Friday, December 02, 2005

Harper's article on China

I plan to post more thoughts on our time in China, but in the meantime I want to recommend Bill McKibben's article in the December issue of Harper's Magazine. "The Great Leap: Scenes from China's Industrial Revolution" reports how the Chinese are adopting rather American consumer/industrial aspirations. I share National Geographic's impression (reported by McKibben) that the country is in danger of committing "ecological suicide." The air in Beijing was astoundingly thick, and at the end of the day I had a sulfur taste in my mouth. Water pollution, as evidenced by the spill in Harbin while we were there, as well as long-term water resource draining, is another huge concern.

But McKibben does more than say that the Chinese want to consume like us (U. S.). He acknowledges that we Americans need to take responsibility for setting an unsustainable standard, and being unwilling to curb our consumption. He concludes, after visiting a booming district in Shanghai, "The only neon spectacle I've seen that compares is Vegas, with its pyramids and dancing waters. But what is Vegas? It's the search for some kind of new stimulus for the jaded....Some attempt to figure out what more might mean when you've already had too much. Whatever else it is, China is not like that at all."

The article is not available online, but it's well worth buying the December issue of Harper's.


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