Tag Archives: China

11/15/2011 The Guardian: Coal's dirty secret: it's dying

11/15/2011 The Guardian: Coal’s dirty secret: it’s dying: Protecting uneconomic jobs in a dying industry – coal mining in the UK – is not acceptable. But neither is abandoning workers to the dole, which is where green energy comes in. I spent half my childhood in Fife, surrounded by villages where abandoned coal mines has left nothing behind but unemployment. Walking to school, I remember seeing houses with all the windows smashed in and “scab” daubed in giant letters across the walls. The destruction of an industry is a terrible and traumatic event.

But the call from a right-wing think tank to exempt the UK coal industry from taxes on carbon could not be more wrong-headed. It is mounting a Canute-like stand against the tide, rather than swimming with it.

Carbon emissions have to be curbed to prevent climate chaos and in the UK this is legally binding. For the 6,000 coal workers in the UK, the solution is not to subsidise their jobs in a hopeless attempt to compete with Poland, China and elsewhere. The answer is to re-skill them for the industries of the future: clean, sustainable energy.

Tony Lodge, author of the Centre for Policy Studies report out next month, argues:

This collapse in the market for coal could come as new cleaner coal power stations are possibly under construction by the mid-2020s – or in sight of opening – but by the time they are commissioned the UK coal industry would have effectively ceased to exist.

UK mining still looks after a third of our coal demand, supplying 18.4m tonnes last year, and this is expected to hit 19m tonnes this year. This collapse would lead to Britain needing to import all of its coal demand … It would also lead to the loss of up to 6,000 coal sector jobs.

But the future of “clean” coal in the UK is far from clear. The proposal to build a carbon capture and storage demonstration plant at the coal-fired power station at Longannet has collapsed, due to cost. The smart money now appears to be on CCS partly cleaning up gas, not coal and not anytime soon.

Lodge’s second point – UK coal demand – is also moot. There are no respectable future energy scenarios in which coal use rises – none – and in any case British coal burns dirtier than most imports.

We should also look at where special pleading leads us: to failure. The “past masters” of special pleading are the energy intensive industries – think steel, cement, paper. They lobbied intensely to weaken the European Union’s emission’s trading scheme, and succeeded. As a result they are now reaping billions of Euros in windfalls, but has that protected jobs? No, Tata Steel, which is sucking almost €400m out of the ETS, announced it was sacking 1,500 workers in May.

There’s an unpleasant irony in the Centre for Policy Studies trying to save the UK coal industry: the think tank was founded by Margaret Thatcher who so unflinchingly destroyed its core in the 1980s. Today, protecting uneconomic jobs in a dying industry – coal mining in the UK – is not acceptable, but neither is abandoning those workers to the dole. But the clean, sustainable energy industry is growing in the UK and will need new, skilled staff.

The Chancellor George Osborne put £100m into Scottish renewable energy on 11 November. This was the first glimmer of hope for the green economy since Osborne did his best to trash it in his cynical party conference speech in October.

If the government truly commits to the green economy – in word and deed – then the Green investment bank will be allowed to borrow and drive investment, the Green deal will be allowed to meet the vast need for better energy efficiency and electricity market reform will do more than support nuclear power. And if that happens, there will be many more than 6,000 new jobs in sustainable, growing industries.

8/27/2011 CENSORED NEWS New Wikileaks: UN: China scolded US treatment of Native Americans

8/27/2011 CENSORED NEWS New Wikileaks: UN: China scolded US treatment of Native Americans: US human rights abuses exposed by world leaders at the UN, previously censored, are revealed in new Wikileaks cable By Brenda Norrell: A new Wikileaks cable provides the scope of US human rights abuses in testimony by world leaders before the United Nations in 2007. Much of the information was censored by the US media at the time. World leaders described the human rights abuses of the United States, including secret torture centers, targeted assassinations, “people hunting” on the Mexican border and the use of biological weapons in Vietnam. China described the racism and xenophobia on the rise in the United States and the US violations of the rights of Native Americans and ethnic groups.

“China said the United States had turned a blind eye to China’s progress in human rights, but had failed to examine its own human rights record, citing the September 16 Blackwater security incident in Iraq. He stated that the United States has increased its monitoring and control of the Internet and suppressed anti-war expression and gatherings. He alleged that racism and xenophobia are on the rise in the United States, as are violations of the human rights of Native Americans and ethnic groups. He called on the United States to remember its own ‘bad and sad’ human rights record,” according to the US diplomatic cable.

The cable released yesterday, Friday, is from Dr. Zalmay Khalilzad, Permanent Representative to the UN. The cable is dated Nov. 15, 2007, seven months after Dr. Khalilzad began his UN position. Dr. Khalilzad was previously an Ambassador in both Iraq and Afghanistan, and served the Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld trio.

Dr. Khalilzad was the US Ambassador to Iraq from 2005 to 2007, after serving as the U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan, 2003 to 2005. Dr. Khalilzad headed the Bush-Cheney transition team for the Department of Defense and has been a Counselor to Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, according to the US State Dept.

Here’s the US atrocities, in the United States’ own words:

Diplomatic Cable:

¶1. (U) Speaking Oct. 31 in the annual debate on promotion and protection of human rights in the UN General Assembly’s Third Committee, Ambassador Khalilzad emphasized the value the United States places on human rights, described the important role these rights play in building societies, cited examples of progress in human rights (Indonesia, Sierra Leone, Guatemala, Morocco and Lebanon) and addressed situations of human rights violations (Zimbabwe, Cuba, North Korea, Burma, Belarus, Iran and Syria). He noted U.S. concern for the situation of human rights in Russia and China. (Full text of Ambassador Khalilzad’s statement is available at www.usunnewyork.usmission.gov press releases/20071031 278.html).

¶2. (U) Several delegations responded to the U.S. statement. Iran’s representative regretted that the Third Committee is frequently misused to name and blame, which he said divides the group into two blocs, the claimants vs. the defendants. He noted that no country has a perfect record and pointed to Guantanamo, secret detention centers, mistreatment of migrants in the United States, Europe, and Canada, and the inhumane treatment of the Palestinian people, which, he alleged, is supported by Europe and the United States.

¶3. (U) The Cuban delegate boasted of Cuba’s successes in the area of human rights and said the same countries that criticize Cuba commit numerous violations of human rights, singling out the United States for what she said was torture of prisoners by U.S. soldiers in Guantanamo and Iraq, sexual abuse of prisoners in Abu Ghraib, police violence, the death penalty for minors, election fraud, “people-hunting” on the Mexican border, and violations of civil and political rights of American citizens, including wiretapping and banning travel to Cuba.

¶4. (U) North Korea’s delegate said the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan were the cause of “more than a million” deaths and an increase in sectarian violence. He called for “non-selectivity” in addressing human rights, stating that issues such as the unlawful acts of Israel in the Occupied Territories and the CIA’s alleged overseas secret prisons are ignored, while developing countries are SIPDIS the target of accusations. “The United States is the number one invader and killer of other nations” said the North Korean, and “must clean its untidy house inside and out.”

¶5. (U) Syria’s delegate said the “American sermon” was an attempt to divide the Third Committee into good vs. bad. He argued that the vote against the U.S. trade embargo of Cuba in this year’s General Assembly showed the isolation of the American position when it comes to human rights. He said U.S. human rights violations include the Guantanamo prison, secret extrajudicial executions, targeted killings, use of SIPDIS biological weapons in Vietnam, racial discrimination, and even movies that promote violence around the world.

¶6. (U) China said the United States had turned a blind eye to China’s progress in human rights, but had failed to examine its own human rights record, citing the September 16 Blackwater security incident in Iraq. He stated that the United States has increased its monitoring and control of the Internet and suppressed anti-war expression and gatherings. He alleged that racism and xenophobia are on the rise in the United States, as are violations of the human rights of Native Americans and ethnic groups. He called on the United States to remember its own “bad and sad” human rights record.
Read more at Censored News:

5/27/2011 Earth Policy Institute – Pollution: Cancer is now the leading cause of death in China

5/27/2011 Pollution: Cancer is now the leading cause of death in China. This post was written by Janet Larsen, director of research for the Earth Policy Institute. Additional resources at www.earth-policy.org. Cancer is now the leading cause of death in China. Chinese Ministry of Health data implicate cancer in close to a quarter of all deaths countrywide. As is common with many countries as they industrialize, the usual plagues of poverty — infectious diseases and high infant mortality — have given way to diseases more often associated with affluence, such as heart disease, stroke, and cancer. While this might be expected in China’s richer cities, where bicycles are fast being traded in for cars and meat consumption is climbing, it also holds true in rural areas. In fact, reports from the countryside reveal a dangerous epidemic of “cancer villages” linked to pollution from some of the very industries propelling China’s explosive economy. By pursuing economic growth above all else, China is sacrificing the health of its people, ultimately risking future prosperity.

Lung cancer is the most common cancer in China. Deaths from this typically fatal disease have shot up nearly fivefold since the 1970s. In China’s rapidly growing cities, like Shanghai and Beijing, where particulates in the air are often four times higher than in New York City, nearly 30 percent of cancer deaths are from lung cancer.

Dirty air is associated with not only a number of cancers, but also heart disease, stroke, and respiratory disease, which together account for over 80 percent of deaths countrywide. According to the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the burning of coal is responsible for 70 percent of the emissions of soot that clouds out the sun in so much of China; 85 percent of sulfur dioxide, which causes acid rain and smog; and 67 percent of nitrogen oxide, a precursor to harmful ground level ozone. Coal burning is also a major emitter of carcinogens and mercury, a potent neurotoxin. Coal ash, which contains radioactive material and heavy metals, including chromium, arsenic, lead, cadmium, and mercury, is China’s No. 1 source of solid industrial waste. The toxic ash that is not otherwise used in infrastructure or manufacturing is stored in impoundments, where it can be caught by air currents or leach contaminants into the groundwater.

Coal pollution combined with emissions from China’s burgeoning industries and the exhaust of a fast-growing national vehicle fleet are plenty enough to impair breathing and jeopardize health. But that does not stop over half the men in China from smoking tobacco. Smoking is far less common among women; less than 3 percent light up. Still, about one in 10 of the estimated 1 million Chinese who die from smoking-related diseases each year are exposed to carcinogenic secondhand smoke but do not smoke themselves.

In rural areas, liver, lung, and stomach cancers each accounts for close to 20 percent of cancer mortality. Liver cancer is more than three times as likely to kill a Chinese farmer as the average global citizen; for stomach cancer, rural Chinese have double the world death rate. These cancers are linked to water polluted by chemicals and sewage, along with other environmental contaminants.

As factories, plants, and mines discharge pollutants, rivers and lakes take on sickly hues. Even underground water sources become contaminated. Government data indicate that half of China’s rivers and more than three out of every four lakes and reservoirs are too polluted for safe drinking, even after treatment. Nevertheless, they remain a primary source of water for many people.

More than 450 “cancer villages” have emerged across China in recent years, according to an analysis by geographer Lee Liu published in Environment magazine in 2010. These communities — where an unusually high number of residents are struck by the same types of cancer — tend to cluster in poorer areas along polluted waterways or downstream from industrial parks. Whereas much of China’s early industrial development took place along the coast, factories more recently have been locating where labor is cheaper and environmental oversight is less strict, pushing the so-called “cancer belt” inland.

For villages once largely self-sufficient, the poisoning of their water and soil is devastating. The young and able-bodied often leave to seek income elsewhere. Those too old, too poor, or too sick to leave remain, struggling to work the poisoned land.

Liu notes that in some extreme cases, like in Huangmengying Village in Henan Province, “the death rate is higher than the birth rate and is rising rapidly,” and not because of population aging. In this particular village, which gets blackened water from a tributary of the notoriously polluted Huai River, some 80 percent of the village’s young people are chronically ill. Even 1-year-olds are receiving cancer diagnoses. About half of all the village deaths between 1994 and 2004 were caused by liver, rectum, and stomach cancers. More recent data is not readily available because the government official who initially made the numbers public was accused of “leaking state secrets,” was fired from his job as the village’s Party secretary, and now is reluctant to speak out, according to reporting for the Global Times.

Because of the lag time before diagnosis or death, plus the lack of health care in many of the poorest, most polluted areas, the magnitude of China’s cancer epidemic could be far greater than imagined. And not all the environmental burden is borne locally. The contamination spans geography — as toxins in products and crops are spread through markets and trade or are literally carried across oceans by global air currents — as well as generations.

China’s youth, and therefore the country’s future, are at risk. Birth defect rates have been climbing rapidly in recent years in the major cities and countrywide. Chinese family planning officials link this “alarming rise” to environmental contamination. The coal mining and processing areas of Shanxi Province are home to the world’s highest birth defect rate: over 8.4 percent. Of the 1 million or so affected babies born each year in China, some 20 to 30 percent may be treated, but 40 percent will have permanent disabilities. The rest die shortly after birth.

Over the last several years, thousands of children living near lead mines, smelters, and battery plants have been poisoned. Deadly at excessive levels, lead in the blood is considered unsafe in any amount. Exposure can impair cognitive and nervous system development, stunt growth, hamper learning, and depress IQ. Heartbreaking news stories tell of the lost potential of children who lose their chance to go on to school or fail to thrive more generally due to their exposure to high environmental levels of lead.

For a country of one child families, it is no wonder to see more frequent “mass incidents” (the government’s term for protests) sparked by the health fallout from pollution. In some cases, operations of the offending industries have been closed following protest; in others, the government has relocated entire communities to allow the polluters to continue operations. Yet in many situations, the contamination continues unabated.

It is easy to point a finger at unscrupulous industries and government officials willing to look the other way, but some responsibility for China’s unhealthy environment originates outside the country’s borders. Waste is frequently loaded up in container ships overseas and delivered directly to China. More insidiously, Western consumers lapping up artificially cheap “Made in China” components and products have outsourced pollution to this factory for the world.

Earlier this year, near the release of China’s latest five-year plan, The New York Times quoted Prime Minister Wen Jiabao’s proclamation that “We must not any longer sacrifice the environment for the sake of rapid growth and reckless roll-outs.” Yet while official rhetoric recognizes the importance of preserving the environment and the health of its people, the Chinese government still has a long way to go in bolstering transparency and enforcement of even the existing environmental regulations, not to mention strengthening protection. If it does not do so, the country’s toxic burden threatens to stall or even reverse the dramatic health gains of the last 60 years, which raised average life expectancy from 45 to 74 years and slashed infant mortality from 122 deaths per 1,000 births down to 20. Economic gains could be lost as productivity wanes and massive health bills come due. Ultimately, a sick country can prosper only so long.

Here’s a breakdown of the leading causes of death in China: