Wednesday, March 16, 2005

"China's Economic Miracle Will End Soon"

You know, I read a series of articles about government control of public discourse in China, and I think, maybe things haven't changed that much since 1979, when the closest thing there was to public dissent was Democracy Wall, and we know how that turned out.

Then I read something like this stunning interview with China's Deputy Minister of the Environment, Pan Yue, which I found via Dan Washburn's Shanghai Diaries (thanks to JR for bringing this site to my attention). Pan Yue bluntly states that China's current model for growth is not sustainable because of the environmental destruction it has wreaked. According to Pan:
This miracle will end soon because the environment can no longer keep pace. Acid rain is falling on one third of the Chinese territory, half of the water in our seven largest rivers is completely useless, while one fourth of our citizens does not have access to clean drinking water. One third of the urban population is breathing polluted air, and less than 20 percent of the trash in cities is treated and processed in an environmentally sustainable manner. Finally, five of the ten most polluted cities worldwide are in China.

... Because air and water are polluted, we are losing between 8 and 15 percent of our gross domestic product. And that doesn't include the costs for health. Then there's the human suffering: In Bejing alone, 70 to 80 percent of all deadly cancer cases are related to the environment. Lung cancer has emerged as the No. 1 cause of death.

Pan goes on to advocate a "green domestic product" and blast "influential officials, companies and local governments" who trash the environnment to line their own pockets.

All I can say is, wow...is there a Pan Yue fan club? Can I start one?

4 comments:

JR said...

One optimistic note from my observation, the first time I went to China was in the early 80s. It was winter, everyone was using "coal biscuit" to keep warm and cook with, The whole city was so black and gray and smelly, it was surreal. There were also a lot of sand and dust in the air, at the end of the day, I remember my nostrils and face were all black from the air pollution. I went back to China in the late 90s, One thing I noticed right away was the air, it improved quite a bit, at least 50% improvement. It was still very dusty and polluted but not as black and "poisonous" as in the early 80s.

Other Lisa said...

I showed some recent photos to a Chinese friend of mine who has lived in LA since the mid-80s. These were of Beijing in winter. She said, incredulously, "the sky is blue!" So some things have improved, certainly. Unfortunately like many problems it seems that a lot of environmental problems have been pushed out into the countryside...

JR said...

Lisa,
what do you think of the drilling of arctic oil in the Alaskan natural refuge? I was opposed to it, but the gas prices have risen so high now. I wonder if the drilling will help reduce the oil prices in the future, probably not.

Other Lisa said...

JR, I think it's a terrible idea. Best estimates are, there's a 6 month supply of oil at most under that tundra, and it will be years before we'd actually see any of it. This will have very little impact on oil prices and supplies. It would be easier to adopt some reasonable conservation standards (which of course BushCo is fighting tooth and nail against), better incentives for fuel efficient cars, some real penalties for gas guzzlers - you know, a little actual sacrifice. I think drilling in ANWR is a crime against nature. I really do.