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China’s Water and Soil Too Far Gone to Support a Growing Economy?

Bill Paul, Energy Tech Stocks
Two new reports – one from the Chinese government, the other based on criteria developed by the United Nations – should be enough to scare every government, economist and investor in the world about the future of the Chinese economy, currently the one global bright spot.

The underlying question raised by these reports is this: How can a nation’s economy grow when its soil is rapidly eroding and its water is rapidly becoming so polluted that it isn’t just unsafe to drink. It’s even unsafe for fishing, farming and factory use.

In short, how can a nation’s economy grow when its ecosystems appear on the verge of collapse?
(9 December 2008)

In China’s Mining Region, Villagers Stand Up To Pollution

Zhou Jigang and Zhu Chuhuak, Yale Environment 360
After decades of living with fouled rivers and filthy air, residents of China’s Manganese Triangle are rising up and refusing to accept the intolerable conditions created by illegal mining activity. Their bold protests have shone light on the dark side of China’s economic boom. From Sichuan province, Chinese journalists Zhou Jigang and Zhu Chuhua report.

In early 2008, residents of Gaodong — a hamlet of 278 people nestled in the picturesque Wuling Mountains of south-central China — invited the head of the surrounding township to listen to a list of grievances about the manganese mining they claimed was ruining their community. Living in a county that produces one-fifth of all the manganese excavated on earth, the villagers had — like many ordinary Chinese — paid a high environmental price for fueling China’s economic boom. In this instance, however, the people of Gaodong had decided they would take it no more.
(4 December 2008)

Sewers to Sinks

Jonathan Parkinson, Plenty Magazine
A drought-stricken California county has found a new source of water: its toilets

“Here, try this,” says Gina DePinto, a spokesperson for the Orange County Water District [OCWD] as she offers me a bottle of NEWater from a cooler. It looks like it could be any other brand, but there’s one slight difference: this water came from a sewer in Singapore. I unscrew the cap and go bottoms up. Although it has been down a toilet, water-purity tests have shown the water to be some of Earth’s cleanest — and a possible solution to a global problem.

Water is so commonplace in countries like the US we sometimes take it for granted; it’s safe, fresh and available at the flick of the wrist. But as drought in arid regions like northern China, eastern Australia, and the American Southwest intensifies and global warming alters weather patterns, clean water will grow more scarce for many; already, according to the UN, a billion people worldwide lack access to clean drinking water.

… To meet the challenge, a growing number of cities are purifying wastewater to recharge groundwater or reservoirs, a process engineers call “indirect potable reuse” and skeptics refer to as “toilet-to-tap.” Among the early adopters are El Paso, Texas; Singapore; Windhoek, Namibia; and Fairfax County in Virginia. Other US cities considering or launching similar projects include Los Angeles, San Diego, and Miami-Dade County, which is scheduled to begin an operation in 2013 at an estimated cost of $350 million (that’s still cheaper and more energy-efficient than seawater desalination). Leading the way is Orange County, California.
(1 December 2008)

Greenwash: Are Coke’s green claims the real thing?

Fred Pearce, The Guardian

Are Coke’s environmental claims the real thing? After making a big contribution to the coffers of the World Wildlife Fund, Coca Cola has been pledging to the world that it is going “water neutral”, most recently at a business conference in San Francisco this week.

It is an intriguing phrase. But can a company whose products have water as their principal ingredient really go water neutral? And is WWF wise to proclaim Coke as a “partner” – even in return for Coke’s contribution of $23m (£15m) to the fund’s protection of the world’s rivers? Is this greenwash?
(4 December 2008)