The Downside of Development

This recent essay on CNN.com by Elizabeth Economy highlights the parallel paths of economic development and environmental crisis in China.  Every day, 14,000 new cars are added to China’s roads and every 7 to 10 days, another coal-fired power plant opens to help fuel the country’s economic growth.  Although a success story in its rapid development, China also serves as a warning as the environmental costs of that development unfold.

The essay is accompanied by this slideshow of dramatic images from China’s Huai River Basin, a rural area heavily impacted by water pollution, taken by photojournalist Stephen Voss.  The essay and photos also appear in the book “What Matters” by David Elliot Cohen.

Treehugger’s Matthew McDermott blogged about the topic earlier this week, suggesting that in light of the environmental damage that sometimes results from economic development, “we need a new meaning for ‘developed,’ a new measurement of wealth.”  It’s an interesting notion: wealth is so often measured, not just in China but throughout the world, by the amount of material goods you have, the size of your home, the number of cars in your garage … the degree to which you’re able to live excessively.  At present, we don’t live in a world that values conservation as much as consumerism.

We look forward to the day when wealth is measured by the weight of your recyclables … or how small your electric bill is … or the number of miles you log on your feet or a bike instead of in a car.  Until then, our thanks to Treehugger for inspiring us to think about it.

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