Degradation of the global environment is a tragic reality, but arguably not yet reason for the more apocalyptic forecasts of some green groups and think-tanks. Asia, with half the world's population, is part of the problem yet it offers the world hope. The Washington-based Worldwatch Institute predicts in its 2003 'State of the World' report that the human race has only one or perhaps two generations to make a change. The longer that resolute action is delayed, the greater will be the misery and biological impoverishment suffered by all, it says. As the population expands, destruction of the environment, overuse of resources and pollution threaten life, despite the existence of technical solutions to many of the problems and the recognition of the need for action through such pacts as the Kyoto Protocol on climate change. Political will, though, does not necessarily translate into action. While targets for a reduction in the emissions of greenhouse gases have been set, they are not binding. Most problematic is that the world's biggest polluter, the United States, has disagreed with the treaty and chosen its own course. With the political sway of big business so pervasive in the US, environmental concerns have been given short shrift. But this does not mean that the rest of the world is tarred with the same brush. Some regions, such as western Europe, are making big efforts to mend their ways. In Asia the economies of most countries are still developing; they still have an opportunity not to repeat the mistakes of the West. Their growth is both a blessing and curse. To wait to change until after the headlong race for development is over may be to wait too long. Opportunities must be grasped now, whether for cleaner energy, reafforestation or more sustainable exploitation of the seas. Proof of China's commitment to change has been shown by its joining the Kyoto Protocol even though, as a developing country, it is not required to cut its emissions. It is a small step in the right direction; many more lie ahead on the path to sound stewardship of the environment.