FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

When the Olympics Went Green–with Algae

So far, it is looking like the Olympics in Beijing will be a disgrace– for host nation China, that is. Over the past few days, American television has aired horrendous images of athletes with facemasks arriving in smog-choked Beijing, and sparse protestors roughly whisked away by Chinese police. Amidst recent reports that smog hung even from the ceiling of Beijing’s proud new (breathable!) Aquatic center, much to the horror of international swimmers already congregated there, it seemed certain even before the Olympics began that they are a shaping up to be an epic public relations nightmare for China. This is awful news for China, which has spent tens of billions of dollars preparing for the games– but good news for the world perhaps.

I can think of no recent Olympics where the host nation has been so embarrassed– and has so embarrassed itself. Only a month ago, China had to deploy fishing fleets to skim algae bloom from its coastal seas– the result of massive pollution– so that the Olympic yachting competition could take place. And in the spring, of course, the Chinese army brutally disrupted demonstrations in Tibet, resulting in several deaths. This action in particular prompted fiery protests along the global route of the Olympic torch making its way to Beijing.

As far as I can see, international criticism of China– even revulsion– is justified. Of course, it is only justified so long as the rest of the world comes to recognize that it is somehow complicit in China’s gross offenses. After all, the rest of the world benefits tremendously from China’s environmental laxity and human rights abuses. Perhaps this is why the Chinese take such umbrage to our self righteous ire…

There are few better examples of humanity’s destruction of the environment than China. Northern China is shrouded by a wide swath of smog visible from space, which apparently blows as far as Los Angeles at times. China’s rivers are poisoned dead, if they are not already dried up from overuse. The North is so desperate for potable water-any water-that the Chinese government is planning a 1200 kilometer long canal from the Yangtze feeding the Yellow river.

But China pollutes so that we don’t have to. Americans enjoy a flood of cheap Chinese manufactured products on sale at Wal-mart, but their cheapness is due in large part to the lack of environmental regulations hampering industry in China. We pride ourselves on clean skies in former industrial centers like Baltimore, Pittsburgh and Cleveland, but we have simply exported heavy industry and pollution to China.

Of course, China has driven down prices even further thanks to its human rights abuses. Chinese factory workers toil long hours for minimal pay, under safety conditions outlawed here, and they are prevented from organizing. The Chinese government stifles democratization amongst the populace, but democratization may well bring clamoring for greater workers’ rights, much as it did in the US. And then Chinese goods wouldn’t be so cheap anymore. Chinese manufacturers would, like their American counterparts, have to recoup the cost of workers’ benefits and protections in the price of their products.

But I am optimistic about the impact of the Beijing Olympics. In fact, the more embarrassing the better. These Olympics have been touted as China’s grand entry onto the world stage as a major global power of the 21st century. Well, if China would assume that title, it must face up to its awesome shortcomings. And its shortcomings are being exposed in magnificent fashion. If the world is more repulsed than impressed by its glimpse of China in these Olympics, I hope that this will give the Chinese government pause. And the Western consumer, in taking a hard look at China, may also realize the true cost of low cost products.

FIRMIN DeBRABANDER, Professor of Philosophy, Maryland Institute College of Art, Baltimore.

 

 

 

 

 

More articles by:
July 17, 2018
Conn Hallinan
Trump & The Big Bad Bugs
Robert Hunziker
Trump Kills Science, Nature Strikes Back
John Grant
The Politics of Cruelty
Kenneth Surin
Calculated Buffoonery: Trump in the UK
Binoy Kampmark
Helsinki Theatrics: Trump Meets Putin
Patrick Bond
BRICS From Above, Seen Critically From Below
Jim Kavanagh
Fighting Fake Stories: The New Yorker, Israel and Obama
Daniel Falcone
Chomsky on the Trump NATO Ruse
W. T. Whitney
Oil Underground in Neuquén, Argentina – and a New US Military Base There
Doug Rawlings
Ken Burns’ “The Vietnam War” was Nominated for an Emmy, Does It Deserve It?
Rajan Menon
The United States of Inequality
Thomas Knapp
Have Mueller and Rosenstein Finally Gone Too Far?
Cesar Chelala
An Insatiable Salesman
Dean Baker
Truth, Trump and the Washington Post
Mel Gurtov
Human Rights Trumped
Binoy Kampmark
Putin’s Football Gambit: How the World Cup Paid Off
July 16, 2018
Sheldon Richman
Trump Turns to Gaza as Middle East Deal of the Century Collapses
Charles Pierson
Kirstjen Nielsen Just Wants to Protect You
Brett Wilkins
The Lydda Death March and the Israeli State of Denial
Patrick Cockburn
Trump Knows That the US Can Exercise More Power in a UK Weakened by Brexit
Robert Fisk
The Fisherman of Sarajevo Told Tales Past Wars and Wars to Come
Gary Leupp
When Did Russia Become an Adversary?
Uri Avnery
“Not Enough!”
Dave Lindorff
Undermining Trump-Putin Summit Means Promoting War
Manuel E. Yepe
World Trade War Has Begun
Binoy Kampmark
Trump Stomps Britain
Wim Laven
The Best Deals are the Deals that Develop Peace
Kary Love
Can We Learn from Heinrich Himmler’s Daughter? Should We?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Franklin Lamb, Requiescat in Pace
Weekend Edition
July 13, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Brian Cloughley
Lessons That Should Have Been Learned From NATO’s Destruction of Libya
Paul Street
Time to Stop Playing “Simon Says” with James Madison and Alexander Hamilton
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: In the Land of Formula and Honey
Aidan O'Brien
Ireland’s Intellectuals Bow to the Queen of Chaos 
Michael Collins
The Affirmative Action Silo
Andrew Levine
Tipping Points
Geoff Dutton
Fair and Balanced Opinion at the New York Times
Ajamu Baraka
Cultural and Ideological Struggle in the US: a Final Comment on Ocasio-Cortez
David Rosen
The New McCarthyism: Is the Electric Chair Next for the Left?
Ken Levy
The McConnell Rule: Nasty, Brutish, and Unconstitutional
George Wuerthner
The Awful Truth About the Hammonds
Robert Fisk
Will Those Killed by NATO 19 Years Ago in Serbia Ever Get Justice?
Robert Hunziker
Three Climatic Monsters with Asteroid Impact
Ramzy Baroud
Europe’s Iron Curtain: The Refugee Crisis is about to Worsen
Nick Pemberton
A Letter For Scarlett JoManDaughter
Marilyn Garson
Netanyahu’s War on Transcendence 
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail