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China Contraction Continues, Debris Falls on U.S. – Tom Lewis

The Great Wall of China proves ineffective against pollution. Maybe if they made it bigger. (Photo by ToGa Wanderings/Flickr)

As signs of China’s impending collapse from industrial poisoning continue to proliferate (about which, more in a minute), some of them are proliferating in California. Air pollution, largely from China’s unrestrained use of coal, has become legendary in the country — virtually shutting down Shanghai in December and Beijing last week, and touching off armed uprisings by desperate people in various locations across the country. Now, a new study says that China’s industrial air pollution accounts for a significant portion of California’s smog.

Published Monday, the study says that on any given day along the US West Coast, between 12% and 24% of the sulphates in the air had crossed the Pacific Ocean from China. This development contains more than a whiff of poetic justice, in that around one third of China’s air pollution comes from manufacturing stuff for export.

Therefore, buying cheap items from WalMart is now polluting the US West Coast.

Just deserts or not, the news illustrates some of the basic tenets of The Daily Impact and my book Brace for Impact:

  1. Industry’s relentless search for economies of scale has a dark twin: concentration of risk.
  2. While economy of scale pays its benefits immediately the risks are much longer term, are much, much larger, and are always paid for by people who did not receive the benefits.
  3. It makes no more sense to believe one is benefiting from cheap crap while avoiding the penalties of cheap-crap pollution, than it does to feel smug because it’s the other end of the boat that is sinking.

    It is not apparent that the news of China’s contribution to America’s pollution has stimulated any epiphanies among America’s rich and beautiful about where we are headed. Nor has the other news out of China in the past few weeks seemed to have energized that country’s leaders to do anything more than send out for more public- relations bandaids to put on the cancerous tumours.

  4. In the worst year in history for air pollution in China, with its cities strangling and rural area in revolt, the Chinese government approved 100 billion tonnes of new coal production in just the first three quarters of 2013. That is six times the expansion of coal production approved in all of 2012.
  5. Coal-burning electric plants are major consumers of water, and half of those to be built soon are in areas already suffering from acute water shortages. The industrialization and urbanization made possible by the

    electricity has destroyed (since 2003) an area of wetlands — essential to potable water supplies — larger than New Mexico and all but four of the United States.

  6. A survey of Chinese oil and gas 7plants after a pipeline explosion killed 62 people last year identified a few similar risks of disaster – 20,000 in all. The Chinese government, which asked for the report, is studying it before making it public. Which do you suppose will come first, the next disaster, or the release of the information. (Before placing your bet, study the West Virginia water crisis.)

China has pulled far ahead of the United States in demonstrating how unfettered industrialism can destroy the natural systems that make possible human life. Undoubtedly, their time of reckoning is fast approaching. But it is not just their end of the boat, WalMart shoppers, that is sinking.

Source: The Daily Impact, 22 January 2014

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