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Chinese Activists Rage Against Deadly Pollution

Chinese Activists Rage Against Deadly Pollution

China has become notorious for its heavy pollution, the result of rapid industrial growth and a growing population. And now, Chinese citizens are starting to get angry; up to 50,000 “mass incidents” of protest about pollution are being documented annually, while party leaders promised just this week to take action on the pollution problem. In a country where civil unrest is already a documented issue, the increased agitation around environmental causes is another indicator that the population is growing less tolerant of the status quo.

China’s air, water and soil are laden with pollutants, leading to widespread environmental health problems. So-called “cancer villages” dot the landscape, while smog in large cities like Beijing can be so bad that it’s visible from space. Many waterways are heavily polluted, making it difficult for people to access safe drinking water, thanks to industrial and agricultural dumping; just this week, 3,200 dead pigs were found clogging a waterway that’s known for carrying a constant eau de deceased porcine as it is.

The nation’s residents are beginning to realize the ramifications of these living conditions, and they’re fighting back. Civil unrest has led to the cancellation or radical redesign of a number of industrial products, thanks to protesters refusing to back down in the face of pressure. Both Qidong and Ningbo, for example, were forced to scrap plans for new industrial projects recently because their residents steadfastly opposed them, and they’re not the only cities to have done so.

Part of this is thanks to the facilitation of organizing across social networks and other media. Using services like Weibo, Chinese activists can quickly talk to each other, organize events, pass information on and even distribute material that the government is attempting to suppress, sometimes in the form of coded videos and writings that appear to be about lighthearted subjects, but are actually sharp indictments of political issues.

Jin Zhengmin, a former party official, took advantage of these very networks to protest the state of pollution in China after the death of his sister. He challenged environmental protection officers to take a dunk in a heavily polluted river that he remembered swimming in as a child when it was clear and safe. Needless to say, no one took him up on the offer, but his high-profile comments on the environment illustrated the depth of frustration with environmental conditions in China, and galvanized activists looking for ways to speak out.

China continues to rely heavily on coal power, which contributes a huge volume to the nation’s overall air pollution. Sulfur dioxide and other byproducts of combustion and industrial processes are also released freely into the atmosphere, while toxins enter waterways through manufacturing and processing of materials like electronic waste. Since pollution knows no borders, this is a problem not just for China but also neighboring nations and the planet as a whole, illustrating the critical need for cooperative approaches to climate change and environmental problems.

The nation faces an uphill battle to clean up its environment and address the growing anger among citizens who feel their concerns are not being heard, and who want to preserve the environment for future generations. Many are skeptical of the claims made by party officials this week that the environment will become a higher priority, and they’re joined by environmental advocacy organizations from outside China as well.

Can China balance its desire for expansion with the need to protect the environment and its people?

 

Related Articles:

China’s Air Pollution Attacking Plants As Well As People

Violent Pollution Protesters Halt Pipeline Project in China

30,000 Chinese ‘Occupy’ Highway to Protest Polluting Coal Plants

 

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Photo credit: Bryan T.

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67 comments

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9:19AM PDT on May 1, 2013

thanks for sharing

1:47PM PDT on Apr 11, 2013

I have seen members of this forum criticise the Governments (and people) of other countries without actually understanding the underlying issues - in essence 'don't judge a man until you have walked a mile in his shoes!'. Additionally, and as others have already said, it seems a bit much to criticise the industry in China but to support it by buying good produced there - this not only applies to China of course, how many people will readily condemn sweat shops, which operate in many countries, but will still buy clothes without knowing their origin or will complain about pollution but are still happy to use their cars to make a short journey when they could very easily walk or take public transport instead. Before we criticise others surely we should make sure that our own 'house' is in order.

7:49AM PDT on Mar 26, 2013

Before criticizing the Chinese people, free yourselves from that mindless and misplaced hate towards peaceful and kind people and take a few minutes from your day and see this short documentary:

http://2062movement.wordpress.com/2013/03/26/in-the-shadows-of-pollution/

Fight the government, not the people. Chinese people want no more than any one of us. Clean water, healthy food and a peaceful, fulfilling life.

2:25PM PDT on Mar 24, 2013

To the commenter about China being innocent of charges..of course it's not the whole public at fault but there are those depraved Chinese companies, tens of thousands of them, and millions of individuals who are hand in hand with the crooks running the US corporations. They're all the same psychopaths. Those profiteering crooks also fill political positions in both countries with their supporters. The US public can have the same lifestyle without supporting environment destroying corporations that are in business using China as a slave labor market and but on the other hand there's also no need for so many degraded Chinese to try to profit from the overlords in their own government. China has lost its culture..it's hides behind "communism" but it's a slave state and corporate slavery and guilty of the worst offenses.

7:38PM PDT on Mar 22, 2013

noted

1:25PM PDT on Mar 22, 2013

If there were an opposite to the green star, I would send one to every commenter who expressed anti-Chinese sentiment.

I had posted a comment earlier but was "holding back" -- you know, trying not to be judgmental, despite such judgmental commenters.

Nuno M.'s comment haunted me -- how true it is.

I would have expected a more "enlightened" crowd from the Care2 population -- but I'm also never surprised at how protective and self-serving individuals can be. In fact, that is why the world is in its current situation -- ready to implode. So many people tend to see only what they want to see -- so that they don't have to face responsibility for their own actions. When I click on articles about pollution in China, I do so expressly to face our part in what we have done to China. Do people in America HONESTLY not see the connection between their purchases/lifestyle and the use of China as a dumping ground?

The responses from too many Care2 commenters brings an analogy to mind: A man who uses prostitutes or sex slaves for his benefit, while denigrating them as "dirty" and "worthless". Wow, the only "excuse" I can come up with for these commenters is that, subconsciously, they know there is personal blame; so, consciously, they take the defensive, judgmental approach -- to avoid their feelings of guilt and/or to protect what they have (the life they want to keep on living).

7:35AM PDT on Mar 21, 2013

It always has baffled me that tyrants get away with the ruination of their own countrys for their own person gain and comforts at the expense of all their fellow countrymen and continue to stay in the positions of power. There are so many of us and just a few of them. That said, I applaud someone for standing up for themselves and the rest and probably at great peril. This complete disregard for Mother Nature and our Planet will be the death of us all. This includes all nations not just China. You can't see the forest for the trees because there are none left to see.

6:17AM PDT on Mar 21, 2013

The Chinese government would be well advised to relax their grip on the media and free expression. They will do this voluntarily or eventually be forced to relinquish their power. History has shown us that the people will only stand for so much abuse.

4:50AM PDT on Mar 21, 2013

Interesting article, thank you. To those who so readily criticize other countries and sad to say, there is a lot of hate sometimes, just check the wrongs your own country has spread around or maybe look under your sink at the products you are using and your appliances, who is perfect indeed. Get informed and do something about it instead of wasting your time pointing the finger at others!

12:39AM PDT on Mar 21, 2013

Thank you for the info & comments...

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