I believe that for the most part society has moved on since then, but then just a few days ago I was confronted with some old-fashioned thinking.
Before the two sessions started, one of my senior editors told me that although I had done a lot of work reporting on stories about the environment, many people tended not to pay attention to environmental issues that is, right up until they get hit by a sandstorm or have their water cut off because of a chemical spill.
His point was that we have to look for human angles when reporting, but I have to confess that his words upset me a little. And so with the question of whether or not the public cares about environmental problems hanging over my head, I prepared to cover the two sessions for the first time in my career.
What relief I felt when I entered the Great Hall of the People on the opening day of the NPC.
My concerns and nervousness evaporated amid the heated discussions between the NPC deputies and CPPCC members on questions of protecting the environment.
Delegates proposed motions calling for legislation to create a circular economy, prevent soil pollution or pave the way for the recycling and reuse of electric waste. CPPCC members proposed that the government take up the problem of air pollution in the area of Pearl River Delta and a relocation plan for heavy industries along the Yangtze River, and so on.
Even Gong Li, the world famous actress and a CPPCC member, put forward a proposal on the environment this year, showing the wisdom behind her gorgeous looks.
Protecting the environment was one of the highlighted topics in Premier Wen's government work report, placing it on the same level as GDP (gross domestic products) growth, rural issues, healthcare and education.
Words like emissions reductions, energy saving and climate change were on everyone's lips in the conference hall.
I started to get the feeling that the environment was not something that only the central government, environmentalists and environmental reporters cared about.
Common people from many different backgrounds share a common goal - protecting the place we call home. The public has shaken off its slumber and is aware that extreme climate events, pollution tragedies and animal extinctions are not just the stuff of science fiction anymore. They could be the legacy of the irresponsible way we have treated the earth.
Following some very fruitful interviews with the gathered delegates and members, I left the Great Hall of the People and found that Beijing's ever-gloomy sky had suddenly cleared, leaving uncluttered blue vistas as far as the eye could see.
(China Daily March 12, 2007)