Sunday, September 11, 2011

China exports its environmental problems as consumer culture booms

China is attempting to pursue the same impossible path as the rest of the world: generating consumer demand and wealth without destroying its natural resources and the planet.

Despite its well publicised investment in green technology, China today has an unenviable list of ecological problems; its reliance on coal has left it with 16 of the 20 most polluted cities in the world; the north of the country is prone to frequent water shortages which have created hundreds of thousands of ‘environmental refugees’; and the dumping of chemicals into the Yangtze and other rivers means half the Chinese population drink water contaminated with human and animal excrement.

In a new book, ‘As China Goes, So Goes the World', Oxford professor Karl Gerth, claims that many of these problems have been directly caused by China’s move towards a more consumerist society. In just twenty years, writes Gerth, China has gone from being almost exclusively an exporter of consumer goods, to being ‘the world’s largest consumers of everything from mobile phones to beer.’ more