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Environmental consequences of Chinese and Indian growth frankly discused on radio panel discussion

This has been adapted from a response to a panel discussion on ABC Radio National's "The National Interest" on Sunday 8 July was posted to the program's guest book.

Excellent panel discussion! My congratulations, once again, to Peter Mares and the program producers.

I have to admit, I, at first, feared that the discussion would be the kind I have become used to from before. All too many 'discussions' on India and China have in the past have been dominated by innumerate economists with Cargo Cult mind-sets. All we had to do, they would have had us believe, was allow all of our manufacturing industry to be exported to China, export our non-renewable mineral resources and (unsustainably grown) rural produce as well and boundless wealth and prosperity was sure to flow back to us. One such economist was SBS's Peter Martin who actually told us on ABC RN's Life Matters, around two years back now, that it would be quite OK if this country's economy was based on video hire stores and fast food outlets, in place of a manufacturing sector!

These economists seemed to believe that the 'invisible hand' of the free market would somehow conjure all the necessary natural resources out of thin air. Instead, as even a fool should have been able to anticipate, the rapacious growth of the Chinese and Indian economies has necessarily consumed much of the same finite non-renewable resources upon which every other industrialised economy on the planet depends. The growing Chinese demand for oil is a principle cause of the dramatic increase in the cost of petrol in recent years.

China's growth has had fearsome consequences for the Chinese population itself as so well described by guest panelist Colleen Ryan, with 750,000 Chines dying each year as a consequence of breathing in China's poisonous atmosphere. Even the United States air standards are often violated by industrial pollution drifting across the Pacific Ocean from China ("Coal - a Human History", pp 225-226 by Barbara Freese, 2003)
As well as the environmental destruction within China itself, China's demand for natural resources is driving the destruction of rainforests around the world. Much of the rainforest in South America is being destroyed so that fossil-fuel-dependent soy beans, necessary for China's pork industry, can be unsustainably grown in its place.

China's manufacturing industry has caused social and economic devastation in third world countries. The destruction of textile manufacturing in African countries is one example.

If we are ever to find our way back out of the hole that our global society has dug itself into, countries like Australia simply must set a positive example for other countries to follow. We must reduce our own unsustainable levels of consumption. In particular, we must rein in the grossly disproportionate consumption of resources by our wealthy elites. If we do this, we stand a greater chance of convincing Indians and Chinese not to continue to indefinitely increase their consumption levels.

Also, it goes without saying, urgent action to stop population growth must be undertaken in every country. China's 'one child' policy is a good start.