This book is a follow up to Smogtown, an earlier book by Jacobs and Kelly. Smogtown is the story of how we whipped the smog problem in Los Angeles by identifying those to blame, taking the culprits on politically and cleaning up the air in Los Angeles. Yippee, we did it!! But buy this new book and read on!
The People's Republic of Chemicals is an amazing piece of on-site research telling a somber story of how China sacrificed the environment as early as 221 AD by converting "black" rock and fire into a filthy energy that put China in the center of the universe at the price of the environment and the health of the people. Jacobs and Williams recount the grim story the downfall of China by the Russian takeover of Manchuria and the Japanese conquest of the Chinese in the Korean Peninsula. The English learned how to use coal and how to mine it more efficiently than China. Again, this came at the cost of the environment and the quality of human life. Always these advances in the production of energy was accompanied by centralization of wealth, political power and discontent of the victims of this centralization and destruction of the environment.
The discovery of oil and it's use in amassing power reached an apex in the West with the globalization of the problem of wealth vs poverty and the destruction of the environment. This focused most notably in the USA where democracy afforded the victims the ability to combat it. Sadly, China has improved it's ability to extract and use coal and has harnessed the economic organization to amass the wealth with a new market socialism along with the ability to overcome resistance to the destruction of the environment with its totalitarian government. This has resulted in China becoming the leader in world ecological pollution and a world leader in economic development.
Along with this leadership, China has not exhibited the desire or ability to balance production with ecological responsibility. In the words of the authors, 'At stake is the survival of our civilization and the habitability of the earth. Or as one eminent scientist put it, the pending question is whether the combination of an opposable thumb and a neocortex is a viable combination of this planet' If a Chinese president borrowed such impassioned rhetoric, he'd have to get permission from it's author:Al Gore, politician, visionary, businessman, and eco-mortal." Until then we will just have to wait and watch Chinese generated toxins threaten us, even poison us from aloft. It looks like the only hope for help will have to come from inside. Again quoting the authors, "....it seems in the arc of history there are times when only dissolution offers hope.