China's environmental problems are being tackled not by international organizations but by local, effective grassroots groups.
The most important environmental story coming out of China this year is not the treatment of workers at the iPad plant, or whatever journalistic ethics were compromised in the reporting of it, but the meteoric rise of grassroots environmental groups in the country. Where larger U.S. organizations like Greenpeace and the Sierra Club have failed to gain much traction, local Chinese groups are beginning to affect meaningful change.
The best-known of these groups is the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs (IPE), run by former journalist Ma Jun. In 2008, the Chinese government passed a series of regulations granting public access to certain types of environmental information and ordering local environmental protection bureaus to release data about polluters in their regions. However, enforcement was weak and the disclosure was piecemeal, making it difficult for the public to access or make sense of the information available.