Eradicate the Air Pollution Through Eco-Friendly Stoves

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Ulaanbaatar, the capital of Mongolia, has suffered from air pollution for the last 2 decades. It has attracted attention from local citizens and international community. The largest proportion of air pollution comes from the city outskirt called Ger Areas. They comprise 60 percent of the residents. Ger Areas produce air pollution for 2 reasons- harsh winter and weak insulation. Mongolian winter goes down to negative 45 degree Celsiu. Siberian severe climate travels down south to Ulaanbaatar . 

Secondly, people live in traditional mongolian housing called ger. It has extremely low heat insulation and extremely small heatmass. This makes Ger lose heat fast. Therefore, people living in Ger Areas face an unfavorable environment. It’s a matter of survival. Currently, they burn raw coal to stay warm. Coal is accessible, cheap, and produce heat immediately. 90 percent of ger district area has coal stoves. Although it is incredibly toxic, Ger Area residents are unable to survive without coal.

The government has failed to take any effective measures. Failing for 20 years to fix the problem, they gave up almost. There has been numerous programs for sure. Programs that were supposed to eradicate the air pollution through eco-friendly stoves, chimney air filters, or insulation technologies. However, none of them produce tangible results at all. The problem comes back every winter to haunt the hearts of ulaanbaatar citizens. The ineffectiveness has been associated with government corruption levels. 

The corrupted officials fund anti-pollution programs, only to receive part of the money. Thus, the anti pollution programs were funded even if they were infeasible. Even if they were feasible, they would have to give parts of the fund to the government officials. This rendered them as corruption tools that produce no result. Although there have been few protests, they all ended up just temporary demonstrations. Once winter ends, the air pollution disappears. The public loses interest. Protests end, only to resume the next winter.

It shows the government has been consistently decaying for the past 2 decades. Unable to establish strict uncorrupted system, the government has wasted large sums of money. The rule of law is extremely low, since officials face no serious consequences for corruption. The accountability is low as well, since the public has not been able to influence the government for so long. The government established an anti pollution committee. However, it doesn’t make a lot of difference. The government fails to instill strong institutions for air pollution problems. This has to do with overall weak democracy. The democratization process has been backsliding in the last 2 electoral cycle.

The president has established a sly tool in the government. The new laws allow any judge to be forcibly recused from any case. Technically, these decisions will go through the National Security Council (NSC) and the Judicial General Council before reaching the president. But the NSC is made up of the president, prime minister, and the speaker, and the Judicial General Council is appointed by the president. These two institutions will never go against the president (foreignpolicy).

The air pollution problem faces two fronts- weak democracy and seasonal attention. Both obstacles need more long term solutions. The weak democracy creates a possibility of military intervention in any social change. The Korean government has successfully used martial laws to suppress public demonstrations for 3 decades. The mongolian government also have a history of invoking martial law. On July 1st 2008, the public protested against unfair election results. 3000 people took to the central square. 

The protest started organized but turned quickly violent. Tilly would argue it was an example of low coordination and high salience. This is because the middle class in Mongolia is not able to effectively mobilize themselves in a sustainable fashion. Also, the military intervened, firing rubber bullets at the participants. Hundreds were injured and 5 were killed. It was one of the darkest moments in mongolian politics.

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Tilly () argues democratic but low capacity countries usually have medium violent contentions. Mongolia fits right into the democratic but low capacity mold. Thus, it would be risky for a radical movements. Any radical movement might end up in violent suppression. Especially since mongolian government invoked the martial law once before, it would be easier to invoke again. It has been put into the performance repertoire. The government knows that violent suppression works and faces minimal international media scrutiny.

The public knows that any radical movement will end in death. Thus, the prospects for radicalism is low. Reformism, on the other hand, seems more appropriate. Because it can sustain long term policy changes, while also navigating the corruption without violence. Seasonal support from the public wouldn’t be a problem because reformism doesn’t heavily rely on public support as much as radicalism. Especially since air pollution is a popular issue, a reform that appeals to politicians rational choice would work effectively.

Tilly argues one must make 3 claims for a social change- identity, standing, and program. I believe they are synonymous to playing in NBA. first you have to form your team, declaring your identity to the outside world. Having a legitimate functional team is required for an orderly participation. Tilly’s identity claim is same. Any social group must organize themselves in orderly manner. This can take the form NGOs, private companies, worker unions and so on. Second, your team has to establish their presence by playing in the tournament. This involves training of your teammates, strategizing your play and formulating the weaknesses of your opponent. 

This is similar to Tilly’s standing claim. After organizing themselves in an enterprise, social change groups must reach out to potential political partners, strategize about gaining support from them and understanding the economic and political sphere. Last, your team has to maintain your victory. This involves making sure the plan is long term, constantly adapting to new obstacles. The social change organization must also make long-term policy plans, making sure the movement is incentivized and supported by the overarching infrastructure.

I propose to make an anti-pollution NGO in Mongolia. The NGO play a central role with 3 different agents- the government, the private sector, and the media. It will appeal to politicians and government officials to make fighting air pollution in their best interest. This will encourage policy reforms or financial funds to any initiatives. Second, it will appeal to private sector companies to innovate and solve the air pollution problem. Since air pollution affects many people, market demand will be big. Third, the ngo will appeal to both local and international media. Local media can appraise the local companies for innovating and act as advertisement. International media can act as political pressure to encourage politicians to be non-corrupt and to support the movement.

Germany’s solar panel case offers a great collection of strategies in gaining political support. First, one must do 3 ideological attack- discredit the status quo, build social credibility, and paint an idea of attractive result. The NGO must point out the flaws of the current system, which is deeper than just air pollution. The current system fails to communicate effectively between different stakeholders. The lack of communication between the public, the private sector and the government has prevented them from finding a common goal. The solution to air pollution can be beneficial to everything, not a zero sum game, and therefore the current system is failing to meet the optimal state. However, one cannot criticize the status quo too much, so as to scare away the stakeholders or to provoke the opposition. One simply should point out that there is a missed opportunity.

Second, the NGO should build social credibility by having famous politicians, successful business people, and bright air pollution experts on their board of directors. This will legitimize the organization as more people trust. Backed by Also once these people come on board, it would be hard for them to bail out. Because they don’t wanna be seen as having made a wrong choice in the eyes of public, they are more likely stick with the decision. Thirdly, the NGO must paint an attractive idea of the future. One in which there is no kids dying, no respiratory disease, and no winter struggles. This must appeal to all stakeholders, encouraging enough to make them take action.

To maintain the movement, there must be low brow changes in the political and economic infrastructure so as to sustain for long term. all the stakeholders must be incentivized. The NGO should make sure they use media to publicize the supporting politicians and the private companies. The politicians will be interesting in gaining reputation. The private companies will be happy to receive marketing exposure. The government should make tax subsidy or lower interest funding to the companies. 

So that companies are incentivized to innovate even more just like the Germany case. The media will benefit from all of these because they will get business clients as well as quality content from reporting the progress. In fact, there is already one social startup who is tackling the air pollution, GerHub. It has partnered with Hong Kong University’s architecture department. They have innovated the traditional housing design. By adding multiple layers, they were able to add heat insulation, in which ther innermost level can be 0 degree in the winter of negative 30 degree Celsius.

Most importantly, the NGO must be sustained too. It can create funding from international organizations such as UN, Sustainable Growth Union, International Committee for Conservation of Nature and so on. It can also self sustain by having a 2 way contract with government and private sector to oversee the funding and innovation process to make sure they are non corrupt and effective. It is crucial that the NGO stays independent and self sustainable. These policies and business models will be able to demonstrate a program claim. Tilly argues having all 3 claims established will increase the likelihood of social movement success.   

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