Well, I sure am shocked.

June 3, 2007 at 11:28 pm (Cars & Trucks, Die Rat Bastard, Politics, Rent Me, The Economy, The Environment)

Smokestacks in ChinaYou could knock me over with a feather off the butt of a Peking (Beijing?) duck. Turns out the Chinese intend to put economic development ahead of controlling their emissions of greenhouse gases. Can’t say as I’m a bit surprised. The G8 nations did exactly the same thing during the first 100 years of the Industrial Revolution. We didn’t begin to take note of the stinking air and dying lakes until the 1960’s. And now, just because we are aware of the damage that is being caused, we want the developing nations like China and India to make (apparent) sacrifices that we never did. To quote the BBC News article:

“In explaining the plan, the chairman of China’s National Development and Reform Commission, Ma Kai, said rich counties who have already industrialized would instead have to do more to tackle climate change.

“Mr Ma said they (emphasis added) were responsible for most of the greenhouse gases produced over the past century and had the money to tackle the problem.

“Mandatory emission caps ‘would hinder the development of developing countries and hamper their industrialization’, he added.”

Dammit, he’s got us red-handed. This is mostly our problem. (You hear that, Dubya?) The Chinese are going to feel like they are being punished for trying to create their own version of the American Dream. No matter that they are crapping in their own backyards to do it. They want the consumer society, no matter the cost to their air, water, land, and children.

Look into it, dear reader. The cost of oil, steel, concrete, and other raw materials has gone up since China (and the rest of Asia) entered the industrial economy. There’s only so much oil and steel to go around, and if more people are bidding for the same commodity, the price goes up. Econ 101.

So. The genie is out of the bottle, and the toothpaste is out of the tube and running down our collective wrist. What’s there to do about it? For one, we can stop competing for scarce resources, and use something else. Something local, like wind, geothermal, natural gas, solar… does this make any sense? Maybe stop shipping all our scrap to China, and recycle it here – cleanly?

Windmill SunriseI suppose I also ought to explain my parenthetical “apparent” above, when speaking about sacrifices. There is some recent data to indicate that being “green” is actually good for business, and may be more profitable, short and long term, than being a polluter.

We in the west have got a lot of work to do. We need to put our own economies back in shape, and not trash the air & water all over again in the process. Plus, we need to finish cleaning up the mess we’ve made, and show some leadership to the developing world. We as Americans must demand that our leaders actually lead in this direction, or get the hell out of the way.

UPDATE: January 26th, 2008

Here is the first of four videos from the UK’s Channel 5, entitled “Big Ideas That Changed The World – Consumerism“. It’s a wonderful and sobering look at the changes human need & greed have wrought upon the world.

Part two:

Part three:

And finally, part four:

Click here to see all the videos posted by this YouTube user. There are some excellent BBC documentaries here.

UPDATE: April 9th, 2008

I couldn’t resist this. The Urban Dictionary has selected “consumerican” as their Urban Word of the Day today. (Be advised – much of the content on UrbanDictionary.com is NOT safe for work.) “Consumerican” is defined as:

An individual suffering from the particularly American brand of consumerism.

You’d have to be a real consumerican to always think you need the newest, most expensive computer every two years.

I couldn’t agree more. Yes, it takes some time, effort, and a bit of knowledge to deal with today’s tools and technology, but it’s worth the effort to keep perfectly serviceable appliances, computers, and other manufactured goods out of the landfills. We throw away so much that is still usable. And yes, that’s been said before, by people more intelligent and notable than I.

But that’s because it’s true.

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2 Comments

  1. lordhelpus said,

    A brilliant article on this subject on the BBC News web site today. To quote the top climate change official at the UK Foreign Office, John Ashton:
    “All we’ve done is export a great slice of the West’s carbon footprint to China, and today we see the result.
    “Let us not forget that the average Chinese emits just 3.5 tonnes of CO2 per year, whereas Britons emit nearly 10 tonnes and Americans 20 tonnes.
    “The West moved its manufacturing base to China knowing it was vastly more polluting than Japan, Europe or the US.
    “No environmental conditions were attached to this move, in fact the only thing manufacturers were interested in was the price of labour.”

    Yes, the carbon ball is still in the Western court.

  2. China Is World’s #2 In Billionaires « We All In Trouble… | Dlock’s Pop Culture Reflux said,

    […] urbanization, dramatic growth, massive amounts of construction, a growing middle class, a rise in consumerism as a lifestyle, and all the pollution that goes with it.  China also seems to be going through all […]

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