Before criticizing and blaming China for polluting the environment, learn about the history that caused the pollution first.
The first Industrial Revolution took place in England after James Watt developed the coal/wood burning steam engine in the late 18th century. This was beginning of air and water pollution.
The second Industrial Revolution (1820-1870) helped the economic development of the United States. Then industrialization increased between 1870 and 1914.
Pollution from industries grew to epidemic proportions after 1945. In fact, the type of pollution changed significantly when industries in America and Europe began manufacturing and using synthetic materials such as plastics and DDT.
These materials are not only toxic; they accumulated in the environment and were not biodegradable. This increased rates of cancers, physical birth defects, and mental retardation.
Due to an increase in world trade after World War II and moving a significant percentage of the world’s manufacturing to Japan, then China after Mao died, the pollution created using these synthetic materials increased and pollution reached a global scale.
Most of the products manufactured in China were sold around the globe by multinational corporations such as Wal-Mart. If you buy products made in China, you are partly responsible for the pollution there. The odds are that the computer I’m using was made or assembled in China. Darn!
June 2007 – the US still has more cars on the road and buys much of what China manufactures for US companies.
Another factor was pressure from the people of China on their government to improve the standard of living for 1.3 billion people. India faced the same challenges.
In the 1960s, about 60% of Chinese labor worked in agriculture. That figure remained about the same throughout the 1960s into early 1990s. Then by the late 1990s, the farm force in rural China fell to about thirty percent.
In comparison, in 1870, 53% of US labor worked in agriculture. Today, farm labor in the US makes up 3% of workforce. The rest live in towns and cities with a middle-class demanding more synthetic products to feed the consumer lifestyle.
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Note: This post first appeared on iLook China February 7, 2010 as post # 31. This revised version reappears as post # 1086.