The cost of economic growth: water pollution.
In China, (at least) 40% of rivers are seriously polluted : 75 billions tons of sewage and waste water is discharged into them, every year.
Picture via Sina Weibo
Before you move your eyes to the next post on your feed, think about that for a moment — 75 billion tons. Every year.
But what to do??
In a country infamous for its polluted air and water, the protests were only the latest in a series of large, sometimes violent demonstrations that appear to be having some success in pushing China to impose more stringent safeguards on new manufacturing and mining projects.
Low-lying coastal city Shanghai literally means “above the sea.” Yet Chinese officials deny it is most prone to flooding.
The city of 20 million has spent billions of dollars on flood-reinforcement. It’s a low-lying coastal city and is one of the most threatened cities in the world to sea level rise from climate change. Now, a new study shows that the city is more vulnerable than ever. Like clockwork, Chinese officials quickly disavowed the report’s findings, stating that the report did not include new infrastructure investments. While China continues its public denial, they’re spending billions more in infrastructure improvements to help keep the sea at bay.
Everyone has heard or read about China’s big-city air pollution, yet visitors are still shocked the first time they encounter a bad day in Beijing—or Chongqing or Xian or Shenyang or any of the other large cities with chronically grimy skies.
And the problems that are less obvious at a glance are even more threatening. Toxic emissions into lakes, groundwater, and farmland; the drying-up of rivers and silting-up of dams; the rapid exhaustion of water in the northern half of the country that, in the view of many experts, is likely to be China’s next great environmental emergency; the millions of new cars that hit the road each year, spewing carbon dioxide; the billions of tons of coal that go up in smoke (yes, billions—China burns more than 2 billion tons of coal each year, about one-third of the world’s total); the engines on Chinese airliners that must be overhauled or replaced more frequently than elsewhere, an airline engineer told me, because operating in Chinese air corrodes the turbine blades…. living here, I don’t have the heart to keep ticking items off.
James Fallows, from “China’s Silver Lining,” in The Atlantic
Shanghai has been experiencing some of its most serious and long-lasting air pollution in months, as well as weather conditions that have contributed to thick clouds and a haze that has grounded some flights and led to vehicular crashes which killed at least one person and injured dozens.
Disgusting, shocking expose by Agence France-Presse. Hong-Kong. After people complained, tens of thousands of shark fins were brought to the roof tops to dry. The article says they did this to hide the fins from the public because of increased awareness of animal cruelty.
Shark fin traders in Hong Kong have taken to drying freshly sliced fins on rooftops since a public outcry over them drying the fins on public sidewalks forced them to move the trade out of sight.
Activists have raised concerns that the over-harvesting of fins is causing an environmental calamity. Although sales have fallen in recent years Hong Kong remains one of the world’s biggest markets for shark fins, which are used to make soup that is an expensive staple at Chinese banquets. NBC
I can’t stomach watching the process of shark finning (more videos here). Basically, they catch the shark, cut off its fins, and throw the shark back into the ocean - alive and awake. The sharks bleed to death and/or suffocate since they can’t swim.
But saying “gross” or “I’m sad” is not enough. There are a variety of ways you can help stop finning.
Sharks are threatened by climate change. Increased temperatures are affecting their habitat and food supplies around the globe. Changes to their habitat threaten their survival.
Last year, Discovery reported the world’s first hybrid shark and speculated it had adapted to climate change. They speculated that two separate shark species paired as a result of climate change. It was the first time a shark hybrid has been found and scientists speculated they were evolving, e.g., they adapted to increased temperatures.
The Australian black-tip is slightly smaller than its common cousin and can only live in tropical waters, but its hybrid offspring have been found 2,000 kilometers (1,243 miles) down the coast, in cooler seas.
It means the Australian black-tip could be adapting to ensure its survival as sea temperatures change because of global warming.
“If it hybridizes with the common species it can effectively shift its range further south into cooler waters, so the effect of this hybridizing is a range expansion,” Morgan said.
“It’s enabled a species restricted to the tropics to move into temperate waters.” Via Discovery
Adaptation is not fast enough. Habitat and food supplies are quickly being destroyed, not to mention ocean currents are shifting, adding additional pressure on marine life. Most importantly, the incredible increases wealth in China and Asia generally has increased demand for shark fin soup, which is considered a delicacy.
Gordan Ramsay, an A-list celebrity chef, was doused with gasoline and held at gun-point while exposing shark finning on his TV show last year. He tried the soup and deemed it unremarkable and bland, comparing the soup to eating salted potatoes.
He was horrified and sickened at the process (warning: very tough to watch. Several sharks are hacked live). Chef Ramsay subsequently advocated for the finning of these amazing animals to stop. He helped contribute to the passage of a bill banning shark fin soup in the U.S.
There are several ways to stop finning: Pressuring grocery stores and Asian markets, writing congress (it works, I swear), contributing cash and volunteer time to anti-finning campaigns, passing the word around to educate others, and signing petitions.
- And thanks for reading my post. m
The U.S. Embassy in Iceland might be 70 people. Europe’s largest presence is France, with only a 20 person embassy. Why would China need one with 500 people?
The answer? Natural resources. Aluminum, rare earth metals, oil, gas, copper, gold, and possibly diamonds are irresistible wealth opportunities in the Arctic region. Melting ice will give way to new mega-mining operations like never seen before.
Then Mr. Degeorges answered his own question about China’s need — or desire — for such a large embassy in Reykjavik: “It gives you the long-term perspective that you can expect in Iceland.”
Everyone is jostling for space in the melting Arctic these days, it seems, as my colleague Elisabeth Rosenthal recently reported. That includes China, which has no Arctic territory.
Yet as the Arctic ice cap melts, it is revealing riches — principally minerals, including important rare earths, but also water, oil and gas. Greenland potentially has up to 10 percent of the world’s freshwater reserves, Mr. Degeorges said.
Via “On Scale of 0 to 500, Beijing’s Air Quality Tops ‘Crazy Bad’ at 755” — NYTimes.com
I was living in Beijing when the index infamously hit “crazy bad.” Hard to fathom anything much worse than that, let alone a 755 day.