Wednesday, November 10, 2010
Yesterday we hosted a brown bag lunch with Jonathan Watts, author of When a Billion Chinese Jump: How China Will Save the World—or Destroy It.
Jonathan has been living in China since 2003 and in his job as the Asian reporter for the Guardian has traveled from mountain paradises to industrial wastelands, visiting tiger farms, melting glaciers, cancer villages, science parks, coal mines, and eco-cities. What he details in his book is an environment in crisis. His interviews with high-ranking officials and ordinary individuals puts a face on this country that has become a global economic powerhouse and a massive emitter of carbon dioxide.
His experiences and insights into the jumps China has made and is making economically and environmentally—the good and the devastating—underpin the information in this highly readable and eye-opening book. What it comes down to is something Lester Brown wrote about in his 1995 book Who Will Feed China? When you multiply anything by a billion it is a lot.
Lester’s book analyzed the effect of China coming into the world grain market in a huge way—and how China could easily purchase most of the world’s exportable supplies of grain, leaving other grain-importing countries scrambling.
Lester’s analysis is now coming true. On November 4, it was reported that food prices were going up. The main reason? The demand for meat in China is driving up prices for grain, which in turn leads to higher prices for all of the products related to grain: chicken, steak, bread, pasta, even eggs. (See articles in the Wall Street Journal and China Daily.)
Lester has continued to follow the developments in China. See Plan B Updates Learning from China: Why the Western Economic Model Will Not Work for the World and China Replacing the United States as World's Leading Consumer. He has also written about China’s massive renewable energy projects, including the seven wind mega-complexes being created in six provinces that will have a combined generating capacity of nearly 130 gigawatts—the equivalent of China building a new coal plant every week for two and a half years.
What Lester and Jonathan agree on is that is all comes back to the question of what kind of a world we want to leave for future generations and what we are prepared to do to make it possible.
Reah Janise Kauffman
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