Wednesday, June 20, 2007

We're Number Two!

We're Number Two! It's just wonderful that the U.S. has strained forward in its efforts to lower our polluting levels, that we've restrained the industries fouling up the air and waters, that we've pulled back from our wandering ways ... oh, wait.

China was the big success, pulling out ahead in its own polluting excesses.

China has overtaken the United States as the top emitter of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, because of surging energy use amid an economic boom, a Dutch government-funded agency said on Wednesday.

Other experts have estimated that China will only surpass the United States in coming years. The rise to number one emitter may put pressure on Beijing to do more to help a U.N.-led fight against global warming.

"China's 2006 carbon dioxide emissions surpassed those of the United States by 8 percent," the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency said in a statement. In 2005, it said China's emissions were 2 percent below those of the United States.

While its citizens are having to wear breathing masks to go out in the polluted air and can't eat the seafood in its rivers, China forges ahead with its new distinction as the dirtiest kid on the block. And what steps forward are the Chinese taking in fighting pollution? Naturally, fighting against the few who dare to combat it, like all good developing industrial nations.

For the past five years, village doctor Zhang Changjian has rallied farmers here against a chemical factory dumping pollutants into a river.

This spring, they won a rare victory. A court found the pollution exceeded acceptable levels and ordered the Rongping Joint Chemical Plant to pay damages of about $85,000. But the farmers have yet to see any of the settlement. Mr. Zhang has been the target of police harassment, and the county government has closed down his clinic.

When a chemical factory in rural China started dumping pollutants into a nearby river and cancer rates soared, village doctor Zhang Changjian, above, organized a campaign that called national attention to local farmers' plight. He drew inspiration from the movie "Erin Brockovich," starring Julia Roberts, based on a true story of a woman's crusade for justice after similar pollution in California.
A quiet man with a crop of stubby, graying hair, Mr. Zhang, 46 years old, refuses to be cowed. He continues to dispense medicine and monitor Rongping, often circling the factory in plastic slippers, a camera clamped to his belt. "Our food is still poisoned," says Mr. Zhang, pointing out the factory's wastewater spilling into the foul-smelling river that eventually flows into the East China Sea. "The farmers can't sell their crops and they're too poor to move."

Water pollution is among the most worrisome byproducts of China's rapid economic growth. Factories and cities dump some 40 to 60 billion tons of wastewater and sewage into lakes and rivers each year, according to Chinese government estimates. About 30% of China's rivers are so dirty they aren't fit for industrial or agricultural use, according to official statistics.

These are appropriate friends for the White House cabal. When you can't run roughshod over the people because of some one protecting them, why just shut down anyone who tries to protect them.

When corporate interests are the BFF of the executive branch, all sorts of abuse becomes the order of business for that government. We are going to have to be very alert and very protective of our interests to keep this kind of operation from happening here. Signing statements to the contrary, the role of government is to protect, not to destroy, the public.

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