It came as no surprise when I read that China’s environmental problems are some of the worst in the world for any major country; however, I was slightly surprised to learn how far reaching the effects of some of these problems could be.  Air pollution is one of China’s greatest problems, largely stemming from their reliance on coal as an energy source and their rapidly increasing number of motor vehicles.  In his book, Collapse, Jared Diamond writes that China’s pollutant levels are currently several times higher than they should be to be considered safe to live under.  In fact, China is home to 16 of the 20 most polluted cities in the world.

In addition to pollution, China’s air quality is diminished by its increasing frequency of dust storms.  Plan B 3.0 describes China’s ongoing battle with desertification and the resulting dust storms.  These dust storms not only affect areas in China, but have also been known to affect the United States and South Korea.  For instance, in April 2001 a major dust storm from China crossed the Pacific leaving the western United States covered in dust.  Currently there is an average of 10 major dust storms a year; however, as deserts continue to expand across the country this number will continue to increase.  These dust storms not only interrupt everyday activities, but also pose serious health risks to those breathing the contaminated air.

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Will it get better?  Perhaps, but according to the CBS news clip above, “China is using America’s inaction on the environment as an excuse to not change their ways.”  As Kenneth Lieberthal of the University of Michigan said, “[The Chinese] say as long as the US doesn’t move forward, how can you expect a poor country like China to move forward?”  If China’s pollution levels don’t improve; however, it can be assured that other countries will also suffer.


6 Responses to “China”

  1. You really make it seem so easy with your presentation but I find this matter to be actually something that I think I would never understand.It seems too complicated and extremely broad for me.I’m looking forward for your next post, I’ll try to get the hang of it!

  2. Dr. Szulczewski says:

    Thanks for diving into some details on China. These thoughts will be great to share in class when we discuss desertification.

  3. scorron says:

    I personally think US and China need to get out of this child like mindset of “I won’t do it if he won’t do it.” The US is culpable for putting up the same attitude in reference to the treaties involving global warming and climate change. We are two of the largest polluting countries in the world, and if we do not change this attitude we cannot expect to see a change.

  4. Kristen Callahan says:

    I think China’s logic of “well if the U.S. isn’t doing it then why should we” is a pretty lame excuse (and also incorrect). Last semester in environmental science 110 I learned that the U.S. passed many laws concerning pollution, especially air pollution and water pollution. In addition, I thought the picture you posted of the Chinese citizens with the masks over their mouths was very eye-opening. I feel really terrible that they have to walk around like that, considering all the illnesses that will cause in the future. I think the picture is another example that the U.S. has taken much larger steps than China has–I’ve never had to wear a mask over my mouth to walk around outside!

  5. kbrown says:

    I agree it definitely is important for us not to get caught in the “out of sight, out of mind” mindset. What’s going on in the world around us is almost as important to us as what’s going on with our own environment.

  6. sarahdawes says:

    Thanks for sharing your information Kelly. It was nice to read your thoughts on the topic, especially since we haven’t been able to discuss China and it’s pollution problems in class. I was unaware of the dust storms you were talking about, particularly how they could cross the entire Pacific Ocean and end up in the United States. It just further demonstrates how the world is really interconnected – ignoring an issue because it’s overseas (out of sight, out of mind) will come back to bite you in the end.