China Burning: This is Not a Drill

Chinese residents of Ningbo, breathing through face masks, protest the announced expansion of a petrochemical plant, while in Beijing, shrouded by air pollution, a spectacular stage production praises the country’s progress. (Photo tableau by Tjebbe van Tijen/Flickr)

Chinese residents of Ningbo, breathing through face masks, protest the announced expansion of a petrochemical plant, while in Beijing, shrouded by air pollution, a spectacular stage production praises the country’s progress. (Photo tableau by Tjebbe van Tijen/Flickr)

China has proved to be so much better than us at fouling its own nest that it is winning hands-down the lemming-like race we are having to the edge of the cliff that defines the end of the industrial age. China — Communist! China — has adopted our religion (the absolute love of money) with a zeal that makes the archbishops of Wall Street look like apostates. It has sacrificed to its new found god its air, land, water and now its financial system, at such speed it is beginning to blaze like a rock falling into the atmosphere. As the country singer puts it: “Falling feels like flying — for a little while.”

Imitation may be the sincerest form  of flattery, but can turn out badly when the object of the admiration is suicidal. China adopted all our vices at once — relocation of the rural population to jammed cities, runaway industrial and commercial development, electrification, automobilization, to name a few. And it not take any of our virtues, such as a free press, a vibrant environmental movement, a once-strong regulatory environment. It wanted, and it got, a machine that moved at blinding speed and that had no brakes. There have been casualties. Continue reading

Duke Energy’s Coup d’Etat in North Carolina

Duke Energy workers, apparently still under the impression that they are above the law, pump toxic coal ash residue into North Carolina's Cape Fear River. (Photo by the Waterkeeper Alliance)

Duke Energy workers, apparently still under the impression that they are above the law, pump toxic coal ash residue into North Carolina’s Cape Fear River. (Photo by the Waterkeeper Alliance)

You will encounter frequent references here to industry’s wholly-owned and -operated Congress, or state legislature, or government agency. Usually, some irony is intended. But in North Carolina, irony is extinct; the state government is wholly owned and operated by Duke Energy. It is still true that absolute power corrupts absolutely, but it is no longer true that the citizens of this Republic give a tinker’s dam about corruption as long as the lights are on, the gas is cheap and there’s football on Saturday. Yet evil is so stupid, the power-mad are so given to wretched excess, that having won everything, they are capable of losing everything, because they cannot rest from destruction. Continue reading

Chinese Academy: Beijing Almost “Uninhabitable”

Beijing Uninhabitable

Pollution in Beijing last year, before it got really bad. (Photo by Pekka Tamminen/Flickr)

Unbridled air pollution has reached such concentrations in Beijing and six of China’s northern provinces that breathing and photosynthesis have become almost impossible. In addition, landing airplanes, driving cars, and seeing anything, have become extremely difficult in an epic smog concentration that has persisted for more than a week. According to the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences — the second largest academic institution in the country — the capital city is virtually “uninhabitable for human beings.” Continue reading

California Drying. And Strangling. Oh, and Burning.

No,it's not Beijing, but downtown Fresno on Friday, January 17, 2014. (Photo by Craig Kohlruss/The Fresno Bee)

No,it’s not Beijing, but downtown Fresno on Friday, January 17, 2014. (Photo by Craig Kohlruss/The Fresno Bee)

In the headlong race to see which city or region of the United States will generate the first wave of climate refugees, a race long dominated by Las Vegas NV and Phoenix AZ, California’s Central Valley has suddenly become a contender. It’s not just that the drought is becoming unbearable in this near-desert that through the wonders of water engineering has become the lettuce capital of the country; now the air is becoming unbreathable. Just as the lack of rain has parched the earth and overtaxed the water pipelines, so too has it left the air unwashed, and with the enormous quantities of junk being emitted into California’s air, you don’t want that. Continue reading

China Collapse Continues, Debris Falls on US

The Great Wall of China proves ineffective against pollution. Maybe if they made it bigger. (Photo by ToGa Wanderings/Flickr)

The Great Wall of China proves ineffective against pollution. Maybe if they made it bigger. (Photo by ToGa Wanderings/Flickr)

As signs of China’s impending collapse from industrial poisoning continue to proliferate (about which, more in a minute), some of them are proliferating in California. Air pollution, largely from China’s unrestrained use of coal, has become legendary in the country — virtually shutting down Shanghai in December and Beijing last week, and touching off armed uprisings by desperate people in various locations across the country. Now, a new study says that China’s industrial air pollution accounts for a significant portion of California’s smog. Continue reading

China Disintegrating: Stunning New Evidence

In Chongqing, China, in 2011, they were saying “If we don’t do something about this real soon, it’s going to get real bad. They didn’t. It did. And on it goes. (Photo by Leo Fung/Flickr)

It’s not just the air in China that is becoming toxic to human life, now it’s the earth itself. (Photo by Leo Fung/Flickr)

Just as China became the envy of the industrial world by achieving growth (of its gross national product) of ten percent and more per year for two decades, so its consequent collapse is about to demonstrate clearly to the rest of the world what happens when you turn your country over to unfettered greed. Stunning new evidence of the imminence of that collapse became public last week. Unfortunately, it is not just their end of the Titanic that is sinking, and it is too late to avoid catastrophe. But understanding what is happening there might help some of us survive catastrophe. Continue reading

Oil and Coal: Above the Law, and Below It

This view of a former mountaintop in Pike County, Kentucky, which is now lying in nearby valleys, shows what's left when the coal is gone. (Photo by iLoveMountains.org/Flickr)

This view of a former mountaintop in Pike County, Kentucky, which is now residing, in the form of dust, in the people who live nearby. Who is breaking the law, the people who did this or the people who protest it? (Photo by iLoveMountains.org/Flickr)

Here is what we have come to in America, nicely encapsulated in two events, one in California, the other in West Virginia. In California, another brazen demonstration that Big Oil is above the law, not merely when its toxic emissions sicken hundreds of people, but when it poisons the law enforcement officers sent to control them. In West Virginia, a clear reminder that should you think to petition your government for the redress of grievances, you may well find yourself below the law, left to ponder the true meaning of the First Amendment to the Constitution (freedom of speech, freedom to assemble, right to petition your government and so forth) in your jail cell. Continue reading

Climate Hawks: Deniers of Another Kind?

In Chongqing, China, in 2011, they were saying “If we don’t do something about this real soon, it’s going to get real bad. They didn’t. It did. And on it goes. (Photo by Leo Fung/Flickr)

In Chongqing, China, in 2011, they were saying “If we don’t do something about this real soon, it’s going to get real bad. They didn’t. It did. And on it goes. (Photo by Leo Fung/Flickr)

The best thinkers and writers about the rampant destruction of natural systems that is the hallmark of our times profess, almost unanimously, that mankind faces catastrophe unless something is done, something effective, right away. Political action is a necessity, they say, nationally and internationally. We must find the will to act. A respected, frequent commenter on this site suggested the other day that to do anything else is a distraction from the vital effort to transform politics. But is that “unless,” that ever-present qualification — the notion that something might be done, tomorrow or maybe the day after, to save us from the worst consequences of our actions — itself a form of denialism?

I think so, and I submit into evidence three headlines from this week’s news. Continue reading

Falling Colors: The Long Agony of Trees

Spectacular? Not Really. The fall foliage season is increasingly pastel, washed out, as on Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains pictured here. The culprit is that visible, constant pall of pollution. (National Park Service Photo)

Spectacular? Not Really. The fall foliage season is increasingly pastel, washed out, as on Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains pictured here. The culprit is that visible, constant pall of pollution. (National Park Service Photo)

A long-time friend of, and commenter on, The Daily Impact, Gail Zawacki, has for years maintained a lonely vigil on behalf of trees. On her blog. Wit’s End, she chronicles the massive, mortal harm being done to trees all over the world by air pollution. They are, in fact, slowly dying, a fact that should be most strikingly obvious to everyone in the fall, when by the tens of thousands we drive our emissions-rich cars long distances to see the fall colors. Which, increasingly, aren’t there any more. In part because of the emissions from our cars. Yet no one (except Gail) seems able to see the sick trees for the pale forest. Continue reading

Toxic Green Slime Attacks America

Algae -- the rising tide that poisons all boats.  (Photo by gorize/Flickr)

Algae — the rising tide that poisons all boats. (Photo by gorize/Flickr)

Toxic Green Slime Attacks America! What a great movie pitch! Awesome special effects! Multitudes of bikini-clad victims! Unfortunately, it’s true, so hardly anybody is interested. This summer, 21 states that we know of — most don’t even bother to keep records on this pestilence — closed beaches and issued public-health warnings when their waters became clogged with blooms of toxic green algae. At least one person and 20 pets have been killed by the slime, along with untold numbers of birds and wildlife. Yet no cable news network has gone wall-to-wall on this spreading, deadly threat — perhaps because there’s no mystery here. We know who the culprit is, and we know how to stop the threat. Continue reading