Thursday, February 22, 2007

China: The Environmental Challenge

I have just recently read a very interesting article on China's environmental crisis in the Independent titled: China Crisis: threat to the global environment. This article really clearly demonstrates that as a global community our consumption patterns are driving us to oblivion at a nerve-wrecking pace.

In the article the writer Michael McCarthy (Environment Editor) postulates that China's growth cannot continue at its present course for too long. He writes: "If growth continues at 8 per cent a year, Mr Brown said, by 2031 China's population, likely to be 1.45 billion on current UN predictions, will have an income per person equivalent to that of the US today. He said: "China's grain consumption will then be two-thirds of the current grain consumption for the entire world. If it consumes oil at the same rate as the US today, the Chinese will be consuming 99 million barrels a day - and the whole world is currently producing 84 million barrels a day, and will probably not produce much more. If it consumes paper at the same rate we do, it will consume twice as much paper as the world is now producing. There go the world's forests. If the Chinese then have three cars for every four people - as the US does today - they would have a fleet of 1.1 billion cars, compared to the current world fleet of 800 million. They would have to pave over an area equivalent to the area they have planted with rice today, just to drive and park them."

"The bottom line of this analysis is that we're going to have to develop a new economic model [editor's own highlighting in bold]. Instead of a fossil-fuel based, automobile-centred, throw-away economy we will have to have a renewable-energy based, diversified transport system, and comprehensive reuse and recycle economies. "If we want civilisation to survive, we will have to have that. Otherwise civilisation will collapse."

The example of China's future growth more than any other example I have come across shows that in terms of the global environment and consuming earth's resources we are really off course. Now this example is just talking about China's future consumption, there are other huge nations such as India (who soon will have a population higher than China's) who also will soon experience a similar development pattern. Earth's resources simply does not come even close to being able to support such consumption as will then be demanded if existing consumption levels are maintained. This clearly shows that in order to be successful the international environmental community and world leaders must engage the developing world and especially China and India in finding acceptable solutions to stop this consumption trend. And it must be done soon as time is quickly running out.

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