China’s Economic Boom May Be Nation’s Death Sentence

Photo from wikipedia

Photo from Wikipedia

China has rapidly grown to become the world’s second largest economy. What is not mentioned as often, however, is the price that the nation, and the rest of the world, is paying for that growth.

China has now become, officially, the most polluted nation in the world according to the Natural Resources Defense Council, a Washington, D.C.-based environmental group. In the U.S., we use a color-coded point based system which ranges from 0-500, as you can see below:

So, it is alarming when Beijing, on Tuesday, reached a reported 518, with some reporting as high as 755. Just as record temperatures forced the addition of a new color, purple, passing the air pollution index similarly requires the addition of a “purple” range to the bottom of the scale. This bodes poorly for the future of this nation of over a billion people.

With the increase in pollution comes an increase in pollution-related issues. This is seen in the dramatic increase in Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder by almost 33% in the past decade, as well as in the rapid increase in asthma and other lung disorders, resulting in the deaths of almost a million people annually. This is taxing the Chinese healthcare system to the breaking point. It is now estimated that 1 in 5 Chinese suffer from chronic ailments, and this number is growing rapidly.

When 20% of a nation is sick, it creates a drag on the entire economy. As this number increases, the drag will get worse and worse. While China is making strides in the realm of clean energy, it is still, for all intents and purposes, a fossil fuel driven economy. Due to rapid growth, and lack of regulation, China is now in danger of suffering from a catastrophic economic meltdown. This is, of course, the inevitable result of the failure to appreciate what an open market means.

Of course, even more horrifying, these pollutants affect the rest of the world through the well-known effects of climate change. By China’s over-reliance on fossil fuels, they are increasing the rate of climate change, and seem intent on pushing it even more to the edge. While China has ambitious plans to reduce fossil fuel use by 11.4%, with its rapid growth this reduction will be consumed by the continuing energy demand. Cutting 11.4% of overall, while growing by 75%, China still is going to be adding even more pollutants to the atmosphere than any other nation in the world, driving climate change with its continuing release of greenhouse gasses.

Companies rushing to China in order to exploit the lack of regulatory oversight, releasing even greater amounts of pollutants into the air, have sown the seeds of their own – and China’s – destruction. Sick workers will need to be replaced, until there are no more healthy ones left. This will result in assured-quality issues the longer this continues. All while the employees of China work themselves to death as effective slave labor. The system is, in a word, unsustainable.

Eventually, China will collapse due to the weight of its soot-filled skies and ash-filled lungs. It is inevitable at this point, unless they are willing to sacrifice their short-term economic growth. But, as we all have seen, people tend not to think beyond the short-term, and in so doing, they seal their doom. And whenever anyone in the United States tries to push to disband our regulatory ability, think of the smokey skies and ash covered terrain of China.