When a Billion Chinese Jump: How China Will Save Mankind -- or Destroy It

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When A Billion Chinese Jump: How China Will Save Mankind -- Or Destroy It
By Jonathan Watts
Scribner, 2010
448 pp. $17.00
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As The Guardian's environmental correspondent in Asia, Watts has traveled all over China to report on the myriad ways in which development there is ruining the environment -- through the accumulation of rubbish, the extermination of wildlife, the damming and diversion of rivers, the electrocution of fish, the confiscation and poisoning of farmland, the acidification of rain, and the dumping of wastewater into rivers and lakes. A lot of the dross dumped in China is effluent from factories producing for Western markets or garbage sent back from the West. Well-meaning government regulation is too weak to counter the pent-up lust for wealth. China may be ahead of the West when it comes to renewable energy and "green" buildings, but these advances are still in their nonage. By portraying the yin of pollution along with the yang of economic dynamism, the book renders a broad-gauge picture of China today. The country contributes in many ways to global warming -- through deforestation, overgrazing, wasteful consumption, and, of course, emitting carbon in the manufacturing process. The subtitle may exaggerate -- China by itself will neither destroy mankind nor save it -- but the book brings home how the environmental impact of China's growth affects everyone.

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