Ease up on China

Toxic bibs from China! Lead ladened toys from China! Poisoned seafood from China! China emitting the most carbon dioxide!

My goodness, I think it’s time we all stepped back a bit and said instead..

“Our thirst for cheap goods and western business profit demands are killing us, them and our planet!”

I feel for the Chinese, I really do. I hate what’s going in their country regarding the environment, but lets face it – we’re the ones driving the destruction and what goes around, comes around.

China’s carbon dioxide emissions per person are still well below the average in western countries. The average Australian and American generates somewhere in the vicinity of five tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually, while the average Chinese person generates around one tonne of CO2 emissions per year…. and of that one tonne, I suspect a sizable portion can be attributed to generating goods for us.

The clothes I’m wearing right now, aside from my shoes are all from China. My entire outfit, bar the footwear cost me under $30 a few years back. Bargain; I’ll wear it until it falls off me. Maybe it will kill me later on through the toxic chemicals leaching into my skin, maybe it involved the emission of a stack of carbon dioxide, the production of petrochemicals, perhaps a few fish were poisoned in some far off country or forest cleared, but it’s a bargain. For now.

This is the type of mentality we all must combat within ourselves. A bargain is hard to pass up, especially if you’re doing it tough, or have been conditioned by previous poverty; but there is no such thing as a free lunch.

The clothing I’m wearing is haunting us all – it will do for generations. I think it’s wonderful in the sense that there is no true outsourcing of pollution. Just because my thrifty ways mean that another country is being polluted, it doesn’t mean it won’t come back and bite me on the ass. It is already.

We are really just reaping what we have sown. Have you ever wondered how prices of some products can be so low? We’re told it’s buying power and technological advancements. It is to a degree; but what happens when pricing has hit rock bottom and consumers and shareholders are screaming for cheaper still *and* increased profits? The pressure is on the manufacturer and the first things to suffer are working conditions for employees and quality of components and ingredients. The result – unsafe, environmentally toxic goods.

Yes, there’s testing when goods are imported, but it’s hit and miss; only a small percentage are tested which makes it worthwhile to take the risk. It’s a bit like drug smuggling, push a lot through and some will make it to the streets.

I think instead of spending so much time demonizing China, we need to point the finger closer to home, assume responsibility and say to business: “OK, party’s over, I finally accept the fact I may have to pay a little more, but for pete’s sake, make it green; make it safe! Ensure you pay the Chinese enough so they don’t have to cut corners by using crappy materials and slave labor in order to cut costs – you also need to check the goods better; stop pointing the finger at the people we oppress.. oh, and damn your shareholders to hell!”

Perhaps at some stage when the Chinese have their hooks in deep enough, the tables will turn, but at this point in time they know that if they don’t churn out the goods at slim margins, western business will just turn to another country. Nothing will change.

Rampant consumerism is the Crusades and Inquisition of modern times. We paint a picture to other countries just how good infinite capitalism is and they strive to mimic us, not fully aware of the cancer it has caused within our own society.

Seriously folks, we can make a difference – we’re in the driver’s seat. Maybe it will mean we won’t be able to afford that fun but useless gadget so we can pay the increased costs for goods we actually need, but there’s a lot at stake here. Start writing to companies, tell them it’s time to set things straight while there’s still time to do so. Gravitate to green, fair trade brands – the others will get the message if you vote with your dollars.

No doubt I’m still going to buy Chinese products, but I hope in future my “green” motivator overrides my thrift drive. What’s needed is a green/fair trade Chinese business/product directory of some sort. I think we owe it to the Chinese that once they are able to get higher prices and improve the quality of the goods, we continue to buy from them. It’s going to take some cash to clean up the mess we’ve left over there.

I shall now step off my soapbox.. oh, you wouldn’t believe it – it was made in China too.