By Lin Smith
Checking China’s Pollution Index
March 3, 2014–By now we’ve all seen the pictures coming from China, the air so thick with pollution that people can’t see very far, wearing masks to save their lungs. In Beijing, people check a smart phone app in the morning to see the pollution index for the day, monitoring their activities accordingly. China’s on top when it comes to sending CO2 into our atmosphere. According to globalpost.com, China overtook the U.S. as the biggest polluter in 2006 and has remained the leader in CO2 emissions ever since. Having an abundant amount of coal, China burns nearly 50% of the coal on our planet and is the world’s top producer and consumer. China also surpasses other countries in the number of cars on its roads.
China’s Industrial Revolution
The U.S., England and Europe experienced their industrial revolutions in the 18th and 19th centuries. In the past 30 years, China has experienced their industrial revolution, growing the industrial sector approximately 8% per year during the 1970’s, as its population grew rapidly. Prior to this time, most of the population was employed in agriculture. In the late 1960’s, there was an increase in investment in China and according to Wikipedia,”included the signing of contracts with foreign firms for the construction of major facilities for chemical fertilizer production, steel, and oil extraction and refining.” And the industrial revolution hasn’t stopped since, leading to air that draws great concern from the Chinese population and environmentalists from around the world.
Growing concern is on the rise by Chinese citizens over the air they breath. Since 2012, several hundred thousand have left their country, many with major concern over water and air pollution. Even though Beijing, the Capital of the People’s Republic of China, has issued orders to close schools, shut down factories and restrict cars on the roads when the pollution index is high, local governments don’t always follow Beijing’s orders. The local governments collect substantial taxes from the polluting industries, making it counterproductive to follow Beijing’s orders.
Suing the Chinese Environmental Protection Bureau
Li Guixin, in a first ever case, is suing his local Environmental Protection Bureau stating they are not performing their duty in controlling air pollution. Li says, “Besides the threat to health, we’ve also suffered economic losses and these losses should be compensated for by the government because the government is the recipient of the corporate taxes.” Li wants to “Show every citizen that we are the real victims of the polluted air which hurts our health and can hurt us economically.” The government is now deciding whether to hear his case.
Money vs. Clean Air
Is there a plan to clean up the air, or have investments and the progression of China’s Industrial Revolution become the number one concern? China’s scientists, after doing tests, have said China’s air is so toxic it is slowing photosynthesis in plants and starting to affect China’s food supply and area farmers. The National People’s Congress will meet on March 2014. Many proposals concerning the environment have been issued for discussion. The question is, will China listen to its people and enforce stronger measures of control? Or will industry and the taxes they pay to local governments speak louder?