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Environmentalism and Sustainability Gaining Steam in Vietnam

Vietnam is slowly but surely understanding the need for sustainable development and a clean environment. We’ve recently seen the erection of green homes, establishment of green-focused youth clubs and a new fleet of CNG busses. But there’s a great deal of work to be done to reinforce these mentalities on a national scale.

In a recent New York Times article, Lien Hoang looks at Vietnam's shifting attitudes towards its environment and found that increased wealth and education are creating a new sense of responsibility among its citizenry.

Hoang points to two planned hydropower projects in Cat Tien National Park, Vietnam’s center of biodiversity. To accommodate these projects, more than 400 hectares of pristine forest would be razed, further threatening the park’s endangered wildlife.

But, for the first time, Hoang postulates, Vietnamese are voicing their concerns about the projects before they are completed as opposed to waiting until they are directly affected.

"The battle for Cat Tien is a less pragmatic, more forward-looking movement: It’s about protecting biodiversity. And that new concern marks a shift in the nature of citizen activism."

Former government official, Nguyen Huynh Thuat, cofounder of Save Cat Tien, said that while they aim to stop the construction of the hydropower projects, their main goal is to increase their countrymen’s (and countrywomen’s) awareness of environmentalism.

“Thuat is trying to bring a belief in collective duty back to this nominally communist country. Vietnamese keep their homes impeccable but disregard public spaces, littering the streets and urinating in canals. A popular saying goes, “Cha chung khong ai khoc,” or, “No one cries for the common father.” In other words, no one looks after what belongs to everyone.”

Bui Viet Ha, a Swedish-educated social entrepreneur told Hoang that as Vietnamese travel and study in foreign countries at increasing rates, they’re bringing progressive views of environmentalism and sustainability back to Vietnam.

“More and more people have a sense of responsibility for society, for the environment.”

[New York Times // Photo via killerhurtalot on Reddit]

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