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Maverick environmental writers William J. Kelly and Chip Jacobs follow up their acclaimed Smogtown with a provocative examination of China’s ecological calamity already imperiling a warming planet. Toxic smog most people figured was obsolete needlessly kills as many as died in the 9/11 attacks every day, while sometimes Grand Canyon-sized drifts of industrial particles aloMaverick environmental writers William J. Kelly and Chip Jacobs follow up their acclaimed Smogtown with a provocative examination of China’s ecological calamity already imperiling a warming planet. Toxic smog most people figured was obsolete needlessly kills as many as died in the 9/11 attacks every day, while sometimes Grand Canyon-sized drifts of industrial particles aloft on the winds rain down ozone and waterway-poisoning mercury in America.In vivid, gonzo prose blending first-person reportage with exhaustive research and a sense of karma, Kelly and Jacobs describe China’s ancient love affair with coal, Bill Clinton’s blunders cutting free-trade deals enabling the U.S. to "export" manufacturing emissions to Asia in a shift that pilloried the West's middle class, Communist Party manipulation of eco-statistics, the horror of cancer villages, the deception of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and spellbinding peasant revolts against cancer-spreading plants involving thousands in mostly-censored melées. Ending with China’s monumental coal-bases decried by climatologists as a global warming dagger, The People's Republic of Chemicals names names and emphasizes humanity over bloodless statistics in a classic sure to ruffle feathers as an indictment of money as the real green that not even Al Gore can deny....

Title : The People's Republic of Chemicals
Author :
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ISBN : 9781940207254
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 280 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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The People's Republic of Chemicals Reviews

  • Kevin Pedraja
    2019-03-20 14:22

    From the outset, The People's Republic of Chemicals sets itself apart from other environmental tomes. With language that reads like a combination of Upton Sinclair and early James Ellroy, the authors describe in detail the accelerating environmental disaster that has already had a devastating impact on the health of the people, air and land in China and is now crossing distant borders with globe-traveling clouds of pollution. Shady government officials, corrupt business leaders and willfully ignorant consumers are all players in a slow motion tragedy.Kelly and Jacobs present a convincing case that we all share in the responsibility for the cancers, birth defects and chemical dead zones that have spread exponentially across China since the 1970s. Our never-ending demand for inexpensive goods has blinded us to the labor, health and safety short cuts that make such low prices possible. To be sure, while China's corrupt government overseers and fixation on growing its economic influence are the principal culprits in this saga, the authors also describe how Western governments squandered a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to push China to accept stricter environmental safeguards. In particular, they lay significant blame at the feet of the Clinton administration which, in the early 1990, put its desire to promote economic globalization ahead of the goal of bringing China into the fold of environmental responsibility. Rather than using the prospect of a full membership in the WTO as leverage to push China towards implementing (and enforcing) meaningful environmental regulations, Western leaders - led by the Clinton Administration - gave away its lone bargaining chip to gain access to China's vast market of potential consumers and low-cost manufacturing capacity. The environment consequences of that choice were entirely predictable - and calamitous. Moreover, Western businesses increasingly saw China as a promised land where they could operate free from the shackles of restrictive - and in their mind costly - environmental laws at home. Despite recent pronouncements by China's government that it intends to crack down on the manufacturing short cuts, laissez-faire policies and sanctioned corruption that are, quite possibly, the greatest threat to the primacy of the Communist Party, the reality is that the damage is so widespread and the problem so huge that it will be decades for any change in government policy to have an impact. And that assumes, of course, that China's government is even remotely sincere in its pledge to address climate change and move away from its reliance on pollution-causing coal to greener energy sources.The People's Republic of Chemicals is rife with statistics, stories of individual tragedy and examples of how China's catastrophe is rapidly becoming our own. Toxic particulates produced by Chinese factories now permeate the atmosphere, effortlessly crossing mountain ranges and even oceans. We are now experiencing the result of the short-sighted economic and business decisions made decades ago. If there is a fault with the book it's that the often breathless prose occasionally distracts from the overall narrative. What is happening in China is an epic tragedy that needs no embellishment. But this is an important story that needs wider attention.

  • Clare O'Beara
    2019-02-25 15:12

    While I'm following the debate about China's manufacturing power and ensuing pollution, it's good to get it packaged in one readable, personally investigated book for us to see the history, rise and current status of this populous land.As Jacobs and Kelly last looked at air pollution in 'Smogtown' about Los Angeles, the air is the main point addressed in this book. Smog is caused by industry, home heating, power plants, cars and other sources such as barbecues and underground coal seam fires. Certain weather conditions and geological features, such as bowl-shaped valleys and temperature inversions, worsen the effects of smog by causing it to sit over cities, such as Beijing. When the pollution does rise it causes acid rainfall - onto a third of China at present - and moves at high altitudes to other countries, including, we are told, the coastal US. The authors focus on the coal usage of the PRC; China currently uses over half the coal consumed by the world each year, contributing enormous amounts of carbon dioxide to the greenhouse gas tally. They also look at areas such as paper production, which is a big user and polluter of water. Environmental regulations in America forced the closure of even the most careful-minded firms, because they could not make paper cheaply enough to compete. Who is monitoring the pollution cost of imported paper?Cancers are a major cause of death in PRC according to official statistics. In manufacturing towns in the provinces, such as coalfield town Linfen, those over 30 are increasingly stricken while people over 55 die at ten times China's national average rate and the birth defect rate is the planet's highest. We are told that the population is protesting but news of mass protests are taken down from the Internet. Profits are huge for factory owners and local officials. The loss of jobs in America as manufacturing was exported, has been in part alleviated by what the authors describe as unacknowledged social welfare support; Americans being able to buy consumer goods more cheaply. Of course this is the case worldwide, but the book's focus is on the US. I saw little mention of rare earths. 95% of rare earth metals are refined in China - we use them in everything from phones to jet engines to artificial hips to MRI scanners. This is because environmental regulations cannot be satisfied anywhere else and still make a profit. According to the authors though, in PRC environmental regulations are lax, seldom adhered to and being updated by people a great distance away from where they will be applied. There is a mention of chemical manufacturing firms. I recommend reading the excellent book 'Toms River' by Dan Fagin about a town in New Jersey, which had a major chemical plant and unregulated hazardous waste dumping for decades. Also 'Indian Country' by Peter Matthiessen. I have not read 'Smogtown' by Kelly and Jacobs but I'll be looking out for it. THE PEOPLE'S REPUBLIC OF CHEMICALS should make you think more about where your electronic and other goods come from, and I hope you will feel moved to contact companies through their social media sites, or by writing, and ask them about their policy on pollution.

  • David Kent
    2019-03-20 08:16

    An important book, poorly written. The People's Republic of Chemicals purports to reveal how the offshoring of American manufacturing to China helped China become the most polluted country on the planet. It does achieve that goal, though perhaps in spite of itself. While the title suggests a discussion on chemicals, the vast preponderance of the book is focused on the massive air pollution problems in China. This isn’t surprising given the authors’ previous collaboration, a book about the smoggy days of Los Angeles.The early chapters provide some historical background on China’s dynastic rule and frequent invasions by the Japanese, the British, and others, as well as its own political infighting. Their overly rosy characterization of Mao’s various attempts to control everything once he and the communists took over is somewhat naïve – or at the very least, incomplete – but they generally capture the essence of how China came to set itself up as the world’s factory. The authors’ explanation of how entry into the World Trade Organization (WTO) and various bilateral and multilateral trade agreements spurred the rapid growth of industry and economy, while perhaps overly rancorous, is well done.In short, the book documents through rapid-fire detail and personal anecdote the rise of Chinese manufacturing and with it the extraordinary increase in coal-based pollution. The authors relate how bad the air pollution has become, and the subterfuge of the Chinese government to deny its existence even as giant screens in Tiananmen Square broadcast barely visible images of splendid panoramic vistas through the gritty air. The book does a good job of showing how China periodically shut down industry and banned automobiles in an effort to clear the air, usually when foreign dignitaries were in Beijing for meetings, during the 2008 Olympics, and for other events in which foreign media were present. Finally, near the end they discuss chemicals other than smog, though only superficially. They also touch on some attempts by China to do something about a problem they recognize but can’t solve alone. This last point deserved much more attention than it got. Still, the information they present is important for all of us to know and understand.The biggest negative about the book is the writing. It often appears that the two authors each took the lead on different chapters. Some chapters are clearly written and eminently informative. Other chapters are so full of hyperventilating prose seemingly more interested in hearing its own breathless recitation of a thesaurus than communicating the information. In fact, these chapters and sections contain so many clichés (sometimes not even getting them right, e.g., “pedal-to-the-medal”) and bombastic turns of phrases that half the sentences carry no meaning whatsoever.That said, the basic message, though too often lost in the laborious, self-indulgent writing, is that China became a cesspool of pollution in part because of our offshoring of manufacturing jobs to them. With global warming and prevailing air currents, that pollution is coming back to haunt us.

  • Justin Chapman
    2019-03-08 08:26

    The truth is a bitter pill to swallow for the Chinese, who have been busy putting all of their energy into ratcheting up their economy and making money while glibly and caustically ignoring their own health and that of their own land, water, and air. And from the looks of it they’d be getting away with it if it weren’t for the tireless reporter and meticulous author team in Bill Kelly and Chip Jacobs to hold their proverbial feet to the fire.More than a biting critique of China’s economic choices — and America’s tacit support — which led to the so-called communist country’s current environmental situation, which is, at best, bleak. This book is not just a critical exposé on China, but a call on them to do the right thing now, when it matters. Because this is not just about China, but the United States and the rest of the world as well.Cancer villages, peasant uprisings, corruption at every level of society, all tales of human struggle interwoven in a gripping narrative. This is a truly impressive treatise of investigative reporting and an acerbic indictment of humanity’s own disregard for itself. Every page is a head shaker. And every fact and figure is illuminated with ornate prose and evocative passages.The book provides historical context as well as advocacy journalism, environmental activism, smog analysis, case studies, and human stories.When I went to China in 2013, I didn’t see the sun in four different cities over three weeks because the pollution was so bad. Coming home to Los Angeles was a breath of fresh air in comparison, which tells you all you need to know right there. For the gritty, staggering details — as well as what needs to happen in order to reverse this terrifying ordeal — do yourself a big favor and read The People’s Republic of Chemicals, and thank your lucky stars you don’t yet breathe industrial and chemical waste every single day.-Justin ChapmanAuthor of "Saturnalia: Traveling From Cape Town to Kampala in Search of an African Utopia"

  • Jeff Charlebois
    2019-02-23 08:36

    This enlightening book illustrates China’s attempt to fog and smog reality by coughing out pollution propaganda that only flies over their cities. Sadly, the people’s cries go unheard as their mouths are hidden under masks while they walk the sooty streets gasping for a breath of fresh air. Why should we care? Because their cloud could soon be coming to a city near you. The authors do an excellent job of laying out China’s history of how it became a super power and super polluter. They put forth indisputable evidence of how the Red leadership continues to shanghai the health of their citizens and the many tourists who leave the country with blackened handkerchiefs. An eye-opening chapter on the Beijing Olympics and the athletes who wheezed their way to the finish line only to wipe the grim off their medals to see if it was gold, silver or bronze. Unfortunately, we are part of the problem because life would be unbearable without our iPod and laptops as the book points to. The handwriting is on the great wall. China must change its way if only for the mundane reason of saving the planet. For what it’s worth, the fortune in my cookie says, “This is a must read!” Kudos to the authors, William and Chip, who shed light on a darkened country.

  • Mimi Strauss
    2019-02-25 15:26

    “The People’s Republic of Chemicals” is a must-read, if you care about the environment, public health issues, and the real costs of the goods and products manufactured in China, and exported into the U.S. In this remarkable book William J. Kelly and Chip Jacobs set out to inform, educate, and uncover the causes and ramifications of poisonous air, in a way that will both horrify and hopefully reinforce and revitalize the war against air-pollution. Well-researched, well-written, and offering up an important message in plain-spoken (in the best sense of the word) and understandable fashion – geared toward people who care, but are not necessarily scientists. Here is an opportunity to understand the local manifestations of air pollution (cancer is a major cause of death in China), and the global ramifications, as poison knows no borders.

  • Orion
    2019-03-09 11:31

    This is an interesting, simplified account of how China has experienced terrible pollution as it has become a manufacturing power. It largely focusses on air pollution, although some attention is paid to water and land pollution. The pollution has created serious health, land use, and economic problems for China and its global neighbors. The book is written in a conversational, slangy, slightly affected vernacular that does keep the reader alert. But at times one's attention is drawn too much attention to the style itself at the risk of undermining the content. I highly recommend this book as a well written, easy to read description of serious problems that are often casually overlooked.

  • GONZA
    2019-03-04 15:31

    This book really scared me. it compares the current situation in terms of pollution and consumption of raw materials in China with that of the U.S. in the past, and also of the present and what emerges made me start crying.Questo libro mette veramente paura e paragona l'attuale situazione in termini di smog e consumo di materie prima della Cina con quella degli Stati Uniti del passato, e anche del presente e quello che emerge fa mettere le mani nei capelli.THANKS TO NETGALLEY AND RARE BIRD BOOKS FOR THE PREVIEW!

  • Pam Thomas
    2019-03-24 15:25

    An exceptional book and a brilliant read. I learnt so much about air pollution and the collateral damage. How china has nearly 500 cancer villages in remote towns where cancer being the number one cause of death, where people work amongst noxious compounds, how one third of carbon dioxide emissions come from factories making shippable exports and how china's coal burning devours most of the globe, its also one of the globes most polluted country and is on the same list as chernobyl. I loved the book

  • Kph
    2019-03-21 08:29

    My personal wish is that every person on the planet read The People’s Republic of Chemicals. And I’ll tell you why. China’s pollution crisis is highly underreported. Most people, myself included, have only a vague idea about the toxic soup of chemicals in China's air, land and water—and even worse, how severely the toxicity is impacting its people. Authors of the award-winning environmental book, Smogtown: The Long-burning History of Pollution in Los Angeles, William J. Kelly and Chip Jacobs, do a great service in tackling this even greater environmental crisis—one with global implications. According to Kelly and Jacobs, China’s runaway pollution is the cause of a staggering 1.2 million premature deaths to its people per year in the forms of cardiovascular disease, respiratory ailments and cancers of the liver, bone, lung, breast, and blood. They also report on how China’s toxic air pollution extends well beyond its borders to neighboring countries and even across the Pacific to the western United States. Bottom line: The subject is pertinent to us all.Written with literary flair and a wide and colorful range of vocabulary, and delivered like a play-by-play recount of an athletic event, Kelly and Jacobs give fascinating social and historical context to provide important insight into what drives China’s relentless pursuit of economic growth and power. They write, “China would rejigger into an export-manufacturing colossus dedicated to Western store shelves. This model was its chance to vault out of its excruciating past, to erase those centuries hostage to foreign occupation and shuffling backwardness. Bottom-barrel wages, slack red tape, pliant locales and sheer size conferred it to transcendent advantages that Mexico, Taiwan and other non-Western factory bastions could never sustain. As the world’s friendliest landing pad for outsourced production, air quality would have to take it on the chin, at least for now.” The authors’ thorough handling of the subject matter reveals some uncomfortable truths about the U.S. too. Mainly, they underscore the fault of the Clinton administration, which failed to push baseline environmental standards for China’s manufacturing when the 2001 WTO/China agreement was being negotiated. That was a game-changing "missed opportunity" and a massive failure. Also, they point out that China could not flourish without U.S. multinationals and corporations eagerly lining up to reduce their manufacturing costs by taking advantage of China’s cheap labor and convenient environmental loopholes—or a shrinking American middle class needing and wanting more affordable goods and luxuries. We play a role too. While it’s disturbing to read the lack of action taken by the Chinese government to legislate or enforce environmental standards—let alone even acknowledge there’s a serious problem, the reports of angry citizens protesting with some success is heartening. The enormous price China and the world are paying for consumerism is never more evident. Lives are at stake. Heavily reliant on dirty coal for energy production, and sitting atop the world’s largest coal reserves, the authors remind us and the world that China truly holds our future in its hands. Yet, change is possible. And change starts with awareness. Thank goodness the Mandarin version of this book is nearly ready. Well-written, informative and insightful—The People’s Republic of Chemicals is a worthy and important read. Share it with your friends.