Peter Tzeng, 2011, Woodrow Wilson School

China has an infamous environmental record. In 2006 China surpassed the U.S. in carbon dioxide emissions, and in 2009 China surpassed the U.S. in energy consumption. Not to mention, the visibility in the streets of Beijing sometimes doesn’t even reach 100 meters. This summer, I interned at the Natural Resources Defense Council in Beijing, China. The focus of my research was threefold: carbon capture and storage, smart growth, and rare earth mining. In particular, I investigated the feasibility of applying fairly standard environmental policies in these three areas to the situation in China. In the process of doing so, I contributed to a Brookings Institution paper, went on a site visit in Inner Mongolia, and conversed with researchers from all over the world. Working at NRDC, the breadth of my learning experience came from my colleagues, and thus extended well beyond these three topics. The main lesson that I took from working at the American NGO was that you can’t just take western environmental policies and apply them to China. Things don’t work like that. Not only is the political system different, but the entire mindset of the leadership down to the ordinary citizen is different.