Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Space Junk

China has recently supplanted Japan as Asia's largest economy and it stands just beneath the United States in the ranks of the biggest economies in the world. Its emergence as an economic superpower is basically without precedent; the product of an industrial revolution and relentless national drive. However, it has come at a considerable cost. The damage to China's environment is every bit as extreme as its recent financial success.

Power plants and factories belch out sulfurous fumes, resulting in a poisonous haze that continually cloaks China's cities. 300,000 die annually due to pollution-induced lung cancer. The smog can only be cleared away by the rain (which is usually of the acidic variety) but it invariably returns. Rivers run thick with detergents, pesticides, and chemical fertilizers. Clean water has become an increasingly precious commodity, and 500 million Chinese citizens are left wanting. This number is comparable to 62.5 New York Cities.

In 2003, China became the third nation in Earth's history to send men and women into space. Since then, Chinese taikonauts have gone on several more missions and multiple satellites have been launched. This achievement was also executed at a severe expense. Those villages unlucky enough to lie beneath the rockets' flight-path have have been blanketed by carcinogenic fallout and boulder-sized pieces of debris. 2 million people are thought to have been contaminated over the course of 50 launches, and plummeting scrap metal has damaged homes and administrative buildings.

It is now common for space launches to be accompanied by mass-evacuations and subsequent clean-up operations. Most recently, farmers from the province of Guangxi were paid to search for debris in the mountains and forests, despite that this material is effectively toxic waste. Meanwhile, the Chinese government struggles to counteract their ever-worsening problems with pollution, but the damage is so extensive that it seems impossible to reverse.

Would you like to know more?
-Read this article from the Guardian
-Read this article from the New York Times

1 comment:

  1. Ok, three things. 1. It seems like you somehow ninja'd this article in between the frogs and club infinity without anyone noticing.
    2. Great article, as always.
    3. You managed to use the words "belch," "sulfurous," "poisonous," and "cloaks" all in the same sentence. Well done, sir. Well done indeed.