Pollution: Chinese Riot; Americans Answer Opinion Polls

Copper and molybdenum are both naturally occurring elements on earth, and in our bodies.  In fact, too little of either can cause illness; as can too much.  When a giant factory comes to your town, the purpose of which is to grind, heat, combine, spin, stamp and otherwise manipulate thousands of tons of both items, you’d want to be much more than fairly certain everything was planned to a fare-thee-well.  One set of loose rivets, say, on an “air tight space” could release way more of the tiny 4 micron devils than the bodies of your children, friends and neighbors could tolerate. So the citizens of Shifang, in Sichuan province (just south of dead-center in the country) think.  We don’t know what was done prior to Tuesday, July 4, to get the facts, and be assured that facts were indeed facts, and not just corporate-government PR.  We assume frustration, uncertainty and fear reached a combustible mix not over-night but in the course of several weeks, if not months.

The Wall Street Journal, sure to be on the case where major capital is concerned, reports:

 Police in southwestern Sichuan province deployed tear gas against residents protesting a planned molybdenum copper plant in the latest case of environmental activism facing at times violent resistance from authorities.

… Details of the protest Monday in Shifang were murky. The search term “Shifang” quickly became the most-searched term on Sina’s popular Weibo microblogging service Monday afternoon, with users posting photos and videos they say were from the protest.

“Save our homes and environment for the next generation,” read one protest banner, according to a picture posted on Weibo.

According to one report:

Thousands of people — including high school students — concerned about pollution the plant would cause began to gather in front of the city government building and a public square Sunday night, and the protests turned bloody Monday afternoon after riot police moved in.

Public anger surged as Internet users circulated photos and videos of riot police using tear gas and batons to end the protests. Some Internet users said one protester had died.

“People are very upset. How could the police beat them?” said a 15-year-old middle school student surnamed Liu who did not join the protest.

While western media were reporting “cancellation” of the copper plant (Guardian, WaPo, AP) we who hold as an article of faith that human enterprise always pursues its own interests, think that cancel is too strong a word, not to say simply wrong; relocate where citizens are not so bold, buy off, pay off, give jobs, show studies, or simply wait it out all seem to be possible courses of action.

One connected fellow had this:

“It is the 4th of July — 236 years ago, America achieved independence and 236 years later, the Shifang people are fighting for their own rights and confronting the government,” said an unidentified microblogger who was quoted by Reuters on Wednesday.

“The government has repeatedly squandered the people’s patience. It is time for us to be independent.”

Meanwhile, in the United States, a recent poll shows Americans are less concerned about climate change than they were in 2007, down by about 50%.  Interestingly, while 18% called climate change their top concern, 29% say water and air pollution is number one.  Given that the EPA has been granted to leave to act on CO2 release as pollution maybe the fall off in concern isn’t THAT bad.  Bad enough, though.  Witness:

“I really don’t give it a thought,” said Wendy Stewart, a 46-year-old bookkeeper in New York. Although she thinks warmer winters and summers are signs of climate change, she has noticed that political leaders don’t bring up the subject. “I’ve never heard them speak on global warming,” she said. “I’ve never heard them elaborate on it.

While we can, and should shake up the concern of our fellows, the lack of leadership from those in elected office and have the resources to know better, is obviously an enormous problem.

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