China’s “Miracle” Brings Second-Law Payback

by Val Germann

The breakneck speed of China’s economic “development” is continuing to visit Second-Law effects on the Land of the Middle Kingdom. It’s enough to bring a crocodile tear to the eye of this child of the 1950’s, who remembers Tom Lehrer’s song about a California future in which everything is fine, “as long as you don’t drink the water, or breath the air.” China is just about there, now.

Here’s a quote from an article appearing yesterday on THE INDEPENDENT‘s website:

Sometimes the smog enveloping Beijing is dry and tinged with yellow; on other days it’s a misty kind of soup. In the early summer there are the sandstorms which whip up dust bearing poisonous particles.

All three kinds of pollution leave you with sore eyes, feeling a bit chesty, and prone to all kinds of infections, from cold sores to flu.

Yes, indeed, the air and water in China give a whole new meaning to the idea of unhealthy:

The World Bank, which says 16 of the world’s 20 most polluted cities are in China, estimates that 400,000 people here die a year from air pollution-related illnesses.

Of course, that’s not very many funerals when the total population is over ONE BILLION, but it gets some attention here at Star Phoenix Base. To paraphrase the late Illinois Senator Everett Dirkson (my father’s mother went to grade school with him!): “A hundred thousand here, a hundred thousand there, and pretty soon you’re talking about real numbers!” Yes, you are, and in response to all this bad air and water, China seems to have a budding, if late-arriving, environmental movement:

People all over the country have rioted and held demonstrations over pollution damaging their crops in the countryside and affecting children’s health. Smog is a much bigger issue among Chinese people than democracy, internet freedom, censorship or the right to worship. Breathing comes first.

Ordinarily, yes, breathing WOULD come first. But breathing doesn’t generate any foreign exchange, and therein lies the problem.

Read THE INDEPENDENT’s article here.


About Val

I am a long-time teacher of science and astronomy with a strong interest in resource conservation and the environment.
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