China Fouls Environment; Tolerates Environmentalists

Fasincating story by Cynthia Larson in The Washington Monthly on China called The Green Leap Forward.

Topics for further research: the story came out of a lengthy reporting trip, and has too much content to be reduced to a single point or two, but it has many shocking facts.

For one, it claims that on a bad day, one-quarter of the smog in L.A. "originates in China."


It introduces us to an English translation of a jaw-droppingly great Chinese site called China Water Pollution Map, launched by a Chinese activist named Ma Jun, one of the world’s most influential enviros, which charts rivers and streams on the Internet and catalogues the pollution they absorb.

This may not surprise you, but most of the news from China is not good:

Already the costs of environmental cleanup, property damage, and lost
productivity are staggering. China’s State Council, the nation’s
highest administrative body, reported that pollution cost the country
more than $200 billion in 2005, almost 10 percent of the country’s GDP.
Industry releases 2,000 tons of airborne mercury each year, which
settles into the soil, contaminating 12 million tons of grain each year
and threatening food safety, including China’s $31 billion agricultural
export market. (Time reported that only 6 percent of Chinese agricultural products imported to the United States are free from pollution.)

Adopting the adage of the time—“Pollute now, clean up later”—Lanzhou
became northwest China’s primary hub for oil refineries and
petrochemical plants. Today, the city stretches long and narrow between
the Gaolan and White Pagoda mountains, but on many days thick smog
masks their peaks. Just by breathing the city air, Lanzhou’s
3 million residents inhale the equivalent of a pack of cigarettes a
day. Ten percent of the Yellow River near Lanzhou is now sewage, and
last year three industrial spills turned its waters an ominous red.

The World Bank predicts that in the next fifteen years, China’s
shortage of clean water will create 30 million “environmental refugees.”

Here’s a great public picture from a Flickr photographer named +graemetric. He lives in the mostly new city of Dailan, a city of a mere three million or so, largely built around computer work. He has some interesting thoughts about "slavers" and the future.

He says that in China, "all apocalypses are forbidden in the run up to Beijing 2008."


Published by Kit Stolz

I'm a freelance reporter and writer based in Ventura County.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: