Ah, China!

Discussion in 'Politics, Religion, Social Issues' started by Desertrat, Dec 24, 2007.

  1. Desertrat macrumors newbie

    Jul 4, 2003
    Terlingua, Texas
    Per "Mother Jones":

    "Per-capita income in China is less than 1/10 of America's and its per- capita greenhouse gas emission is less than 1/5 of ours. But if 1.3 billion Chinese were to consume at the level Americans do, we'd need several more Earths. China's effect on world resources, quantified:

    China is:

    The world's largest consumer of coal, grain, fertilizer, cell phones, refrigerators, and televisions
    The leading importer of iron ore, steel, copper, tin, zinc, aluminum, and nickel
    The top producer of coal, steel, cement, and 10 kinds of metal
    The No. 1 importer of illegally logged wood
    The third-largest producer of cars after Japan and the United States; by 2015, it could be the world's largest car producer. By 2020, there could be 130 million cars on its roads, compared to 33 million now.

    More Facts:

    China produces half of the world's cameras, 1/3 of its television sets, and 1/3 of all the planet's garbage.
    There are towns in China that make 60% of the world's button supply, 1/2 of all silk neckties, and 1/2 of all fireworks.
    China uses half of the world's steel and concrete and will probably construct half of the world's new buildings over the next decade.
    Some Chinese factories can fit as many as 200,000 workers.

    China used 2.5 billion tons of coal in 2006, more than the next three highest-consuming nations-Russia, India, and the United States- combined.
    It has more than 2,000 coal-fired power plants and puts a new one into operation every 4 to 7 days.
    Between 2003 and 2006, worldwide coal consumption increased as much as it did in the 23 years before that. China was responsible for 90% of the increase.

    China became the world's top carbon dioxide emitter in 2006, overtaking the United States.

    Russia is China's largest timber supplier; half of all logging there is illegal. In Indonesia, another timber supplier to China, up to 80% of all logging takes place illegally.
    90% of all wood products made in China are consumed in the country, including 45 billion pairs of wooden chopsticks each year.
    The value of China's timber-product exports exceeds $17 billion. About 40 percent go to the United States.
    More than 3/4 of China's forests have disappeared; 1/4 of the country's land mass is now desert.
    Until recently, China was losing a Rhode Island-sized parcel of land to desertification each year.
    80% of the Himalayan glaciers that feed Chinese rivers could melt by 2035.

    In 2005, China's sulfur-dioxide emissions were nearly twice those of the United States.
    Acid rain caused by air pollution now affects 1/3 of China's land.
    Each year, at least 400,000 Chinese die prematurely of air-pollution- linked respiratory illnesses or diseases.

    A quarter of a million people die because of motor-vehicle traffic each year-6 times as many as in the United States, even though Americans have 18 times as many cars.

    Of the world's 20 most polluted cities, 16 are in China.
    Half of China's population-600 to 700 million people-drinks water contaminated with human and animal waste. A billion tons of untreated sewage is dumped into the Yangtze each year.
    4/5 of China's rivers are too polluted to support fish.
    The Mi Yun reservoir, Beijing's last remaining reliable source of drinking water, has dropped more than 50 feet since 1993.
    Overuse of groundwater has caused land subsidence that cost Shanghai alone $12.9 billion in economic losses.
    Dust storms used to occur once a year. Now, they happen at least 20 times a year.
    Chinese dust storms can cause haziness and boost particulate matter in the United States, all the way over to Maine.
    In 2001, a huge Chinese storm dumped 50,000 metric tons of dust on the United States. That's 2.5 times as much as what U.S. sources produce in a typical day.

    Currently, up to 36 percent of man-made mercury emissions settling on America originated in Asia.
    Particulate matter from Asia accounts for nearly half of California's annual pollution limit.
    Environmental damage reportedly costs China 10 percent of its GDP. Pollution-related death and disability heath care costs alone are estimated at up to 4 percent of GDP.
    In 2005, there were 50,000 pollution-related disputes and protests in China.
    China's middle class is expected to jump from 100 million people today to 700 million people by 2020."

    These statistics are drawn from "The Last Empire: Can the world survive China's rush to emulate the American way of life?" in the current issue of Mother Jones.

    Just thought y'all would like to know.

  2. miloblithe macrumors 68020


    Nov 14, 2003
    Washington, DC
    Agreed, Chinese pollution is a huge and rapidly growing problem. It's going to take political leadership from the US and China to tackle global environmental and resource problems.
  3. Thomas Veil macrumors 68020

    Thomas Veil

    Feb 14, 2004
    OBJECTIVE reality
    You're not giving me an encouraging view of the future.

    Pass the soylent green, please. :(
  4. Blue Velvet Moderator emeritus

    Jul 4, 2004
    We're as much responsible for this... by fuelling a demand for cheap goods based on credit, Western economies have turned China into one large factory to sustain our insatiable demand for plastic junk, binding China into the global economy, hoping that the tiger will be tamed.
  5. mpw Guest

    Jun 18, 2004
    I'd love to see a concerted effort to buy from countries other than China, but it isn't going to happen.

    People will talk about the ecology and global warming etc., but then they'll go and spend a fortune on plastic crap that nobody wants or needs at Christmas and its all made in China.

    I remember saying 15years ago China's economic transformation was going to be probably the single most significant world event during my life.

    I'd like to see laws in place that meant we couldn't import from China unless their employees condition were comparable to our own. I know somebody who has watched his industry destroyed in Europe because they can't compete with the Chinese. They can compete on quality, and even the wages they have to pay wouldn't break them, but where their Chinese competitors have won is in working conditions.

    In the UK he's required, and rightly so, to spend a fortune to ensure his factory is safe and that the risk to his staff is minimal. He now buys some products direct from China and on a recent tour of the Chinese factory he asked about how they handle the risk. Quite simply it's one of those huge factories where they accept that they're going to have at least two deaths a month due to the unsafe conditions.

    He has to accept this and still buy from them or shut up his business. What he'd like to see is the banning of imported goods that are only cheaper from China because they don't have to meet the social safety standards that he's happy to meet in the UK.


    Also 'Rat while I'm not going to bother checking all these stats and facts, I'm pretty sure they're not particularly even-handed in their representation. Some are per-capita some aren't. I'd guess that the author decided to show China in a bad light before choosing which stats to 'make up'.
  6. Desertrat thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jul 4, 2003
    Terlingua, Texas
    While the least-favorable stats were selected, they're still quite possibly correct as to fact.

    Sure, the Chinese universities graduate more engineers than our universities have students, etc. And China's growing middle class has become the largest customer base for Gucci, Rolex and Mercedes. They're using their $1.2 trillion surplus for international investment...

    I guess part of my problem is that I worry about a serious economic hickey for the U.S. if we meet the Kyoto requirements in any short-term manner. We're in enough trouble, already. And even if we achieve some level of purity, China's "progress" will negate all our efforts.

    They, then, wind up richer, and we wind up poorer. Bummer.

    In many ways, our "consumeritis" is our self-created enemy. That's from both an environmental-impact standpoint and an economic standpoint. Gas hog cars, McMansions, toys, trinkets, iPods, a cell-phone on every belt, etc...

  7. mpw Guest

    Jun 18, 2004
    Well that's reassuring then.

    I've got no problem with China getting richer and the US, or the 'West in general, getting poorer. As long as the playing field is level.
  8. Desertrat thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jul 4, 2003
    Terlingua, Texas
    "I've got no problem with China getting richer and the US, or the 'West in general, getting poorer. As long as the playing field is level."

    I'm not sure what a level playing field is, on any worldwide basis. But the last thing I want is for any country or any person getting poorer. You sure don't help those on the bottom of any economic pyramid by dragging down those on top--and recent history is chock-full of examples.

    But as a westerner, I'm damned sure against getting poorer...

  9. themadchemist macrumors 68030


    Jan 31, 2003
    Chi Town
    There is a certain politics to the consumption you describe, as well. By becoming the largest consumer of Nigerian oil, China is becoming a hugely influential force in West Africa, and really, Africa as a whole. Now, I know that Western, Sub-Saharan Africa is not exactly what one would call "strategic," but Nigeria, in specific, definitely is. The reshaping of spheres of influence are important to observe not just for the decline and ascendency of the powers, but for their effects on their ever-changing friends and allies. Africa is the continent most susceptible to the sway of foreign powers, and the potential for its growth or collapse over the next several decades holds great import for one-sixth of the world. It is a battleground of ideas, of governments, of the struggle against poverty & disease and for agency. China's increasingly prominent position in this realm is something to watch.
  10. EricNau Moderator emeritus


    Apr 27, 2005
    San Francisco, CA
    Come now, not all products manufactured in China are trash. ;)
  11. Desertrat thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jul 4, 2003
    Terlingua, Texas
    Hey, look what they do with OUR garbage:


    "The Chinese town of Guiyu is the graveyard of Christmas past.

    It is where presents - game consoles, laptops, mobile phones - come to die.

    It is also where they are reborn. In this giant scrap-yard, so dangerously polluted that its children are being clinically poisoned, the electronic objects of desire, a million tons of them a year, are broken apart, melted down, and washed in acid to be recycled into a new flood of imports for Christmas future.

    Now the British Environmental Agency says that despite a ban on exports of electronic waste to China, unscrupulous middle men are using a loophole in the law intended to encourage recycling to dump more goods in places like Guiyu, where labour costs are low and environmental controls weak.

    "Operators are visited by what we would call waste tourists," said John Burns, the Environmental Agency enforcement manager.

    "They will buy in bulk and ship it abroad ostensibly as second-hand goods for resale but in fact for breaking up."

    The effects, particularly of breaking up circuit boards, are clear within minutes of arriving in Guiyu, a town five hours' drive north-east of Hong Kong.

    The smell of scorched metal and burned plastic hangs over the town.

    The source is immediately obvious. Inside and outside the shack-like workshops that line the streets, men and women sit burning circuit boards over coal fires. Wang Qing, a 39-year-old mother of two, sits for 10 or 12 hours a day, 30 days a month, over the flame, melting the solder that sticks the electronic components to the circuit boards.

    With a knife, she scrapes them into baskets on one side and dumps the singed boards on the other. A thick cloud of toxic smoke envelopes her face.

    "I get head-aches all the time, and suffer a lot of colds," she said. She said she didn't like to wear face-masks and her boss did not insist.

    Her wages drew her a thousand miles from her home in central China. She earns about £100 a month, a decent salary in China. In other workshops, many family-run, children help out during their lunch breaks and holidays.

    In the streets, piles of scrap mount up, while effluent fills the black streams that criss-cross the town and in which residents still rely for daily tasks such as washing. Much of this comes from the acid baths in which components are washed either to remove surplus metal, or to break them down further.

    The price of metals found in the components, including gold and copper, has risen hugely in recent years, meaning good profits can be had from extracting them.

    But according to local academics, the families, while making money, are also paying a frightening price. A study at nearby Shantou University found that of 165 children aged between one and six in Guiyu, 135 - 82 per cent - had clinical lead poisoning, which can cause brain damage."
  12. mactastic macrumors 68040


    Apr 24, 2003
    The cap-and-trade idea behind Kyoto should not cause the "trouble" you seem to fear. Sure some goods become more expensive as manufacturers purchase carbon emission rights and pass those costs on to consumers, but other goods become cheaper as their manufacturers sell carbon emission rights to people who can't meet their targets, and pass those savings along to consumers.

    Besides, we could always turn down the temptations of cheap Chinese goods. Right?

    And if you're going to argue that we're already "in trouble" with no Kyoto, there is obviously an underlying problem having nothing to do with Kyoto that should probably be resolved before we decide Kyoto will cause our economy to collapse.

    Besides, aren't you in favor of destroying the economy by returning to the gold standard rather than this "fiat money" system we currently employ? If so, any ramifications from Kyoto should concern you far far less.
  13. Desertrat thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jul 4, 2003
    Terlingua, Texas
    mac, you'll note I've spoken of a rapid return to the '90s level of CO2 output as being troublesome for the economy. Our economy depends on electricity and commuting, both of which are high-output sources. Changing these to a lesser output will take time.

    Gold standard? Not possible. There's not enough gold in the whole world to support that idea. Way too many dollars/pounds/euros/yuan out there. Probably have to be a gold price of $10K an ounce or more, but that's not even really a SWAG. Gold is a commodity, and all I do is follow the trends.

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