The “Blame China” Syndrome

Topical with commencement of the Olympics is the state of the air in Beijing, the visual pollution in that city and its possible effects on the athletes at the games. Effect or not it might have the the athletes of the games, one is left to wonder how bad things must be across the country, this rapidly growing country of 1.3+ billion people. We are also conditioned to make this more of an issue than it might have been, we are also perhaps ignorant of the reasons for the pollution- the rest of the world.

There can be no doubt that it looks bad, is not healthy for the people nor the world as a whole to have a smoke haze like this. In many parts of China it is not rare to have air like that which we see on TV this, or worse, in this country and indeed many other countries. We make conclusions that this must be a country with poor standards of care for the environment, the effect it has on its own people and the world as a whole through the emissions.

Truth be told, China’s growth is largely the result of the rest of the world’s desire for cheap goods and a distaste for messy factories close to “our” populations. China today is the result of globalisation, abundant labour and cheap fuel for making long-haul for the production of goods feasible.

Over at least the last 30 years we have gradually decided to move away from most messy industries and off-shore production of everything that is hard, messy work and could be done cheaper somewhere else with lower standards and. Couple these facets with proximity to populations and sensitive ecosystems- the “west” has pushed out its manufacturing of many goods to this one huge country.

We decided that we would rather be a service based economy with white collar work, a food bowel for our domestic consumption and export, plus a resources basket for the less developed world to then turn into something. Profits brought on by cheap fossil energy meant that we could do nearly anything we want to in terms of the movement of goods. We, who do less manual work then any other civilization in history, have cast ourselves as the clever, elite class that get others to do our hard and dirty work.

As disappointing and unpatriotic as this sounds, we most certainly are not the clever ones, Australian in particular are the dumb country. We have perhaps the richest renewable energy potential in the world, one of the largest land masses, one of the most diverse climates. So much potential to be self-sufficient and completely wean ourselves off oil and be a positive solution to the global warming issue. Instead, we continue to log forests, continue to build highways, airports, continue to waste water, continue to build fossil-fuel power infrastructure.

Unfortunately, Australia has been virtually stripped bare of trees over the last 200 years to make way for mostly grazing land for farm animals for meat, wool and milk production. We removed the ability to sequester the carbon that created the conditions for sustainable living for the species of the planet. Our rivers, flushed with erosion from lack of surrounding trees and diverted rivers are gasping for a drop and we pull out the dregs of it for unsustainable irrigation. Our farmers then ask for handouts when we fail to plain for the inevitable drying- again and again.

Many commentators and politicians in Australia, the worst carbon emitter per capita in the world, then have the arrogance to demand that the rest of the world- most commonly focussed specifically on China, commit to cut their emissions and clean up their act FIRST before we do.

Arguments of Australia being such a low percentage of the overall emissions footprint are amazingly foolish. It is the most basic and fundamentally flawed argument that we all were supposed to have learnt in life:

Teacher : “Why did you make that mess?”

Kid : “Because that other kid did!”

Teacher : “Well, if he jumped off a bridge- would you also jump off??”


We are in fact close to jumping off a bridge by in fact blaming others as a stalling tactic for avoiding the tough and costly decisions. Blaming others is just lame and cowardly, let us be a part of the solution not part of the problem.

If every country in the world took a view like Australia, that our footprint to too small to bother, we are all up a dry creek, sans paddle (Made in China).


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