Monday, February 23, 2009

Dam Nation

We've already discussed the possibility that China's rampant over-development may have actually triggered last year's catastrophic earthquake in Sichuan Province, killing some eighty thousand. Now there's evidence that the yellow dust storms (hwangsa; 황사) that choke northern China, the two Koreas, and Japan every year may also be caused by reckless over-damming of the country:
Beijing calls the drought in northern China in the past three months, the worst in the past fifty years. It imputes the disaster to too little precipitation. Wang Weiluo, a renowned hydraulic engineer who was involved in the Three Gorges Dam feasibility study, believes Beijing exaggerates the influence of nature in order to shirk its responsibility. According to Wang, "The main cause for the drought is Beijing's overbuilding of reservoirs, which results in an ecological imbalance and creates a water resource monopoly."
Then, of course, there is the perennial news of mine disaster after mine disaster, the latest of which has killed at least seventy-three people in the northern province of Shanxi. 

Karl Marx may have called religion the opiate of the masses, but if he were alive today he might refer to consumerism instead. China's leadership has tried to appease its democracy-less populace with promises of rapidly expanding goods and services: a short-sighted promise that no sane government would make. The result is a struggle for resources and energy that lead to haphazardly planned mines and public works projects, so the public can live better than their parents and dote mercilessly on their only child

(To read more on that doting, click on the NPR link to read/hear about how Chinese parents are tending to indulge their only child's every whim, including things like the "Barbie photo shoot" of 17-year-old Bamboo at left.)

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