Auto exhaust pollution causes environmental damages. It’s something that we in America have known for some time: petroleum exhaust not only exhausts our precious and pricey supply of petroleum, but it also releases horrible greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, just one more nail in the coffin of the polar ice caps and of everything that makes our climate peaceable and life on earth worth living. A wish to get away from auto exhaust pollution and the various damages it does to the environment is something that’s fueled the growth of the green movement to a large extent in this country, and more and more consumers are making the choice to use public transportation, bicycle travel, and ride-sharing options. It’s not a major step in the right direction, but it is a step.
But it’s not only the green movement that’s growing. The fastest-growing economy in the world at present is the Chinese economy, including the Chinese automobile market. The final legacy of all that economic growth is a looming threat to the entire earth due to auto exhaust pollution and environmental damages resulting from it.
In the recent past, China was primarily known for its position as one of the few successful Communist countries in the world, as well as for its teeming masses of citizens in transit. The streets of Beijing are invariably pictured as crowded, with pedestrians on the march from building to building and green-friendly bicyclists dodging in and out of the spaces between them. Now, however, China’s economy has improved to the point where more and more consumers have the buying power to truly join the middle class by investing in traditional bourgeois status symbols. And what bourgeois status symbol is more recognizable than the car, with all the environmental damages and auto exhaust pollution that comes with it?
Currently, the Chinese auto market accounts for only 3 to 4 percent of China’s total greenhouse gas output. Since China’s total greenhouse gas output is massive compared to the rest of the world, that’s not as comforting a figure as it probably should be. And since China’s share of the total global automobile industry is currently the third largest in the world, and growing every day, the overall picture here isn’t hopeful, or even temporarily benign. China’s economic transformation has already claimed three-fourths of the country’s forests, leaving a full 25% of the country an uninhabitable, economically useless and environmentally unsound desert. Chinese landfills are filled with non-biodegradable trash and Chinese shark fishing has upset the oceanic ecosystem, leading to a decline in overall fishing on the entire Asian coast. Adding auto exhaust pollution to this tally of environmental damages is only the icing on the whole toxic cake.
So what can be done? We can continue efforts to promote a green lifestyle in this country and abroad, and we can pray that Chinese citizens will take the message seriously. The Chinese economic miracle has left their fate in their own hands, as well as the potential fate of the entire environment.