Yesterday's silk road could be tomorrow's environmental superhighway

China's Belt and Road Initiative, a modern upgrade of the ancient Silk Road, could be a superhighway of environmental progress, according to a MSU AgBioResearch professor in this month's edition of Ecosystem Health & Sustainability.

November 9, 2016 - Author: Sue Nichols

Historical illustration of the silk road.

China's Belt and Road Initiative, a modern upgrade of the ancient Silk Road, could be a superhighway of environmental progress, according to a Michigan State University (MSU) AgBioResearch professor in this month’s edition of Ecosystem Health and Sustainability. 

China’s initiative is essentially supersizing the ancient Silk Road – which connects China to the Mediterranean – and weaving it into the Maritime Silk Road’s ocean-based routes to connect China with Asia, Europe and Africa, as well as along the Indian Ocean and Mediterranean Sea. 

It’s an ambitious initiative, involving some 65 countries that are home to two thirds of the world’s population and cover one-third of the global economy.

Money drives it, as the project would shape world economies. But it also could create routes filled with opportunity. Taking advantage of that complex and vast expanse demands a different way of measuring and looking at the world, said Jianguo “Jack” Liu, Rachel Carson Chair in Sustainability. 

“The Belt and Road Initiative could be built to guide great progress in global cooperation,” said Liu, who was part of a team of sustainability scholars. “Environmental challenges like climate change; biodiversity loss; desertification; air, water, soil, and ocean pollution; and natural disasters rarely honor manmade borders, so now is the time to start building mechanisms to create environmental wins. But this also requires a sophisticated way of understanding the impacts that come with change.”

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