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Up in the Air

China. Communism aside, less-than-airtight stance on human rights notwithstanding, and disregarding any cyber-attacks on Canada, the thing that really worries me about China is the sheer number of humans there. There are SO MANY CHINESE PEOPLE. and they all drum together. Its really, REALLY hard for that many people to live together in a highly advanced society that specializes in manufacturing all of our little knick-knacks for a sliver of the price and remain free of pollutants. What really drove this point home for me was back in 2008, before the Olympics. I row pretty avidly, and one of my mentors was (and is currently) on the US national team, and actually competed in the Bejing Games. What he – and of course many of the coaches and speculators were really worried about was the smog. (TL;DR – coaches, athletes, and the I.O.C. weigh the pros and cons of wearing masks for the Olympics) So, needless to say, I was unsurprised when Jared Diamond started talking about China’s air pollution in Collapse. When I realized how MUCH air pollution China is bringing to the party, however, THAT’S when i got surprised. Not only does China have all of its impossibly cheap manufacturing plants clogging up the air, but it has to contend with crazy dust storms from the insanely fast desertification that is rampant over there, as well as a massive dependence on coal, and what is possibly the world’s largest population – who all want cars. Together, that makes Chinese air significantly more polluted than is safe for humans….. except they still have ridiculous overpopulation. whoops.
So, in a rather obnoxious manner, I deliver the following manifesto:
Earth to China – please get your rear in gear. Its my air too. kthxbai.


7 Responses to “Up in the Air”

  1. 1 isikora

    Good comments on air pollution in China, what worries me is that their economy explosion is not just driven by the material desires of ever growing population but the political aspirations to outproduce and out compete the rest of the world, and eventually to control global trade and influence international politics. Their so called “power grab” is most noticeable in relations with their poorer neighbor countries. China through heavy investments in poor countries like Cambodia is already quietly running their governments while exploiting their natural resources.

  2. 2 twong

    Well, now that’s now entirely fair.

    Diamond’s chapter on China was just as concerning to me, but I think you’ve overlooked the ways in which our American lifestyle actually supports the negative aspects of repression and growth in China that you do mention in your post.

    Just imagine what a year without “made in China” would entail in the states…definitely a difficult task considering most of our US toys, televisions, cell-phones, tools, lamps, sneakers, clothes, and even food products are imported from China.

    In addition, I recently read a Wall Street Journal article that showed by demanding lower prices on products, US firms are forcing Chinese manufacturers to reduce environmental safeguards in order to continue to compete internationally. Jane Spencer of the Wall Street Journal provides an example, saying that prices on fabrics and clothing imported from China to the US have fallen 25% since 1995.

    I’m all for education. I’m all for working together. I’m not all for placing blame.

    There’s so much more to all this than we’re willing to admit.

  3. 3 cfausel

    Zach, I laughed so hard at this post!!! But the humor aside, this was a really great point to bring up. I was a competitive swimmer in high school, and the 2008 Olympics were a HUGE deal for me with Michael Phelps and all, especially when it came down to the air pollution there and wondering if some of the athletes were going to compete at all because of the horrible smog. It seems to me that maybe the time is right for international air pollution policy to be written (and be enforced). Like we saw with the pesticides from the Aral Sea area ending up in the South Pole, air does not stay within country boarders. Pollution in China will definitely affect us here in the US. I agree, they need to get their rear in gear.

  4. 4 econklin

    The amount of air pollution China is producing is truly staggering. The country certainly has things to work on, including its vast scale of environmental degradation and its less-than-perfect human rights record. However, I think you could have been a little more sensitive in how you discussed the population problem. While China certainly contains a staggering number of people, here’s something you may not know: China’s population is actually shrinking. China’s total fertility rate (TFR) is actually less than 2. This means that the current population is reproducing enough to maintain itself. This is mainly due to the ‘One Child’ policy of past decades. China is a country to watch in the future, and contributes greatly to many global environmental problems.

  5. 5 szjohnson92

    you guys are totally right. That last comment is kind of out of line – i should have kept the focus on the debilitating issues that china is facing, yet i started pointing the finger. Twong is absolutely correct in saying that change will require joint action, no matter who you are.

  6. 6 eburnham

    Zach, aside from making me laugh several times while reading your post i think that you hit on some important issue. Over-population is the #1 enviro problem, so I was happy to see that you commented on this. You also discussed air pollution and how China creates SO MUCH of it. but havve you stopped and asked yourself why? We are the reason Zach, you and me and our enviro class and America and other industrialized countries. Pretty much any one that has the ability to use money. So before you blame our chinese bretheren too much lets all remember that WE ARE THE PROBLEM. The flip to this is that we are also the solution if we want it bad enough.

  7. 7 Dr. Szulczewski

    First of all, that photo is crazy! Second, I appreciate that you let it all hang out, because look at what dynamic responses you got. I learned some new facts myself. My first reaction was like Tori’s, that they are making all that stuff for US! So maybe we need to take a look at what we’re consuming and think, hey, there’s a lot of them, and they need jobs but they are all people, too and need to breathe.

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