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As China Grows Rich, Rainforests Fall

As China Grows Rich, Rainforests Fall

 
 

An incredible forest lies on its side in this gritty industrial town in southeastern China. On the southern bank of the Yangtze River nine-foot-diameter kevazingo trees from Gabon rub against Cambodian rosewoods and Indonesian teaks. Nearby, rust-colored bark from Malaysian pacific maples flakes onto stained concrete.

Together, the horizontal forest contains more than 220 species from every corner of the globe. If they were living, they would create one of the most diverse spaces on earth.

Instead the mountains of wood are a harbinger of the environmental changes unleashed by China’s rapid rise. As China has maintained three decades of unprecedented economic growth, it has outstripped its resources and begun scouring the world for more—in the process becoming the world’s top consumer of dozens of commodities, everything from logs, coal and iron ore to shark fins and tiger bones.

The impact on forests highlights how China’s size and rapid growth has pushed up the world’s metabolism—with dramatic consequences for its shared land, waters and climate. Since 2000, the volume of wood imported by China has roughly doubled while China’s share of global trade in logs and wood pulp used to make paper has tripled. Nearly half of all tropical logs shipped worldwide now end up in China.

That rising demand has come at steep environmental costs. Even as consumers in developed nations increasingly seek out alternatives to tropical hardwoods, China’s shoppers have taken up the slack, driving unsustainable logging and leading to the rapid loss of some of the world’s last stands of pristine rainforest.

The stakes are openly displayed at the Zhangjiagang port. On a warm winter afternoon a twenty-four-year-old timber trader surnamed Zhuo drives a Buick minivan through the piles of logs. He points out the kevazingo logs from Gabon, which has one of Africa’s highest rates of deforestation—more than two percent each year according to recent government data—and timber from Indonesia, Myanmar, and Cambodia, Southeast Asian nations that experts say could be cleared of accessible natural forests within a decade. He waves a suntanned hand toward a stack of Brazilian logs that he admits might have been cut illegally.

And then he rolls to a stop in front of a hill of timber painted with the letters “KWI” and flagged with tiny plastic tags. KWI is industry shorthand for kwilla, a tropical hardwood with a deep red grain that is popular among wealthy Chinese shopping for hardwood floors.

The tags are printed with tiny drawings of birds of paradise and the name of a distant country that has become a symbol of the world’s threatened natural bounty: Papua New Guinea.

Tropical Paradise

Three thousand miles south of Zhangjiagang Benny Francis is trying to make sense of the forces remaking his forests. Sitting on the porch of a rattan-and-thatch hut in Manamaging, a village of several hundred people carved out of Papua New Guinea’s jungle, he talks about the decision several years ago to open their land to logging.

As for most of Papua New Guinea’s communities, the choice was hard. For countless generations villagers have lived off the jungle’s bounty. For food they hunt pigs and collect wild fruits. When someone has a fever they pick leaves that, eaten, lower it. When they need a new building, they walk into the jungle and find materials. Most villagers believe their ancestors’ spirits live within the forest.

But Papua New Guinea is one of the world’s poorest nations. Many of its 6.5 million people have no access to electricity, paved roads or piped water. Manamaging has no school or medical clinic.

In the end, the families decided that the income from selling their trees—an area that Francis says takes a day to walk across—was worth the costs. They signed paperwork with a Malaysian-owned logging company and men soon arrived with chainsaws and bulldozers.

Across the country, thousands of communities are making the same calculations. A study by the University of Papua New Guinea found that more than one percent of the nation is cleared or degraded each year. Other experts estimate that all of Papua New Guinea’s accessible wilderness could be converted to logging and other uses within a decade.

In Manamaging, the $20 villagers receive for each log has brought new opportunities. Villagers have purchased several generators and a car they use as a taxi, earning more income. Many have purchased new clothes and electronics. Some have invested in education.

But Francis worries that the costs will prove too high. Instead of hunting and farming, some villagers have started buying canned food and alcohol, shifts he thinks have made them lazy. When the logging company is finished in a year or two, there will be no more income and the forests they have always relied on for hunting and agriculture will be degraded.

“One day we’re going to cry for what we did to our land,” he says, dragging on his cigarette and staring across a yard where chickens and pigs root in the dirt. “We will spoil everything if we let all the logging and mining companies come in. Our children and their children won’t have anything left.”

For the world, the loss of Papua New Guinea’s forests could also prove traumatic. The country covers the eastern half of New Guinea, the world’s third-largest tropical wilderness. Only the jungles of the Amazon and Congo are bigger.

Together with other tropical forests, the three areas cover roughly six percent of earth but protect more than half of all described species. Much of New Guinea’s wildlife is found nowhere else and scientists still routinely discover new creatures.

Vojtech Novotny, an ecologist who splits his time between a research center on Papua New Guinea’s north coast and the University of South Bohemia in the Czech Republic, says science has described “only a tiny fraction” of the island’s diversity. He focuses on insects and estimates that less than 10 percent of some 250,000 species have been studied.

Besides the value of those species to the local environment, researchers are finding wildlife that may be useful to humans. One recent study described more than 1,000 plant species used by Papua New Guineans.

As the jungle is cleared, many of those species face extinction. “These are products of millions of years of evolution that can’t be recreated,” Novotny says. “We really don’t understand what we’re losing.”

Shifting Trade Winds

Like for much of the world, the pace of forest destruction in Papua New Guinea is rising in step with China’s economic growth.

In the eighties and nineties the country exported most of its logs to Japan. But by the mid-nineties, exports had tailed off as Japanese consumers sought out sustainable forest plantations, such as those in Canada and the United States. The Japanese “didn’t want to be seen as causing a lot of environmental destruction,” says Goodwill Amos, an official in the country’s forest authority.

Then, in the summer of 1998, heavy rains in China flooded the Yangtze and other rivers. Thousands of people died and millions were left homeless. Beijing blamed deforestation for exacerbating the floods and—enacting the power allowed by one-party rule—banned logging across large sections of the country.

To make up for the sudden lack of domestic supply, Chinese companies looked abroad. With more than two-thirds of its land covered with pristine rainforests, Papua New Guinea made at attractive target. Today, it takes nine out of every ten logs exported from the nation.

What happens to the logs after they reach China, however, has changed. Even a few years ago, most of the tropical hardwood entering ports like Zhangjiagang was used in export products—everything from dining room tables to floor boards and guitars. In 2005, Chinese-made furniture accounted for nearly a third of global trade.

The global financial crisis and China’s burgeoning wealth has shifted the picture. Even as Americans and Europeans cut back on new purchases, Chinese spending has picked up. In 2009, China was the only major global market that increased its consumption of wood products. A recent study by RISI, a timber consultancy based in Bedford, Massachusetts, found that 92 percent of China’s manufactured wood products are now sold within China.

The shift is certain to lead to greater demand as the world economy recovers. Industry analysts expect China to be the fastest-growing consumer of wood products in the years to come, “to feed what is likely to be continued demand from the US, Europe and elsewhere, but in particular, a burgeoning domestic market,” a forthcoming report by Forest Trends, a Washington D.C.-based non-government organization, states.

“There are serious concerns about the rapid decline of natural forests in many of the countries that source forest products to China,” the report adds.

Money Matters

The forces unleashed by China’s rapid rise resonate in both Manamaging’s forests and the Zhangjiagang timber port.

For Zhuo, the trader, Chinese demand means more work. As he guides a visitor through the port he fields calls on his cell phone, blithely rattling off prices for Brazilian and Malaysian logs. He only recently graduated from college and knows little more than the names of the countries the wood comes from.

Back in Papua New Guinea’s jungle Francis shakes his head when asked where his trees will end up. Perhaps America, he thinks, since it must cost a lot to ship them so far.

Both men, however, believe that the logging will continue.

“Life is hard in the bush, so people want to make quick money,” Francis says, sitting on the porch of a house and watching birds fly through the nearby jungle canopy. “When the loggers leave, the trees will be gone, the land will be spoiled, but they don’t think about that. They only think about the money.”

A seeming world away, amid the sprawling Yangtze industrial zone, Zhuo stands next to a pile of logs that might have been felled near the village. Money also dominates his thinking. Business has been picking up and he’s expecting a new shipment from Papua New Guinea soon.

“China is getting rich,” he says. “We’ll have a lot more work.”

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A longtime China journalist, Craig Simons is writing a book about China’s large – and growing – global environmental footprint. The book, as yet untitled, will be published by St. Martin’s Press in...

Craig Simons was a 2011 Fellow with the Alicia Patterson Foundation. This article was originally published on AliciaPatterson.org.

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Water-Trading Could Exacerbate Water Shortages in China

CHINADIALOGUE

Large-scale engineering projects and rigorous state control are hallmarks of the Chinese developmental model, and both have been apparent in the country’s approach to water management.A US$62 billion project to divert water from the south to the parched north is under way,...

Environment

05.17.13

China Tops Table for Disaster-Induced Displacement of...

CHINADIALOGUE

More than a third of all people forced from their homes by disasters such as floods, storms, and earthquakes in the past five years were in China, says a new report from the leading international body on displacement.Around 49.8 million Chinese people were displaced by natural...

Environment

05.16.13

Singapore’s Growth Story Holds Lessons for Water-...

CHINADIALOGUE

When the tiny city-state of Singapore gained independence in 1965, its social, economic, political, and environmental constraints appeared so formidable that many of those looking in from outside predicted a future of dismal dimensions.Forty years on, the reality looks very...

Environment

05.03.13

Time to End Secrecy Over Chinese Overseas Fishing

CHINADIALOGUE

It is well-known that overseas fishing fleets are more cavalier in terms of respect for laws and regulations than their domestic counterparts. There are innumerable examples from all over the world of fishing with gears that are not part of agreements, or catching amounts of fish...

Environment

04.30.13

Why Has Water-Rich Yunnan Become A Drought Hotspot?

CHINADIALOGUE

Yunnan’s drought continues. During China’s annual parliamentary session in March, the deputy party secretary of the southwest Chinese province, Qiu He, blamed spring floodwaters that flow through Yunnan and on into other countries for the water shortages. He proposed a...

Environment

04.22.13

Why It’s Time to End China-Bashing on the Environment

CHINADIALOGUE

The major impact that international summits and treaties have had on China’s environmental governance is often overlooked. Environmental protection first emerged as an issue in China in 1972, after the country dispatched a delegation to the U.N. Conference on the Human...

Environment

04.16.13

Morococha: The Peruvian Town the Chinese Relocated

CHINADIALOGUE

The headlines have been stark: a Chinese mining company moves an entire Peruvian town of 5,000 people five miles down the road to make way for its new mine.It sounds like another story about an extractive corporation riding roughshod over local lives. But the reality is more...

Environment

04.10.13

Writing Yunnan a Rubber Check

CHRIS HORTON

Our van stopped at a scenic vista on the contour road where verdant mountains undulated southward toward China’s border with Laos. Stepping out to take some photos, I was overcome by an acrid, unpleasant odor. I asked my local travel partner, Xiao Guan, what the stink was.“...

Environment

03.22.13

Public Fury After Chinese Environment Minister Keeps...

CHINADIALOGUE

In his eight years as China’s environmental protection minister, Zhou Shengxian has failed to keep almost a single promise. I say “almost”: he has kept his word at least when it comes to his own career—as promised, he has not quit.When the new leadership’s ministerial...

Environment

03.18.13

Baby Milk Restrictions Cause Outrage in Mainland China

CHINADIALOGUE

The Hong Kong government’s recent listing of baby formula as a “reserved commodity” and a 1.8kg per person per day export limit has sparked widespread criticism—as well as becoming a hot topic at China’s annual session of parliament [the Lianghui, or “Two Meetings...

Environment

03.13.13

Chinese Fracking Plans Prompt “Water-Grabbing”...

CHINADIALOGUE

China has become one of Asia’s leaders in expanding unconventional shale-gas extraction in the name of energy self-sufficiency and national autonomy. Experiences of “fracking” worldwide, however, suggest the costs to China of joining this revolution will be loss of control...

Environment

03.06.13

Environmentalists Unconvinced by Wen Jiabao’s Green...

CHINADIALOGUE

China’s outgoing premier Wen Jiabao vowed that the government would solve the country’s ever-worsening pollution in his final work report yesterday as he opened the annual session of parliament.But coming amid rising public concern about China’s air, water, and soil quality...

Environment

03.02.13

China Criticized over Tiger Farms and Illegal Ivory

CHINADIALOGUE

China is under pressure to regulate its rampant trade in illegal ivory and tiger parts ahead of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), opening this weekend in Bangkok.It has also been accused of quietly stimulating domestic markets for tiger skins...

Environment

02.28.13

Drought and Earthquakes Pose “Enormous Risk” to...

CHINADIALOGUE

When the Fukushima nuclear disaster struck, China was building new nuclear power capacity at a rate unprecedented in world history: 40 percent of all reactors planned or under construction were in China. Targets for installed nuclear generation capacity by 2020 were raised...

Environment

02.22.13

Could Smartphones Help Clear China’s Congested Roads?

CHINADIALOGUE

The extraordinary growth of China’s cities is well-known. Today, 160 Chinese metropolises have over one million inhabitants and more than half the population lives in urban areas, which are growing at two to three times the rate of Western cities.One sector feeling the weight...

Environment

02.20.13

Air Quality in China: A Snapshot

TEA LEAF NATION

Nearly five weeks ago, Beijing experienced its worst day of air quality on record: Levels of PM2.5—small particulates that can cause lung, cardiovascular, and respiratory disease—soared to more than thirty times the level considered safe by the World Health Organization.View...

Environment

02.19.13

China’s Disappointing Absence from U.N. Water Summit

CHINADIALOGUE

After recent heated debate over China’s mega-dam plans, any visitor to the launch on February 11 of the U.N.’s much-vaunted International Year of Water Cooperation would have been disappointed.As well as a notable absence of any representatives from China, there was...

Environment

02.14.13

A Progress Report on U.S.-China Energy & Climate Change...

LEAH THOMPSON

In his second inaugural address, President Barack Obama committed to confronting climate change, stating, “The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult. But America cannot resist this transition; we must lead it.” These were welcome words...

Environment

02.13.13

Nuclear Fusion: An Answer to China’s Energy Problems?

CHINADIALOGUE

The global nuclear sector has been through something of an apocalyptic patch since the disaster at Fukushima—from power station shutdowns in Japan and Germany to waste-plan chaos in the U.K. to doubts about China’s ability to showcase new reactor designs.But not everything is...

Environment

02.07.13

Xi Jinping Must Tackle Corruption and Boost Innovation...

CHINADIALOGUE

In January 2013, Australia’s biggest supermarket chain Woolworths began restricting sales of baby formula to four tins per customer after a massive increase in demand stripped shelves bare of popular brands such as Karicare.The buyers were not Australian mothers suddenly...

Environment

02.03.13

Where Does Beijing’s Pollution Come From?

SOHU BUSINESS, TEA LEAF NATION & more

In January alone, a stifling and noxious haze twice enveloped the Chinese capital of Beijing, pushing air quality indexes literally off the charts and inciting widespread outrage both on-line and off. Pollution—and the outcry surrounding it—has gotten so severe that,...

Environment

01.25.13

Climate Change, Not Grazing, Destroying the Tibetan...

CHINADIALOGUE

Sanjiangyuan—which literally translates as the “three river source area”—feeds China’s mightiest rivers. The 300,000-square kilometer region, high on western China’s Qinghai-Tibetan plateau, provides a quarter of the Yangtze’s water, almost half of the Yellow River...

Environment

01.15.13

We’re Winning the Air Pollution Data Battle—So What...

CHINADIALOGUE

Last year, China made a breakthrough in the publication of air quality data, as more than sixty cities started to monitor and publish levels of the dangerous air pollutant PM2.5. But the figures themselves were depressing. With PM2.5—fine particulates—and ozone now included...

Environment

01.07.13

Taxi Drivers in China Have Highest PM2.5 Air Pollutant...

CHINADIALOGUE

A study conducted by Greenpeace has revealed that taxi drivers suffer the greatest levels of exposure to PM2.5 air pollution: three times that of the average person, and five times the world standard.The study, carried out by Greenpeace in partnership with the Beijing University...

Environment

01.07.13

Car-Driving Officials in China Urged to Get on a Bus

CHINADIALOGUE

China’s new leadership has asked government officials to travel simply and, in normal circumstances, not to close roads to ease their journeys. In a recent visit to the Qianhai area of Shenzhen, south China, incoming president Xi Jinping made sure to follow the new rules.As a...

Environment

01.02.13

China’s New “Middle Class” Environmental Protests

CHINADIALOGUE

China’s urban residents (or the new “middle class”) protest on the streets only very rarely. Discontent is expressed almost exclusively online, via angry typing. But this has changed over the last five years—protests have come offline and on to the streets.2012 saw...

Environment

12.21.12

China’s Environment in 2012

CHINADIALOGUE

From mass protests to trade wars, shale-gas drilling to hazardous cosmetics, it’s been a topsy turvy twelve months for China’s environment. Here’s a quick refresher of the year that was.JanuaryThe year got off to a bang – literally. The customary fireworks set off for...

Environment

11.28.12

Russia’s Siberian Dams Power “Electric Boilers”...

CHINADIALOGUE

The underdeveloped, sparsely populated Eastern Siberia region that shares a 4,000-kilometer border with China has vast resources to offer its heavily populated and fast-developing neighbor. Hydroelectricity is key among them.A major new hydroelectric plant commissioned on October...

Environment

11.27.12

Millions Await News of Test-tube Panda Taotao’s “...

CHINADIALOGUE

On October 11, at the age of two years and two months, giant panda Taotao went home.This was China’s second attempt to introduce a giant panda born through artificial insemination into the wild. Unlike last time, however, Taotao was born and raised in an environment designed to...

Environment

11.15.12

China’s Low-Carbon Zones Lack Motivation, Guidance,...

CHINADIALOGUE

None of China’s so-called low-carbon industrial zones currently live up to the name. That’s the conclusion to draw from the work of the U.S. Institute for Sustainable Communities (ISC), which this year released a guide for the development of green industrial parks in China....

Environment

10.19.12

Overfishing Pushes 80% of Chinese Fishermen Towards...

CHINADIALOGUE

In mid-September, the fishing season got under way as usual in Ningbo, on China’s east coast, after the three-month season when fishing is forbidden. Over 2,000 steel-hulled boats headed out to sea. But, on board, there was little cause for optimism.“For the last two years...

Environment

10.16.12

Chinese Boycott Airline China Southern After Mysterious...

CHINADIALOGUE

On the morning of October 10, a high-profile lawsuit against China Southern, one of China’s “big three” airlines, opened at Chaoyang People’s Court in Beijing. The plaintiffs? Zhao Nan and Chen Lei, a couple from Tianjin, north China, who blame the airline for the death...

Environment

10.11.12

China’s New Leaders Must Respect Environmental Rights

CHINADIALOGUE

China has achieved remarkable economic successes over the last three decades. For years, it has led the world in GDP growth. But widespread industrialization and urbanization, along with growth based on increased use of resources, mean the nation also leads the world in energy...

Environment

10.09.12

Top Clothing Brands Linked to Water Pollution Scandal...

CHINADIALOGUE

China is the major hub of the international textile industry, exporting US$200 billion worth of textile and apparel products in 2010—accounting for 34 percent of global exports.It’s provided cheap T-shirts and other clothes to people around the world but at a huge...

Environment

10.02.12

Decline of Bees Forces China’s Apple Farmers to...

CHINADIALOGUE

In the last fifty years, the global human population has nearly doubled, while the average calories consumed per person has increased by about 30 percent.To cope with the ever growing demand for food, more land has been brought into agricultural production, mainly by clearing...

Environment

09.20.12

Desertification in Tibet’s Wetlands Threatens the...

CHINADIALOGUE

The “kidneys” of the Tibetan plateau are failing.The Zoige Wetland National Nature Reserve, which sits on the northeastern fringe of western China’s Qinghai-Tibet plateau, contains the largest alpine peat wetlands in the world. It is also the catchment area for the Yangtze...

Environment

09.06.12

Sinking Shanghai “Not Prepared to Admit” Climate...

CHINADIALOGUE

It’s been a brutal summer for much of urban China. From the once-in-sixty-years storm that lashed Beijing in July, killing seventy-nine people and costing US$1.6 million, to the typhoon floods that triggered mass evacuations in Jingdezhen city, the heavens have been parading...

Environment

08.30.12

Milk Price War Puts Squeeze on China’s Dairy Farmers

CHINADIALOGUE

China’s dairy industry has been in a precarious state since 2008, the year of the Sanlu milk-powder scandal, when babies across the country were poisoned by melamine-tainted infant formula. This incident revealed to the world the flaws in China’s milk industry, including deep...

Environment

08.28.12

China’s South-North Water Transfer is “Irrational...

CHINADIALOGUE

Ruth Matthews, executive director of the Water Footprint Network, tells Tom Levitt how food has come to dominate our water use and why China may need to re-think its South-North water transfer project.Tom Levitt: What do you mean by our water footprint?Ruth Matthews: A water...

Environment

08.20.12

Tibetans Fight Tourism on Holy Lakes

CHINADIALOGUE

Mining, dam construction, sand excavation, poaching, and grassland degradation are seriously damaging the Qinghai-Tibet plateau, the world’s most fragile ecosystem. But without a second thought, the tourism industry has joined their ranks. The only difference is that tourism,...

Environment

08.15.12

Can New Trials Boost Chinese Wind?

CHINADIALOGUE

For the last half year, the National Energy Administration (NEA) has been making its interest in Inner Mongolia’s western regions crystal clear. This part of north China, rich in wind-power potential, has hosted group after group of energy officials—one lot even spent the...

Environment

08.15.12

Official Shrugs Off Public Food “Panic”

CHINADIALOGUE

Wang Guowei heads up the policy and legislation department at the State Council Food Safety Commission. He spoke to Xu Nan and Zhou Wei about the nature of China’s food safety problems and the ongoing policy response.chinadialogue: Compared with other countries, what are the...

Environment

08.09.12

Data Gaps Hobble Carbon Trading

CHINADIALOGUE

Late last October, China’s top economic planning body—the National Development and Reform Commission—instructed the cities of Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai, Chongqing, and Shenzhen, plus Hubei and Guangdong provinces, to get ready to run carbon-trading trials.{...

Environment

08.01.12

Protests Show Chinese Kids’ Fears

CHINADIALOGUE

The decision to cancel the metal refinery project in Shifang last month after protesters clashed with the police has been widely reported in the Chinese and global media. This is not the first time a project has been shelved due to public demonstrations. The same happened in...

Environment

07.18.12

Shifang: A Crisis of Local Rule

CHINADIALOGUE

China has been engrossed in the mass protests in Shifang, Sichuan province, where on the morning of July 2, locals and police clashed during demonstrations against a planned molybdenum and copper refinery. The next day, the government announced a halt to the project, restoring...

Environment

07.11.12

Why Big Dams Don’t Work

CHINADIALOGUE

The record of Africa’s large dams is one of widespread environmental destruction to the continent’s major river systems, upon which millions of people depend for their livelihoods; forcible resettlement and human rights abuses; corruption and cost overruns.Large dams across...

Environment

06.11.12

The Diplomacy of Air Pollution

CHINADIALOGUE

On June 5, World Environment Day, China’s environment ministry published its annual “state of the environment” report as normal. But this year, the launch attracted unusual levels of attention thanks to a statement from vice minister Wu Xiaoqing on who should, and...

Environment

06.08.12

In Ecuador, Home Truths for China

CHINADIALOGUE

“We need to make contact with the Chinese media as urgently as possible.” I was on my university campus in New York when I received this call for help from an Ecuadorean NGO on March 5.Some 4,000 kilometers south, in Quito, the Chinese embassy was already surrounded by...

Environment

06.07.12

What’s Coming Out of China’s Taps

CHINADIALOGUE

China’s urbanites use a lot of water. Every day, more than 4,000 water-treatment plants supply 60 million tons of water to 400 million people living in Chinese cities. Despite the impressive figures, the water industry is grappling with widespread criticism as concerns grow...

Environment

06.05.12

Hot Air?

MICHAEL ZHAO

It has been a busy season for U.S. diplomatic activity in China. Given the tensions aroused by U.S. involvement in the Bo Xilai scandal and the flight of the blind activist Chen Guangcheng, perhaps it should come as no surprise that even relatively indirect affronts to China’s...

Environment

06.02.12

A Fallacy of Steel and Glass

CHINADIALOGUE

Among its many environmental challenges, China faces an enormous increase in energy consumption by buildings over the coming decades. Bricks and mortar already account for 25% of China’s total primary energy consumption, but are currently consuming energy at a very low level...

Environment

05.30.12

We’re All Farmers Now

CHINADIALOGUE

At a monthly “friends of farming” dinner held by Green Heartland, an NGO based in Chengdu, west China, Chen Xia quietly reads an ode to the land against light background music. It’s a simple thanksgiving ceremony the hosts conduct before leaving the diners to tuck into a...

Environment

05.24.12

Unplugging from China

CHINADIALOGUE

Apparent preparations by US energy giant AES Corporation to withdraw from China have raised eyebrows lately. Earlier this year, it emerged that the firm—one of the world’s biggest independent power generators—had engaged an investment bank to sell all or part of its...

Environment

01.02.12

Chinese Demand Stokes U.S. Coal Battle

CRAIG SIMONS

TRINIDAD, Colorado—When the New Elk mine reopened amid windblown prairies last winter, it attracted little attention. But the mine—a long shaft boring through some of the world’s most valuable coal—strikes at the heart of a growing debate about the future of American coal...

Environment

01.01.12

China’s Rising Consumer Class Sparks Climate Change...

CRAIG SIMONS

TUOJIA VILLAGE, China—When you think about China’s growing greenhouse gas emissions, you probably don’t think of people like Zhang Chao or his father Zhang Dejun. Zhang Chao, a thirty-five-year-old middle school teacher living in small city in southwestern China, earns the...

Environment

11.14.11

China’s Rise Creates Clouds of U.S. Pollution

CRAIG SIMONS

At more than 9,000 feet along the crest of Oregon’s Cascade mountain range, the top of this snow-covered peak normally enjoys some of America’s cleanest air. So when sensitive scientific instruments picked up ozone—the chief component of smog—at levels higher than...