China’s Pollution Problem Goes Global – Jacques Leslie

The cover story of Mother Jones surveys the major environmental problems plaguing China. Anyone who has followed this issue won’t find much new (see CDT’s work on China’s Environmental Crisis). But the story has an engaging narrative thread, in which writer Jacques Leslie searches for signs of all of the above with a guide named Zhang:

At last Mr. Zhang arrived at what looked like an aspiring commercial development, a few yurtish structures atop a partially paved but otherwise featureless expanse. Mr. Zhang quickly determined that his friend had moved away, but the man he asked proved just as valuable. He was a local grassland-management official, a Communist Party member, who happened to know of recently desertified land only a three-hour drive away. What’s more, after futilely trying to give Mr. Zhang directions to the area, he agreed to drive us there himself.

Mr. Zhang looked relieved. “I always have good luck!” he exclaimed as he ushered the official behind the Great Wall’s wheel and stationed himself in the passenger seat. The official was decked out in rumpled black pants slung low beneath his belly, a broadly striped, red and brown T-shirt that evoked a beach vacation, and a white baseball cap graced with a Nike swoosh, worn significantly askew. He proceeded to inhale the first of an unending chain of cigarettes — not surprising in a country that produces 2 trillion cigarettes a year for its 360 million smokers.

He spoke with candor, something rare in relations between Chinese authorities and American journalists. All he asked in return was that I not use his name, a request I am honoring by calling him Mr. Li. True to China’s entrepreneurial spirit, Mr. Zhang soon proposed a joint business venture, and Mr. Li looked interested. [Full text}

The cover of this issue asks: “Can the world survive China’s headlong rush to emulate the American way of life?”

A more fundamental question, said an energy analyst at a recent conference on China’s environment, is: Can the world survive the American way of life?

[Image via Mother Jones]

December 25, 2007, 12:15 PM
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