Fed up with being the favored whipping boy of anti-pollution activists for its massive carbon emissions, China has been fighting back. The country might have a point, as a new report indicates as much as 25 percent of its pollution can be blamed on products made for the U.S. and Europe.
For example, according to The Wall Street Journal, most MP3 players are made in China. The production of each one of those slick little numbers (think of your tiny, shiny ubiquitous iPod) releases 17 pounds of carbon dioxide. As world leaders prepare to meet in Bali next month to shape the next international treaty to fight global warming (the Kyoto Protocol will expire in 2012), it seems imperative that the market forces driving pollution are also considered, not just the location of where they're produced.
Our appetite for cheap luxury and the need for high profits drive us to take advantage of cheap labor overseas, and so we can't look the other way when it comes time to face the environmental consequences that accompany financial gains. A recent Canadian poll indicates that the majority of people there back the notion of financially supporting oil-rich Alberta to help it deal with the consequences of its industry. It probably won't happen, but sharing the burden as well as the benefits of an industry is an interesting notion.
Those who don't feel that they suffer any direct impact from global warming must realize that others do. For example, melting Himalayan glaciers have turned Bangladesh into a flood zone.
The Washington Post reported in September that children there frequently need boats to get to school, and that while they and their families "have contributed little to climate change -- they have neither a car nor electricity -- it is families like theirs that suffer the consequences of the increasingly violent storms and deadly cyclones that scientists have attributed to global warming." In other words, our Escalades and Hummers are in part responsible for the destructions of villages and farms.
Here's hoping The next Kyoto Protocol, whatever it's called, should take those things into account, driving home a point we must never forget: Globally speaking, there is no free lunch. A great deal on goods in the U.S. often means a great deal of exploitation and pollution elsewhere. This isn't about letting China off the hook. It's about copping to our share of responsibility for what we condemn in other countries.
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