China’s consumers simultaneously save and destroy the world?

While economists rejoice in the growing consumption patterns of China and other developing nations, they overlook those countries' environmental abuses.

Stringer / Reuters
Customers flock to buy pork at a supermarket in Hefei, Anhui province December 23. As the Chinese diet shifts to more meat-based, their water consumption – and water pollution – are skyrocketing.

Everything is riding on the new Chinese Consumer succeeding Europe and the US as the buyer of first and last resort to keep the global economy humming.

But just stop for a moment and ponder the potential for catastrophe as the world's filthiest atmosphere gets even filthier. And think of the sheer consumption increases in resources like water for example...

From The Daily Beast:

In other words, as Chinese consumers save the world’s economy, China’s environmental problems may get worse, much worse.

Take water, the ultimate consumer product. In addition to consuming potable water by cup or bottle, the Chinese, like their counterparts worldwide, consume water indirectly as a critical ingredient in their new and more water-intensive diets based on meat. It takes approximately 1,000 tons of water to produce a single ton of grain and 7 tons of grain to produce a ton of beef. An upshot, then, of China’s switching from their pre-1978 bean-protein-based diets to Kung Pao chicken or McDonald’s hamburgers is that it uses much more water. Many Chinese industries also use massive amounts of water. It takes, for instance, 400,000 liters (or 105,000 gallons) of water to manufacture a single car. And last year, for the first time, Chinese consumers surpassed their American counterparts by buying the most cars.

As little as we care about the environment, keep in mind that the Chinese appear to actually want to be poisoned with the way they've carried on in the name of "modernization" this decade. And with resource utilization growing as described above (think about Chinese bottled water consumption reaching our per capita rate), the issue becomes even more urgent.

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