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JUNE 1, 2009

Ecological Armageddon


The last book of the New Testament, called Revelation, prophesies about several angels who will destroy the earth. The first angel will burn one third of the earth, a third of the trees and the green grass. The second angel will damage a third of sea with all its living creatures. The third angel will poison a third of world's rivers and springs and, as it is written, many people will die. The fourth angel will cover the sky, so the sun and the moon will disappear. These prophesies seem already come true; all of them look like ecological disasters. (Rev.8:1-13)

It is not necessary one to read the Bible to get the same "news" today. There is abundance of real stories about growing deserts (or "burned soil"), droughts, destructed forests, killed rivers, and polluted seas. The will of the "angels" is executed by governments and corporations who keep the "trumpets" of earth destruction.

Few years ago Mother Jones magazine published a long report about China's ecological Armageddon - "The Last Empire: China's Pollution Problem Goes Global," written by Jacques Leslie - a text still unfortunately topical today.

China accomplished the most massive and rapid redistribution of the earth's resources in human history, writes Leslie. In a mere two and a half decades, it has awakened from Maoist stagnancy to become the world's manufacturer and leading consumer of raw materials.

Before the economic "leap" in the 1990s, China was already destructing its nature. During the Cold War the communist countries were proud with their "heavy industry," as they loved to call the monstrous industrial complexes vomiting unprofitable industrial production under the pressure of their communist's five-year-plans. The "heavy industry" of communist countries vanished in the beginning of the 1990s, although the old gray and rusty structures of the plants still stay like sad monuments of forgotten sins. But the "heavy industry" vanished together with the nature - one of the biggest victims of dictatorial communist ambition.

During the Cold War, China was popular with the lunacy of Mao's plans. "Backyard furnace" campaign, for example, was only one of Mao's follies, but it was enough to set a record in deforestation. During the "Backyard furnace" campaign 90 million peasants became grassroots steel smelters. To fuel the furnaces, villagers cut down in a few months a 10th of China's trees. The steel ultimately proved unusable. The destruction of China's forests led to soil erosion and to enlargement of the deserts; the locust resurgence prompted a collapse of the nation's grain crop. The "Backyard furnace" eventually led to history's greatest famine, in which 30 to 50 million Chinese died.

Yet Mao's years of ecological devastation pale next to that of China's current industrialization. A fourth of the country is now a desert. More than three-fourths of its forests have disappeared. In addition of that, the pollution of China's rivers, soil and air continues to kill the population. In his article, Leslie writes: "The China government estimates that 400,000 people die prematurely from respiratory illnesses each year, and health care costs for premature death and disability related to air pollution is estimated at up to 4 percent of the country's gross domestic product. Half the population-600 or 700 million people-drinks water contaminated with animal and human waste."

State economy that is irresponsible to the Nature is an enemy to the citizens of the state

There is a simple fact: a state economic policy that is irresponsible to the Nature is an enemy to the citizens of the state, no matter whether its seems beneficial for the GDP and wealth accumulation. Such an economy destroys the natural recourses of the country, and later it is doomed to collapse. The victims are the ordinary people. There are a number of examples of devastated human civilizations; examples of empires destroyed not by foreign invasions, but from environmental exhaustion. The simple fact of the results of the environmental irresponsibility may be applied equally to a single state or to the world in general. If the world economy is based on irresponsible exploitation of the nature its future will be like the end of the "heavy industry" in the former communist states.

There is much talk about the present economic crisis. But the voices who explain toady's economic troubles in ecological terms are few. For example, not many economists explained clearly the basic reason behind the bankruptcy of General Motors in 2008. GM made the strategic mistake to produce fuel inefficient cars and the last year's oil price hike - the biggest in history - was the final blow at the already shaken auto giant. The plans for "awakening" of the American auto industry are connected with making it fuel efficient and greener. The hopes of Obama's administration for American economy are to make it "green."

Leslie, who wrote "The Last Empire: China's Pollution Problem Goes Global" in 2005, sounds prophetic: "If unchecked, the devastation will not just put an abrupt end to China's economic growth, but, in concert with other environmentally heedless nations (in particular, the United States, India, and Brazil), will cause mortal havoc in societies and ecosystems throughout the world."


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