Saturday, October 24, 2009

Another Proposal

Have you ever whined about the madcap excesses of those crazy environmentalists, or waxed poetic about the evils of regulations and the havoc they wreak on mild-mannered businesses? Move to China.

On paper, at least, there are plenty of protections. But the lack of enforcement and the inability to organize has left regulation and environmentalism functionally absent from most of China. There are certainly some beautiful places left in the country- here are some pictures I took this summer after teaching my last class in Wuhan (note that it was the rainy season on southwestern Yunnan where I took these pictures, so you’ll have to take my word that the clouds in the pictures are actually clouds):

But the places pictured here are a far cry from the reality that most of the Chinese population lives in- a reality that looks more like something from the Year Zero album art. It’s a country fuelled mostly by coal plants, where the electricity they produce is then sent straight to giant manufacturing centers which belch out black smoke 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Chinese photographer Lu Guang has spent decades documenting the horrors of unregulated factories doing whatever they want in the name of making a fast buck (yuan, actually, I guess). Here are some of his pictures:

The rest are here, along with explanations about the story behind each picture. More than half of the series is devoted to the people who live next to these factories or alongside these rivers and have to deal with all the consequences of this unchecked pollution- serious health problems abound. This is definitely something China is going to have to deal with at some point- the longer they put it off, the higher the toll will rise.