With the Olympics Looming, China Goes Green

Despite all of this action, some worry that fundamental changes have yet to come, and that the changes in Beijing are just cosmetic and temporary.

"I think that probably is the case at this point in time," Economy said. "What we're going to get with these Olympics really is just a shutdown of the city to make it work for those few weeks."

At the same time there are visible signs of change: Millions of electric bikes have been sold, alternate energy sources are gaining popularity and China has become a world leader in solar thermal production and use.

The city of Dezhou is the world's largest producer of solar water heaters and the city of Rizhou is increasingly becoming a solar city. One in 10 Chinese homes has solar hot water.

"Change in China has got to come from the bottom up," Economy said. "I think it's going to have to come from a new understanding by the Chinese people of how to treat the environment … and why the environment matters so much to us."

And that understanding is beginning in places like the Number Two Middle School, as well as the 4,000 environmental groups that have sprung up in China since 1994.

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