The Fruits of Civilization (65-3) China’s Environment


The negative effects of energy consumption and pollution have restrained the Chinese economy. ~ Chinese economist Yanqing Xia

The overall environmental situation is very grave. ~ Chinese vice minister of environmental protection Li Ganjie in 2011

China’s economy growing like a weed since the 1980s has been attained through intense environmental destruction and pollution of its land, water, and air. China is the greatest generator of greenhouse gases and the world’s most vile polluter.

75% of China’s energy consumption comes from coal. Much of the electrical generation capacity is needed for deficient construction.

Chinese buildings rarely have thermal insulation. They require twice as much energy to heat and cool as those in similar climates in the US and Europe. Almost all new buildings do not meet China’s own codes for energy efficiency.

Deceit is standard business practice in China. In recent years, Chinese consumers have been duped by tainted alcohol, phony flour, horrible honey, poisonous rice, infested vegetables, malevolent meats, cooking oil from the sewer, lethally contaminated baby milk, shoddy condoms, and unsanitary menstruation pads. Though skullduggery is a universal human practice, no culture is as fraught with fraud as that of the Chinese.

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40% of China was once covered with grass, mainly in the drier north. China was 2nd only to Australia in the extent of its grasslands.

Grass does not grow in China like it used to, thanks to overgrazing, mining, and other development. Grass production is down 40% since the 1950s, with weeds replacing the once-healthy grass.

Grass degradation has had dire consequences. China’s grasslands in the Tibetan Plateau are the headwaters for major rivers throughout Asia. River floods and altered water flows have resulted from grassland damage.

The loss of grass has also increased the frequency and severity of dust storms in eastern China. For at least 2 millennia ago until 1950, dust storms used to afflict northwestern China on average once every 31 years. 1950–1990, dust storms howled once every 20 months. Since 1990, dust storms devastate almost every year.

China has long been a forest-poor country. It now has only 1,200 meters2 of forest per person, compared to a world average of 6,500 m2. Forests cover 22% of China’s land, compared to 68% of Japan, 63% of South Korea, 38% of Canada, 34% of the US, 32% of Germany, 31% of France, but only 13% of Britain. The Brits chopped their trees down centuries ago.

The Chinese deforested large tracts of land millennia ago. The pillage of Nature worsened in every way in modern times, most markedly with the acceleration of industrialization from the early 1950s, when the Communists took charge.

Droughts have increased because deforestation has disturbed the natural hydrological cycle. This has been abetted by draining lakes and wetlands, which decrease water surface areas for the evaporation that feeds rainfall.

China’s wetlands have shrunk, and water levels in the remaining wetlands are fluctuating wildly. Their capacity to mitigate flooding and store water have diminished.

60% of the swamps on the Sanjian Plain in northeast China have been converted to farmland. At the present rate of exploitation, the wetlands will be gone altogether by 2025.

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Once home to 10% of the world’s plant and terrestrial vertebrate species, 20–40% of China’s flora and fauna are facing impending extinction, including the celebrated Giant Panda.

The aquatic situation is just as bad, if not worse. The severe degradation of both freshwater and coastal marine areas via pollution and overfishing is putting severe pressures on these environments. Innumerable species are near extinction, including those which used to live in enormous numbers.