It’s known by others as “Sodom and Gomorrah”. What was once a wetland has quickly turned into a vast wasteland filled with electronic equipment that the developed world has simply grown tired of. Welcome to Agbogbloshie, Ghana.
With a newly-minted elite and an economic growth rate of over 10 percent, the environment has taken a backseat in China, the world’s most populous country. Growing pollution has led to unusable…
While China’s 20-million and counting metropolis of Beijing is still in the midst of an economic and industrial boom, it’s certainly seen brighter days. This spring, a toxic cocktail consisting of car exhaust fumes, factory and coal-heating smoke engulfed much of the city in a thick smog, causing many residents much grief in going about their daily affairs. Says one mining company executive, “I think people in China have forgotten what the sky looks like. They’ve forgotten what normal is.”
It doesn’t look like “normal” will include the color blue for a while, either. As industrialization surges ahead and many newly-rich Chinese increase demand for their own automobiles, the only thing certain about Beijing’s future is that it will be hazy.
Global concerns have grown steadily over China’s increasingly perilous environmental problems. A country with as many people as every Western power combined, China has muscled itself into international relevance by becoming the world’s biggest exporter. But its meteoric economic rise has sunk China chin-deep into an environmental crisis that is not only the result of its recent prosperity, but appears built into it. Little evidence suggests that it will get better before it gets worse.
The Environmental Crisis In China: Unbreathable Air
Like America, China’s primary source of power comes from coal and both countries’ dependence on the hard stuff is politically and economically entrenched. China’s coal use is far and away its biggest problem when it comes to the environment, and moving on to cleaner resources will be about as difficult as switching methadone for Motrin. Government energy experts estimate that China’s primary energy source will be coal for at least the next three decades. At the same time, a million cars are added to Chinese roads every year, adding to the greenhouses gases warming the planet.
Just last month, the American Embassy in Beijing made headlines when the city’s evening Air Quality Index (AQI) measured a suffocating 775. The international scale stops at 500. To put that into perspective, at the same time Beijing reached an AQI of 775, New York City’s AQI was 19. Most American cities never top 100, with the worst offenders never breaking 200.
Who would have thought that Thomas Edison’s successful light bulb would lead to increased worker fatigue, aid in the disruption and destruction of ecosystems and become a primary source of radiating energy waste? As the map above clearly shows, light pollution is most severe in urban areas–though its effects, damaging to nocturnal wildlife and the earth’s atmosphere, can be felt throughout the world.