The large scale pollution in China are caused by industry that supplies goods worldwide,a rapidly growing population, and a demand for a higher standard of living. Through our experiences both in Chengdu and in rural areas, many questions regarding this issue have been present in our conversations and thoughts. For instance, what does it mean to judge the large scale pollution in China while understanding the individual needs of each person for adequate food and shelter which has not always been available in this country? How can conservation social work address these issues at a rapid enough scale before the human race depletes the environment to the point that it can no longer sustain life?
These questions are especially important when considering the large amount of “Made in China” items purchased in the United States; thereby, creating a direct link with the pollution that is present throughout China, and the over-consumptive habits of Americans. Personal responsibility is also apparent in the large scale natural habitat destruction and environmental degradation due to the need for more factories and raw material to make affordable items in USA (everything from clothing purchased at high grade department stores to diapers at Walmart).
In sharing our thoughts and concerns with Sarah, she shared that many Chinese people do not mind the pollution because it means that they have a consistent food supply and adequate shelter for themselves and their child(ren). Our greatest ethical challenge is asking people in China to reduce their “standard of living” in order to protect natural habitats and preserve the wildlife that is still remaining. This is a concern because we return to the thought that America is exploiting China and other countries’ environments in order to maintain its own standard of living.
Reducing our own environmental impact is the first and foremost step in this process, and without personal accountability for these issues, Irina and I feel that we can not ask others to do the same.