33 Years of Pollution
The National Geographic Picture of the Day is a great website for photos. It showcases their collection was taken on the Li river in China, near Guilin, in 1974. I took similar photos from there, 33 years afterward. In the National Geographic shot from 1974, the area looks clean and beautiful. My picture looks bleak and ghostly. This blanket of smog covers the entire country, it seems. It is thicker in places than it is here, but is only very rarely clearer.
The slight bit of greying of the distant mountains in the older shot is probably the grandfather of the pollution that I encountered in my shot. You can see how gorgeous the Chinese countryside was at one time and how it has been bathed in the consequences of the country’s rampantly irresponsible industrialization practices. If this is what they are willing to do to themselves, what do you think they export?
In recent weeks, some of China’s biggest problems have been given a lot of publicity. Corruption, quality control problems, toxic chemicals, rancid ingredients…these things are all commonplace in China. Part of it is a Chinese problem, but much of it stems from the global companies who insist on buying and selling things for the cheapest price possible. They turn a blind eye to the consequences of outsourcing production to China in favor of profits.
For a couple of years now, people have been talking about how China is going to own the world. I believed it might happen as well, until I actually saw the world react to the things that have been apparent for years. China is developing their infrastructure at an insane rate, thanks to cutting corners on safety and human rights. I think if anything will check this growth and put China in its place, it will be the public focus in the Western world on these issues. China considers these issues to be internal and believes that the world should not focus on them. However, when globalization causes these problems to affect the rest of the world, we should expose them.
To avoid going off on a rant that would consume several hours, but if you’re interested in finding out more about this kind of thing, do some Googling. Check out China’s newfound love for African nations who share their “anything for a Yuan, people be damned” attitude. See if you can find some reports about poor people being used as organ farms for the rich. Check out any information about what happened in Tibet during the cultural revolution and how that attitude has been turned from the culture to the people and the land — namely breeding out ethnic Tibetans and raping the resources.
update: Check out the Consumerist’s coverage of the Senate commerce committee hearings about the quality controls on Chinese imports.