Reuters: In China, public anger over gov't. secrecy on environment

The environment ministry in China recently told attorney Dong Zhengwei he couldn't have access to two-year old data about soil pollution because it was a "state secret." The incident amplified already-growing public outrage over the nation's worsening pollution problems, and "the scarcity of information about the environment available to them." [Reuters]


  1. “Before the release of PM 2.5, there was controversy, some people thought that releasing the information on air quality may lead to panic in the society,” Yan Chengzhong, a Shanghai delegate, said on the sidelines of the parliament session, according to the Wen Wei Po newspaper.

    “But the facts proved this is not the case. ‘Being unaware’ would only cause people to panic.”

    While this may be true, it’s certainly caused a lot of people to think carefully about their future in China. A couple of months ago the PM 2.5 in my city almost reached 1,000. In one part of Beijing during Chinese New Year it spent a short time over 1,500. A number of the Chinese and western people I know are making serious efforts to emigrate (or at least move away from the city centers), in a large part due to the pollution levels – knowing the numbers just makes it easier to make a decision.

  2. It’s interesting to see how China and other nations that are producers of cheap plastic crap for export are coming to the realization that the deal they made, trading their environment for profit and GDP growth, may have been a deal with the devil.

    I am curious as to if our Western desire for so much plastic and electronic stuff is driven in part due to particularly low prices from the explosion in cheap overseas manufacturing, or if we’d still want or get that phone-of-the-quarter or that new TV if the purchase price included environmental cleanup costs or costs associated with not releasing pollutants in the first place.  It could be well that we wouldn’t have had this digital revolution if computers were still $2000 or if one couldn’t get a network-connectable Blu-ray player for $70.

    I consider myself lucky that even though I can afford new stuff, I generally make do with used stuff, discards, the like, and don’t feel a need to change something until there’s a real paradigm shift that following would benefit me.  I have a widescreen high-definition tube TV, as an example, and it shows my TV programs just as well as a flat TV, is almost impossible to damage, and only cost me $40.  When it is no longer adequate, I will then look for the next TV.

    1. Good for you! Yet, you understand that yours can’t become a large scale solution until the economy switches to the production of durable goods. Won’t happen unless we ask..

      1. Ask? Demand.

        Asking won’t change their research data that says that average consumers couldn’t give a toot. There are people I know that consider ‘Buy cheap, buy twice’ a strategy.

    2. That tube TV must use a ton of energy. I’d guess in the long run it’ll be costing you far more than an LCD. Environmentally and financially. It’s a complex business.

      1. I’m guessing he’s in the US where electricity is really cheap compared to the UK. Heavily subsidized of course, but hey, low power bills!

        1. Is it that much cheaper? Maybe it is, don’t give me numbers, they’ll depress me.

          Although I suppose they’re a lot more willing to rape their land over there. Actually maybe a better word is ‘able’, rather than ‘willing’. I don’t think Cock Piss Cameron would have any gripes about flooring the Midlands for an extra few years worth of natural gas.

      2.  That’s obviously dependent on how much it’s on.  It does have an energy star logo on the front, but I can’t find any data on how it actually performs or what was required to get that listing.

        It cost me $40 for the TV.  I have a space constraint issue with a built-in cabinet, the next closest TV in size that would fit this space would be a 32″ 1080p unit, though I think that Vizio had a 37″ with really slim borders that would have fit.  I would have spent about $500 to get what I wanted in an LCD, and spending twelve and a half times more up front may not work out in the end over the life of the unit, especially if the newer TV croaks prematurely, as many Vizio TVs reportedly have in the last few years…

          1. No worries.

            Back during the Cash for Clunkers tax credit program, my biggest complaint is that given the resources committed to manufacturing something, it is not a good idea to prematurely end-of-life a thing when its replacement(s) aren’t different enough to meaningfully make a difference.  In the case of the car buyback, I don’t think it makes sense to end-of-life a car early when undoubtedly there were people driving even worse vehicles than those destroyed.  As to the destruction itself, they destroyed the engines, not the car bodies.  One could just drop another engine in and be back on the road.  If destruction were mandated, I would have cut one foot out of the middle of the car across the “B-pillar” area, so that the good parts could be used to repair other cars.

            So, my opinion is one of using the thing until a true paradigm shift (ie, if electric became common and reasonably priced as opposed to just more petroleum-powered cars) because the cost to produce, environmentally, should dictate that we not unnecessarily pollute by continuing to manufacture more things without them being put into use.

    3. Honestly that’s the sad thing – you can bring the job here with all the red tape and hassle and regulations – and the cost of the product would only go up 10 bucks (see the apple Iphone and the fact that apple only saves 10 dollars per device over having the entire thing (circuit board and all) made here in the US)

      The cost of shipping your resources TO china then getting your stuff shipped BACK is not cheap – companies really are saving only tiny amounts which is why once the average wage goes up just a tad those jobs will come back.  In the meantime – it’s make stuff as cheap as possible :)

      1.  I’m not entirely certain how accurate those numbers are.  If it were literally $10 on a device that costs $650, that’s only a 1.5% difference, and I doubt that they’d go overseas for savings that could easily be lost if a single shipping container got knocked off the cargo carrier.

        My guess is that it’s quite a bit cheaper, partially due to labor costs, but mostly due to lax environmental rules that allow the production of plastic, circuit boards, and integrated circuits to be very inexpensive due to a lack of need to contain byproduct pollutants.

        1.  Shipping containers are insured – and I think you seriously underestimate what companies will do to save a dollar.

          Recall:  Papa Johns protested the healthcare bill because insuring everyone (including delivery guys) would cost them 15 cents a pizza.

          /boggle – companies will do very stupid things in the name of shaving that profit – and 10 dollars a device is alot when you sell millions of them.

        2. Now multiply by the millions of units that Apple ships and you’re looking at a pretty nice executive bonus.

          The main reason for manufacturing in China is supply chain issues.  See here.  Also, according to that article the difference in cost of manufacture is $65; the difference between 1.5% and 10% may be relevant as well.

    1. Most people I know have that on their smartphone (if they have one). It’s pretty useful for deciding whether to go out or not that day.

      1. I thought it looked not so bad today but I just checked back and holy cow! Beijing is “Unhealthy” and Chengdu (home of awesome food) is “Hazardous”!? I just discovered this map they have too.
        Their faq shows a scale with the worst maroon colored going to 500 (301 to 500 is Hazardous)… and then there is a city called Xining in western China at 960!!

        1. Unhealthy is pretty good; it’s in the 160s here and in Beijing but I can see a few km away. When you get into the 300s you start to feel uncomfortable jogging or cycling, then at 500+ you can feel uncomfortable doing anything much outside. For a while in January it was over 800 most days and I had constant asthma symptoms (it was the first time I’ve really been affected since I was a teenager). Now I’ve stopped even using an exercise bike indoors when it’s bad and I feel a lot better. It is amazing when you go back to the UK after a year or so in China though – even in the cities you feel like you’re able to breathe deeply for the first time in ages.

          It’s quite frightening to see the effect the pollution has on people first hand – a lot of people spit in the street, but people who spend a lot of time outdoors are the worst. It’s not unusual at all to see a taxi stopping at a traffic light, then the driver opens the door and practically coughs his lungs out. Apparently if they do an autopsy on a middle aged in Guangzhou and their lungs aren’t black, they obviously aren’t local.

          1. Why are you voluntarily living in a place that pretty much guarantees that you’ll get lung cancer?

          2. We’ve been fostering a child for the past two and a half years, and we should be able to sign the final adoption papers next week. We’ve actually already bought our tickets back to Europe.

  3. I guess few Chinese citizens heard about the 900 pig carcasses pulled out of the river that supplies Shanghai with its drinking water either. (per todays’ AP newsfeed)

  4. I’ve long harboured the certainty that Mao used communism as a smokescreen to rein in the rampant excesses and murderous fighting that characterised China’s history.  I wouldn’t be surprised if the communists had accurately predicted the ruinous impacts of over-industrialisation.

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