizations – formal and informal – are often involved in efforts to identify and address environmental problems. But, I don’t think they are a panacea. The problems typically involve too many interests, requiring interventions at different scales – including the government. Furthermore, it is important to keep in mind that grassroots involvement can yield outcomes that may not reflect environmentally or socially progressive goals. Grassroots movements can take on a “NIMBY” (not-in-my-backyard) character, where the interests of powerful social groups are pitted against other, sometimes marginal, groups. There are many examples of this throughout the world. So, in my research, the question is more contextual and I try not to assume too much in abstract terms about the motivations or influence of different actors (e.g., government, NGO’s, investors).
Q: Do you see any evidence that the green communities that you studied had any greater transformative impact (in terms of the way people interact with each other, the use of urban space, the values of the community, etc) on the city or the province?
A: Based on my previous work, I didn’t see much in terms of direct effects beyond the communities. It is worth noting that in green community programs that are guided by state policy, most of the attention and the investment – of time and money – is directed within the communities. The changes I observed were similarly bounded. They were internal to the community, or shequ. It is possible that wider changes have since occurred, but these would require a longer period of analysis.
Now, there are indirect effects that reach beyond the bounds of the shequ. These ‘spillover’ effects concern the role of green community initiatives in a city’s broader efforts to achieve recognition as an “environmental protection model city”. In this context, the shequ are cells or building blocks of a greener, healthier city. The sphere of action however is still largely internal to the shequ. It will encompass ‘public space’ of a sort, but these are spaces within the jurisdiction of an administrative authority overseeing a particular green community program. I’ve seen changes to open spaces internal to communities, and in some cases these changes can be quite dramatic. Previously poorly managed, chaotic-seeming spaces can be transformed into orderly and, in the eyes of many residents, more pleasant spaces. People make use of these for informal activities, such as morning exercises, card playing, dancing groups, young kids running around, early evening walks, etc. Social networks within communities can be strengthened through an increased use of such open spaces, especially for retirees and children.
Changes to neighborhoods under the banner of the green community program can also embolden residents to make further claims related to improving their living spaces. I’ve witnessed this in one community, in Jiangsu, when during a walking tour with provincial and city-level officials, we were approached by a group of elderly men who had been playing cards nearby. Noting that we were from the environmental protection offices, they quickly sought the attention of the top level leader and asked for increased attention to smoke pollution created by neighborhood restaurants. These were not new concerns, but the transformation of their shequ and its recognition as a ‘green community’ fueled their direct demands for help in addressing environmental problems that still plagued their neighborhood. Finally, while I am not sure how common, I have witnessed a couple of instances where residents of shequ that were not included in the state-led program made requests of the city government to bring the ‘greening’ process into their neighborhoods based on the visible improvements in nearby shequ. These cases were in older inner-city districts. Given the dramatic contrast between an improved green shequ and the still untouched ones, it is perhaps no surprise to hear residents grumbling about being left behind.
Q: In contemporary China, many urban design projects and local government’s political slogans use the words “ecological” and “green”. Some people see these terms as ‘hype’, which conceals the real aim of developers and businesses of land-selling and competing for subsidy from the central government. Have you observed this phenomenon in China, and if so, what are your opinions of it?
A: Yes – this use of eco-speak to sell products and promote projects is something I’ve seen in China. It is common elsewhere. Sometimes referred to as ‘green washing’, it seems that such eco-speak gains power in a marketplace of ideas where the environment, nature, and ecology are associated with good, healthy and safe. It can also give license to actions that might otherwise not be allowed (e.g., land use rezoning), or normally condoned (e.g., removal of low income housing).
There are some scholars who argue however that such green washing should be understood as more than just some sort cynical use of the environment for personal or corporate gain. The use of ‘eco’ labels and green branding may also signal a shift in the economy, where real (and perceived) threats to the environment are creating new opportunities for capital accumulation. On the bright side, this might mean we have entered a new era when economic growth must now factor in ecological costs. On the dark side, such market liberalism applied to the environment may, without appropriate regulation, create conditions where ability-to-pay determines the distribution of environmental ‘goods’ and ‘bads’ (i.e., pollution). This raises important issues about equity and social justice.
While there are debates about how new this situation might be, I find it helpful as a reminder that the green hype you mention may be more than just the product of strategic marketing; it may also reflect – and be propelled by – broader structural changes affecting how economic value is created and assessed. This perspective draws attention then to some of the underlying forces, or economic imperatives, influencing the actions of property developers and local governments who are ‘greening’ cities and urban communities in China.
Q: As a result of your past experience doing research in China, are you aware of grassroots artists and activists criticizing Chinese government’s dominance on environmental discourse and performance-like participation responded by the citizens? What do you think the role of mass media in constructing people’s environmental awareness and criticism?
A: Yes – though in my limited experience, where I have seen this, it is not so much about critique, as much as it is a matter disinterest. In a sense, I am intrigued by the performance-like activities precisely because they aren’t ‘interesting’ and don’t make sense when viewed through a lens of authenticity. These activities appear to be overly scripted and too formal, and seemingly inconsequential. But, when I’ve spent time with groups of children and older residents engaged in these community activities, I find it hard to dismiss them as entirely meaningless. Something is going on. Something compels people to act. However, whether these activities lead to radical transformations in how people act vis-a-vis the environment – that is a different question. My research has actually moved further away from that, towards a more general interest in the broad range actions occurring under ‘environmental banners’ – in spheres of community development, business, and urban planning – and the meanings associated with these actions.
Q: SEPA started the Green Schools program as a joint initiative with China’s Ministry of Education in 2000. How important is it that communities begin environmental activism at a young age? Do you think education is another avenue to community activism that could strengthen sustainability initiatives?
A: Based on my research and experience in other contexts, changes in household practice can be linked to the actions of children, be it by their asking questions or bringing in new ideas they learn about at school. However, whether this translates into actions organized at the scale of communities – that is another issue, depending as it does on the ‘social infrastructure’ of communities that might support activities happening outside the household. What is interesting is that in some communities, it is retired residents who are often drawn into group-based environmental initiatives. Regardless of whether the ‘green’ element is something self-organized, or started by community administrators or NGO’s, these environmental initiatives often map onto already existing performance or activity groups.
|Last updated: March 23, 2012|