Economists tout China's economic development a miracle and assure us that it is poised to surpass the US economy by 2020.

But their unquenchable thirst for growth has burned through the resources the country had to offer. Their forests are bare, their soil is depleted of nutrients and their waters are contaminated. Though they are the 2nd largest economy they are also the # 1 polluters of the environment a title that puts their own lives at risk and that of the entire planet.

History demonstrates that their disregard for environmental consequences has been a long time in the making.

In 1956 Chairman Mao decreed China would take The Great Leap Forward making push for greater industrial development as well as greater agricultural output. To that end he dictated a number of social reforms. Some of the reforms were down right silly and definitely not well thought out. For example, he called for the extermination of all rats, flies, mosquitoes and sparrows because, after Americans and capitalism, he considered them a major threat to Chinese development.

Calculations were made that each sparrow consumed 4.5 kg of grain a year and that for every million sparrows killed , there would be food to feed 60 thousand more Chinese citizens.

All over the land people were called upon to wage war against the birds as they were made to believe that their own survival depended on the bird's total annihilation. In massive numbers citizens took the streets and fields armed with sling shots and rifles to kill the birds. Women shooed the birds away by beating on pans and drums forcing them to stay in permanent flight until, exhausted, they fell from the skies. On the ground sparrow nests were torn down , chicks killed, trapped or poisoned.

Though they succeeded in killing more than a million sparrows- rice yields did not increase. With no sparrows to eat the insect population, rice fields were swarmed with locusts compounding the ecological problems set forth by a massive deforestation of their forests and the use of poisons and pesticides. The policy had such a reverse effect that two years after the initiation of the Great Leap Forward it is estimated between 15-30 million people died of starvation. The government , in desperation, was suddenly in the embarrassing position of having to import sparrows from neighboring Russia to rebalance the ecosystem.
Such disastrous results to their economic strategy- one would think- would give the Chinese pause for thought.

Yet, the anti sparrow campaign was followed in quick succession by the anti bed bug , anti cats, anti badgers, anti raccoons campaigns. The disappearance of these species each brought it own set of perils.

This reckless disregard for the environment in the race for development now threatens the economic expansion they so desperately sought and the survival of their own people. Air contamination from factories is affecting the health of millions in China and much of the country's land is rapidly turning in to desert. Still they press forward with mega-projects that fly in the face of sound environmental principles.

Recently completed is the Three Gorges Dam , hailed by the regime as the greatest engineering wonder of the world. Inadequate quality of materials and lack of environmental impact studies have made the mega project an ecological disaster. The one million Chinese who live near the dam are saying that earthquakes and landslides are making life there unsustainable.

Undeterred, the government with few precautions and again no environmental impact studies- is now set to blow- up 700 mountains in Lanzhou Province to create 250 square kms of flatland for a new city. The air pollution caused by the land movement alone is causing serious health risks to the local population. Calls for a halt to the project by concerned Chinese scientists have gone unheeded. They say to continue without analyzing the impact of these measures is "folly".

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