What About China? A Review

I’m always slightly baffled by the slow, grinding machinations of international politics.  I’m never sure at which point a decision has actually been made.  My bafflement was not dispelled by last week’s G8 summit.  There were distractions, fair points (Why G8 and not G absolutely everybody?) and there was broad consensus. 

There seemed to be a general agreement that global temperatures should not be allowed to rise 2°C above pre-industrial levels and there was also a distinct lack of commitment when it came to how this should be achieved.  Everybody has their excuses and their reasons for not cutting their particular CO2 emissions.  All this will continue to be debated around the world at various meetings leading up to the Copenhagen Summit in December. 

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It seemed a good time to re-read ‘What About China?’ an excellent book from Sawday Publishing which examines our reasons and excuses for inaction when it comes to environmental issues. Very few people would admit to actually wanting to destroy the planet, but………..?

I suggested to The Man from Salford the other day that we should ask the local pub about buying their used chip oil as a way of reducing our dependency on diesel for the generator.  His response was something along the lines of, ‘You do realise that every man, woman, child and dog in India is going to be driving a Tata by next week.’  I do realise this, it is broadly true (probably not children and dogs though) and our buying used chip oil probably won’t make a huge difference in the great scheme of things.  This is exactly the conundrum that ‘What About China? addresses.

When I re-read the book  I felt I must have missed quite a bit out first time round, possibly this is because the book is written in a question and answer format which enables dipping in and out and makes for easy, digestable reading. I’m possibly reviewing a book I haven’t read in its entirety, I clearly need linear narratives to keep my brain on track!  Linear narratives however do require some form of closure, and few books on the subject of environment end with ‘happily ever after.’  This is the problem, why bother? It’s all going to go pear shaped regardless of what anyone does.

If you have doubts about why you should bother recycling, why you should bother walking a bit more, whether it is worth banking ethically or buying organic foods then this is a book that will convince you and others to try harder.  And what about China?  The West may no longer be the largest overall emitters of CO2, but on a per capita basis we still are.  The Chinese are not stupid either, they realised long ago that dependency on fossil fuels cannot continue and have funded immense research into renewables and have also funded high level training and education to turn out the future experts we will need in these fields.  The attempts of the Chinese to combat global warming actually make our Western governments look pretty feeble by comparison.  I hope we will step up to the mark at Copenhagen. 

Please get hold of this book.  I’m going to the pub to raise a pint to China and definitely will be ordering a portion of chips!

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