This is the Way the World Ends

A blasted post-apocalytic world of environmental catastrophe is the theme of many an SF story. Right now, China is taking the lead in exploring this particular scenario in real life. JOSEPH KAHN and JIM YARDLEY, writing in The New York Times take a close look today in a long story.

No country in history has emerged as a major industrial power without creating a legacy of environmental damage that can take decades and big dollops of public wealth to undo.

Public health is reeling. Pollution has made cancer China’s leading cause of death, the Ministry of Health says. Ambient air pollution alone is blamed for hundreds of thousands of deaths each year. Nearly 500 million people lack access to safe drinking water.

Chinese cities often seem wrapped in a toxic gray shroud. Only 1 percent of the country’s 560 million city dwellers breathe air considered safe by the European Union. Beijing is frantically searching for a magic formula, a meteorological deus ex machina, to clear its skies for the 2008 Olympics.

China's problems are also the worlds - they export pollution all the way across the Pacific. If China can learn to deal with the challenges of its growth and pollution, maybe the rest of the world can as well. If not, we all may pay.


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