Environmentalism in China – Part 4/4

November 3, 2011

To discover more of how diverse this environmental awakening is in China, the October 2011 issue of Smithsonian magazine introduces us to the Bird Whisperer, a Buddhist monk named Tashi Zangpo, who is saving one of the world’s rarest birds, the Tibetan bunting.

“Tashi, now 41,” Phil McKenna writes, “has crisscrossed the Tibetan plateau drawing 400 bird species. He is currently compiling a field guide that evokes the work of John James Audubon or Roger Tory Peterson. He wears prayer beads on one wrist and a digital watch with altimeter and compass on the other.”

However, in America, regardless of what is happening in Asia, China is often criticized in the media and by the public (after reading about it in the media) for air pollution blowing more than 6,000 miles across the Pacific to the United States.


The breathing earth

From Where Does Our Pollution Go, we learn that “Winds can carry pollution around the planet, therefore, all nations are connected by air currents,” and then from MSNBC, we discover that the U.S. exports its air pollution to Europe.

When I Googled “air pollution from China to America”, the results were more than 9.4 million hits, but when I searched “air pollution from America to Europe”, there were more than 17 million.

MSNBC’s Michael Schirber of Live Science reported in 2005, that “On Nov. 14, 2001, a low-pressure system caused a large mass of air huddled over the eastern half of the United States to rise up several miles, where it was then carried by the jet stream to Europe,” which resulted in a 33% increase in ozone levels in the Alps.

In addition, Schirber says, “European pollution has been tracked to Asia, as well as the Arctic…” He compares the wind to a conveyor belt.

In fact, the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research reported in October 2009 that when it comes to global air pollution, what goes around comes around. “Air pollution from factories, traffic, and power plants in Asia wafts over the Pacific Ocean to the United States, while pollutants produced in the United States wind up in Europe.”

Then there are those in America and Europe (and elsewhere in the world) that claim CO2 is not a pollutant and is not contributing to Global Warming.


Ocean Acidification — Changing Planet — As higher amounts of carbon dioxide become absorbed by the oceans, some marine organisms are finding it is a struggle to survive

For such naysayers, in January 2008, a Stanford Report written by Louis Bergeron reported on a study conducted by a Stanford scientist that linked carbon dioxide emissions to increased deaths.

“For the first time,” Bergeron wrote, there were direct links between increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and increases in human mortality…

The study detailed how for each increase of 1 degree Celsius caused by carbon dioxide, the resulting air pollution would lead annually to about a thousand additional deaths and many more cases of respiratory illness and asthma in the United States.

So, next time you hear someone criticize China for air pollution crossing the Pacific Ocean to the US, consider the amount of CO2 and Black Soot China produced in the last thirty years of industrialization compared to the UK, Europe and America’s more than two centuries.

Once you know the facts and you were given a choice to live in Europe or America, where would the air probably be cleaner/healthier?

Return to Environmentalism in China – Part 3 or start with Part 1

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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