The Swallow's Dilemma Outline
Thesis: Today, China's air is polluted and the water is filled with waste, among other things. It is apparent that with China's wealth and prosperity in the industrial world, a responsibility all of the Chinese share has become even heavier to carry. In continuously disregarding the significance of the health of their environment holds, the Chinese have become accountable for the deaths of their own people and the ever growing threat to their wild life. The small steps the government has taken will not be enough to reverse the damage done.
A. The Swallow's song
1. Little swallow, wearing a flower coat, Flies here every spring, I ask the Swallow, "Why do you come here?" The swallow replies, "The spring here is the most beautiful."
2. Little swallow, I'll tell you, this year this place is even more beautiful. We have built a big factory, installed new machinery, to welcome you so you can settle down for good.
B. How it was before
1. Start of industrialization
a. The factories are seen as good things which will make China a better place to live for everyone.
b. Pollution isn't seen as an issue. In fact, the water and air pollution were soon going to be major problems.
2. The prosperity that industrialization brings to China is celebrated and pursued vigorously through the opening of numerous factories.
II. How it is now
A. Water pollution
1. Untreated waste in water and because of it, portions of the surrounding coastline of the ocean no longer sustain marine life.
2. Nearly 320 million people lack access to clean drinking water.
B. Air pollution
1. Particulate matter/ambient air hangs in major cities.
a. Ambient air pollution alone causes thousands of deaths annually.
b. In L.A., a lot of the particulate pollution originates in China.
2. Causes respiratory disease in children and older people and cancer.
III. Pollution and its effects
A. Major industrial and economic growth
B. Auto industry's role in growth
1. Passenger car production in China has grown at astounding rates.
2. Cars leader in emissions
a. The use of coal in numerous factories contributed to smog, especially from the automobile industry.
b. Because in the past twenty years the motor vehicle business has grown so quickly, the demand for oil has skyrocketed.
C. Power by coal and waste in water
1. Coal usage causes ambient air
2. Waste in water causes algae red tides and unsafe drinking water
IV. Fixing the problem
A. Suggested solutions
1. Gallagher's suggests using cleaner fuels.
2. Interviewed peoples' opinions
a. Kelsey Rogers: thinks other countries should help pay costs for fuel efficient factories.
b. Michael Wager: Skeptical that any possible actions will be taken because of cost.
B. Steps the government has taken already
1. Government programs
2. "Global Green Deal"
a. Japan and the United States would help China pay for technology.
b. The Japanese have provided power plants in Shaaxi with scrubbers to reduce sulphur dioxide emissions.
A. A problem that should be addressed more.
1. Gradual switch to cleaner technologies.
2. Making more efforts to clean bodies of water.
B. Kites and stars
The Swallow's Dilemma
Little swallow, wearing a flower coat, Flies here every spring, I ask the Swallow, "Why do you come here?" The swallow replies, "The spring here is the most beautiful." (Little Swallow, 1-4) For a moment, imagine the kind of place you would think the swallow would be staying for the spring, according to this children's song. Do you have the picture in your mind yet? If so, you are probably visualizing a picturesque garden filled with flowering plants and trees, a cute mushroom here and there, perhaps even a fairy's circle, vibrant green grass, vivid pinks and purples, butterflies, and things of the like. In the background, you can hear melodic tweeting of birds, rushing water
Now, read the other half of the song and rethink how you would picture this spring: Little swallow, I'll tell you, this year this place is even more beautiful. We have built a big factory, installed new machinery, to welcome you so you can settle down for good. (Little Swallow, 5-9) Think ofa small girl singing this songa Chinese folktune that has beenin existence for half a century nowin her native tongue in a newly industrialized nation. Life seems to be going well and with the new factories and everyone's lives are surely only to get better, even for the small swallow. This was the thoughtresiding in most of China's inhabitants at this time of industrialization. The fact of the matter was, however, that the little swallow's home was going to be destroyed. The rushing water was polluted with filth and gradually, parts of China became almost unrecognizable. Health among the people declined and the stars could not make their nightly appearance through the smog. All the while, the swallow looked on with a sad heart. Today, China's air is polluted and the water is filled with waste, among other things. It is apparent that with China's wealth and prosperity in the industrial world, a responsibility all of the Chinese share has become even heavier to carry. In continuously disregarding the significance of the health of their environment holds, the Chinese have become accountable for the deaths of their own people and the ever growing threat to their wild life. The small steps the government has taken will not be enough to reverse the damage done.
According to "As China Roars, Pollution Reaches Deadly Extremes," a New York Times article, not only are the rivers and lakes defiled to the point where nearly 320 million people lack access to clean drinking water, but large portions of the surrounding coastline of the ocean no longer sustains marine life due to the massive algal red tides. The sun is rarely seen in industrial cities and children die or fall ill owing to lead poisoning and other types of local pollution. This pollution is also blamed for the leading cause of early death in China: cancer. Ambient air pollution alone causes thousands of deaths annually. This dilemma is not only affecting China either. In Los Angeles, a good portion of the particulate pollution (tiny subdivisions of solid or liquid matter suspended in a gas or liquid) originates in China, according to the Journal of Geophysical Research (Yardley and Kahn). Sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides produced by China's coal-fueled power plants are converted into acid rain which falls on Seoul in South Korea and Tokyo in Japan.
Worse yet, China has crossed the threshold into the most full-bodied stage of its industrial revolution. While the rest of the world worries over global warming, China keeps on pumping pollution into the air and water. China is well on its way to becoming the leader in emissions, evenexceeding the United States' positionin the category, by the end of 2010 or later (the Netherlands Environment Assessment Agency already believes that China has surpassed this level). The Chinese government could focus moreon the pollution of their country and strategies for alleviating it. Unfortunately, the country's system canconcentrate on little else but growth. Prosperity may pacify the public while well-connected officials stall political change, but this won't cause their problem to disappear. Economic success can't cover up the sky rocketing health care costs, water shortages, and dependence on coal and imported oil. In truth, if things stay as they are, they can only get worse.
Where did this all start? The pollution, decline in health of people and wild life, and everything else began with the commencement of rapid economic growth that China experienced in the 1980's. Dutta says in his preface to the book China's Industrial Revolution and Economic Presence:
Indeed, over the past 25 years, China has accomplished an economic miracle, its annual rate of growth of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) averages over 9 percent and China has emerged as a competitive industrial economy, with trading partners in nearly all continents. (xxi)
Although China has experienced a "miracle" in economic growth, there are some negative results. As a product of their rapid economic expansion, and their large customer base, the Chinese have poured colossal amounts of waste into the air and water. The use of coal in numerous factories contributed to smog, especially from the automobile industry. MIT Press writer Kim Gallagher explains in China Shifts Gears that the automotive industry is causing major hazards for the environment. She elucidates that in 1980, cars were not a key source of metropolitan air pollution in China with numerous graphs and tables. Because in the past twenty years the motor vehicle business has grown so quickly, the demand for oil has skyrocketed. China became the second largest oil consumer in the world by 2005. In the 1990's, sales in automobiles grew 27 percent every year. Among the products consumed include cars, motorcycles, and engines.
Passenger car production in China and crude oil imports to China has grown at astounding rates. As a result, car emissions are the leading cause of city air pollution. China is home to seven of the ten most polluted cities in the world to prove it. Many people argue that emission regulation isn't strict enough and before the year 2000, China didn't use catalytic converters and still utilized leaded fuel. Catalytic converters are reaction chambers where exhaustion gases from an engine are converted from harmful gases to less toxic carbon dioxide and water. But, as of the year 2000, all cars are required to have these converters and leaded fuel has been banned. China also required all automobiles to have electronic fuel-injection engines along with adopting the European car standards. Although China is ten years behind in its advancements towards tighter emission regulation compared to Europe, this is a good step forward. It still remains that China's fuel is of poor quality and produces large amounts of sulfur, which is less than desirable for the air. Now that China imports oil largely from other countries, their capability to refine the oil has been dramatically lessened (Gallagher 16). Chinese refineries used to create what is called "sweet" oil, which was low in sulfur.
Factories such as the ones involved in the automobile industry and the usage of coal contribute to ambient air. Normally, air is an odorless and tasteless gaseous mixture which is composed mostly of nitrogen and oxygen. When factories spew out other chemicals, they mix with the atmosphere. Ambient air mainly contains particulate matter such as dust, smoke, and ash. It is responsible for occurrences of acid rain as well as amplifying the greenhouse effect and depletion of the ozone layer (Schonthal). These pollutants are very harmful and are often termed "criteria pollutants." Among the most affected by this pollution are the elderly and the young. Children are more likely to have frequent asthma attacks while older people are vulnerable to cardiovascular and respiratory disease.
An additional predicament China's environment is in involves water pollution. In an internet article from Scipeeps called "Water pollution in China" it is made apparent just how much of a crisis it really is. Untreated waste from factories pours into natural bodies of water and because of this, seventy percent of all rivers and lakes in China are polluted. People in numbers reaching 100,000 die every year due to unsafe water. Unfortunate people who live near these rivers and lake are living in what are called "cancer villages" where it's a lucky thing to live to your prime.
Algal red tides also exemplify water pollution's harmful effects on nature. To begin, the reader must know that algae are plants which photosynthesize. Dissolved carbon dioxide in water is employed to produce the carbohydrates that the plants live on. Algae notably extract microscopic amounts of necessary elements and nutrients from the water they reside in. As a result, if there industrial waste and other pollution in the water, a red algal tide can occur. In the internet article "'Red tide' of algae threatens China's seas" for the Independent, environment editor Jeffrey Lean informs that a big part of China's marine pollution involves red algal tides. What this means is algae from the sea, which are toxic, have congregated on China's shorelines and created an immense "red tide" sheet. The area covered by this sheet is larger than 1.3 million football fields. The UN has deemed this bloom of algae as the "greatest emerging threat to the health of the seas."
Pan Yue, vice-minister at the State Environmental Protection Administration, said "It might cause damage to people because the red tide contains paralyzing toxins. The phenomenon, though colorful in appearance, is very dangerous because it can lead to the death of aquatic life and therefore cause damage to the fishing industry." As Pan Yue said, red tides are poisonous not only to humans, but to marine life as well. Alga can replicate themselves a million times in a short amount of time (two to three weeks) before they cover the surface of the sea. Since they suffocate marine life, parts of the ocean around China have become dead zones. In the internet article "'Red tide' of algae threatens China's seas," Geoffrey Lean reports, "This spring, a report by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) revealed the number of such zones in the world seas has been doubling every 10 years, as pollution has increased." It's alarming to know that more and more of the world's seas are becoming devoid of life in these areas. More alarming is that some governments and scientistslike the ones in Chinadeny that it has anything to do with industrial waste.
Less than six weeks before the Olympic events, the city of Qingdao had thousands of people working to collect these algae bloom to clear the congested waters for the Olympic races. An estimate of approximately 20,000 people made an effort in cleaning up the algae for the competition. It was reported that a third of the coastal waters were covered with the algae. The quality of the water was yet another concern for the events because of the untreated sewage being dumped into it. Rivers and tributaries, a stream or river which flows into a parent river, that flow into coastal waters are most times infected with "...high levels of nitrates from agricultural and industrial runoff. These nitrates contribute to the red tides of algae that often bloom along sections of China's coastline" (Yardley). Because the water's quality was low, it was a primary cause of the algae bloom. Knowing that and also knowing that the water is a leading source of health issues in towns and cities near water, wouldn't it be a good idea to do more about it, even if there's no Olympic games to prepare for?
Officials of Qingdao refused to link the pollution to the algae bloom. Scientists claimed that the bloom was more at the fault of the recent heavy rain and warm waters in the Yellow Sea. It was said by an official of the Qingdao Olympic Sailing Committee that the government would try to block the algae from getting into the sailing area by establishing a fence in the sea. This temporary solution is just thattemporary. The government's propaganda regarding the cause of the sudden algae bloom didn't make things any better.
Many solutions to the pollution issue in China have been proposed. Gallagher suggests that in order to take hold of the problem at hand, the Chinese should start using more of the clean and efficient technologies. Through the reduction of tailpipe emissions, improving the efficiency of cars and their fuel intake, and also to use cleaner fuels, Gallagher believes that cars can reduce their role in pollution (4). This is the most frequently brought up idea among people and when asked if they would be willing to buy electric generators, instead of coal-powered ones, most people would say that the extra money is worth bringing the blue sky back. In fact, many middle- class and upper-class families in polluted cities have air purifiers in their homes. The electric heaters people are trying to switch to are paid in part by two thirds by the government.
When interviewed Kelsey Rogers, a student at J.W. Sexton High School, believed that other countries should participate in creating a cleaner China. This was also not the first time this idea occurred to people; Japan has already assisted China in purchasing more efficient generators for their factories. According to an internet article written by Jeffrey Hays, energy efficient equipment is expensive and China needs aid in paying for it all. He explains the outcome of Japanese assistance in this matter:
Under the proposed "Global Green Deal" Japan and the United States would help China pay for this technology. The Japanese have provided power plants in Shaaxi with scrubbers to reduce sulphur dioxide emissions. These and other measures have reportedly reduced sulfur dioxide emissions [from] 23 million tons in 1995 to 19 million tons in 2004. CITATION Jef08 l 1033 (Hays)
This reduction of emissions represents a major accomplishment on China's part. If these same kind of measures were taken on a larger scale, emissions could be cut down even more.
Despite denying pollution's role in the algae issue, more controls have been set on the automotive industry, as noted previously. In Gallagher's book, it is mentioned that the national Clean Vehicle Action program was established in 1999 by China's Ministry of Science and Technology and China's State Environmental Protection Administration. The goal of the program was to get about ten to twenty percent of taxies and buses to run on alternative fuel in twelve different cities. About 129,000 vehicles that were capable of running on alternative fuel were on the streets by May of 2002. Even so, it's hard to say which ones actually were using the fuel. Many of the cars actually never met the standards that had been set in place, and so this project was not considered a success (16). Because of this and certain economic barriers, some people remain pessimistic and doubt China will do anything truly substantial.
Michael Wager, a student of the University of Michigan Law School and graduate of The American University in Washington D.C., believes that the cost of cleaner emissions in factories will prevent the government from using other energy sources such as nuclear and renewable energy. Reason being, "both a) because the labor to mine coal is so cheap (1.3 billion people buys you a lot of workers) and b) their energy infrastructure is sort of designed to support it." He states that one theoretical solution could be to force people to use energy generated by the Three Gorges Dam, but is doubtful that this would ever happen.
Wagner goes on to explain the government's role in regulation of the factories as he, and a good number of other people, sees it:
Ironically, because China is an authoritarian regime, it actually has the power to force major regulatory and environmental reforms on the power industry, but because of the relationship of the energy sector and the state (which is basically the same thing) and the fact they'd rather sink their economic wealth into both building up their military and national prestige at the moment, rather than attempt a wholesale reversal of their current energy policy, I see no good ways out.
Because China's government has gone beyond its level of sustainable development and continues at even faster rates than before, everything grows, including energy usage. Sustainable development is described as "development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs" (Mintzer). China and many other countries have been compromising the environment's future with pollution by using up natural resources and slowly destroying the rest. If this continues, the future generations of the world will not have the ability to meet their needs.
If a dilemma is presented and is killing the people and animal life that live with it, it should be addressed immediately and with great fervor. China's seemingly irrevocable focus on climbing the economic ladder has led to terrible but not completely irreversible consequences. A gradual switch to cleaner and more efficient technologies as well as a nationwideor worldwideeffort to clean the rivers and other bodies of water should be put into effect. In time, the state of China's air and water pollution should be less critical. So far, the sun and stars still hide from the smog-filled cities. If you visited China today and peered out of your window at night, you might see bright shining lights in the sky and wonder if all the talk about China's pollution was true. What you would be seeing, though, are Christmas lights that locals have tied to kites in order to light up the sky. Whether your initial romantic notion of their wishes to bring the stars back is correct or not, the kites do an exceptional job of doing so. In the end, the real goal is to bring the stars back. The stars may be nothing but burning balls of gas millions of miles away, but for children who wish on them, they're magical. Why deprive countless children of this simple pleasure?
BIBLIOGRAPHY Dutta, Manoranjan. China's Industrial Revolution and Economic Presence . New Jersey: World
Scientific Publishing Company, 2005.
Gallagher, Kim. China Shifts Gears. Massachusetts: The MIT Press, 2006.
Hays, Jeffrey. "Deforestation and Desertification in China" Facts and Details. 2008. 21 May
Lean, Geoffrey. "'Red Tide' of Algae Threatens China's Seas." 16 May 2004: The Independent.
10 May 2010.
Rogers, Kelsey. Personal interview. 4 May 2010.
Slanina, Sjaak. "Smog." 9 June 2009: The Encyclopedia of Earth. 30 April 2010
Wagner, Michael. Personal interview. 1 June 2010.
"Water Pollution in China ". Scipeeps. 21 May 2010
Wenqing, Yan. 2010: "Knite: Chapter 1." deviantART. 30 April 2010
Yardley, Jim. "Olympic Nightmare: A Red Tide in Yellow Sea." 30 June 2008: The New York
Times. 10 May 2010.
Yardley, Jim and Kahn, Joseph. "As China Roars, Pollution Reaches Deadly Extremes." The
New York Times 26 August 2007.
Mintzer. "Sustainable Development." 2002: Global Change. 3 June 2010.