Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

China and Ecology

with one comment

So he stands in the village in Guangdong province, where the world’s old motherboards—yours and mine—are sent to die. There, children pick through the old computers, breaking down every reusable part as if they were the globe’s intestine. But the children grow sick with lead poisoning and develop brain damage, cancer, and kidney failure. Even when the kids get to sit in a classroom, they have to wear masks to protect them from the mountains of garbage. Watts goes to meet the environmental activists who are trying to stop this poisoning of their children, and watches as—terrified—they are carried away to prison. (Imagine if Al Gore had been imprisoned for demanding an investigation into Love Canal, and was still in solitary, and you get the idea.)

So he ventures out on a ship with an international band of scientists to save the last Yangtze dolphin—an animal that was swimming through China’s rivers 10 million years before the first human and was a common sight not long ago. But gradually Watts realizes he is too late. They are all dead. He says: “Man had wiped out its first dolphin. … The end of a species after twenty million years felt terrifyingly momentous. This was not just a piece of news. It was even more than history. It was an event on a geological timescale.”

So he watches as the globe warms and China’s deserts stretch further and deeper with each passing year. So he stands and stares as the Himalayan glaciers—where most of Asia’s great rivers begin—melt and die, with two thirds on course to vanish by 2050.

Johann Hari reviews Jonathan Watts’s book When a Billion Chinese Jump: How China Will Save Mankind—or Destroy It for Slate.

Written by gerrycanavan

January 10, 2011 at 4:43 pm

One Response

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  1. I think the saving part is pure fantasy.

    Alex

    January 10, 2011 at 11:29 pm


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