Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Are we too hard on China?

There is an interesting ongoing debate in the blogosphere concerning Western attitudes to China's environmental problems, specifically the state of air quality ahead of the Olympic games.

We have done out fair share of "China environment" posts - see the "China" label for dozens of stories. Why? Because one could argue that China's environmental problems are a by-product of globalisation. A percentage of all Chinese industrial pollution is, after all, caused by companies producing goods to sell to developed countries.

The link below gives an interesting perspective on how the Chinese perceive the Western media's apparent obsession with air pollution in Beijing. It is also interesting to note that the Chinese government is using the Chinese media to justify "pollution as usual" in China by blaming the US and the West for causing "past pollution".

Are Pollution Stories Anti-Chinese? Sometimes, yes. [Transpacifica]

When Chinese state media stories argue that developed countries who have already gotten rich at a cost to the environment should be responsible for tightening their belts more than those still developing, it’s hard to argue. But just try to get that sort of thinking through the U.S. Congress, and notice how far the Kyoto Protocol got with that ethic partially enshrined.

A sense of responsibility for past emissions needs to accompany pressures on emerging emitters. Richer countries with cleaner environments should work with poorer countries in the process of development to slow environmental degradation. The air in Beijing is indeed quite striking when you come from the United States—especially for me, from a background in the Colorado Rocky Mountains. But as the same Rhodes Scholar told me when I mentioned that I balked at jogging in Beijing air, “get over it.” Whether or not it’s the only focus of the “Western” press, and even though I don’t believe Fallows intends to be demeaning or contribute to a paternalistic narrative, putting across the message that “holy moly these people have dirty cities” does not create the understanding we’ll need to put together real solutions in the future. And dirty or not, we all keep going through life here.

H/T: Responsible China


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