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Greta Thunberg famously sailed to America on her climate crusade. One wonders why she didn’t go to China. One wonders why, by and large, Western countries have to absorb the brunt of the finger-wagging lectures from climate activists. On Monday, legions of concerned and thoughtful climate activists swarmed the streets of Washington, D.C., to twerk and throw trash. Why don’t they take their traveling show to Indonesia or India?
Indeed, there is a giant, gaping, Asia-sized hole in our correct conversation about climate change. I tend to agree with George Carlin’s negative assessment of the “save the planet” rhetoric, but if the planet really does need to be saved, and if we really are capable of saving it, all of our efforts will be for naught if Asia does not join the crusade. Really, Asia should be leading the crusade, as they are the ones causing most of the problem. Far be it for me to finger point, but most of the planet abuse is happening in its Eastern hemisphere.
As Forbes notes, China alone produces more carbon dioxide than the U.S., Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Republic of Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and the U.K. combined. Add India, Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Vietnam, and Japan into the mix, and the Asia Pacific region accounts, by itself, for 50% of the world’s carbon emissions. The air pollution is so severe in China that solar panels there don’t work. After all, it’s difficult to harness the energy of the sun if its rays can’t sufficiently penetrate through all the toxins and filth in the air.
It’s even worse with water pollution. While Americans are scolded for their plastic straws and utensils, Asia continues to dump millions of tons of garbage into the world’s water supply. Five Asian countries put more plastic in the ocean than every other country on Earth combined. Many rivers in Asia function as glorified conveyor belts for trash and human waste. The majority of the filthiest rivers on the planet are in Asia. It’s bad enough that a fisherman in Indonesia recently thought he hooked a big fish, only to find a decomposing human body on the other end of his line. That river, the Citarum, absorbs about 20,000 tons of waste every day. All of it is then ferried into the ocean. We could load every plastic straw in America into a giant cannon and shoot the whole bundle into the sun and it wouldn’t even make a dent in the water pollution problem. Overall, 95% of the plastic deposited in the ocean from rivers comes from Asia or Africa. That leaves just 5% to divide between the remaining one-third of the world population.
All of this leads back to my first question: Why isn’t Greta Thunberg delivering her sermons in China or India? Why do environmental activists focus almost all of their ire on exactly the regions of the world that contribute least to the problem? The answer, of course, is optics. The media wouldn’t feel quite so warm and fuzzy about the spectacle of a white girl screaming at a non-white audience. An American environmentalist who goes to Indonesia to scold its inhabitants for treating their rivers like garbage cans will not be as widely celebrated as one who stays here in the states and rages against plastic cups. And at the end of the day, environmentalism has little to do with the environment. It is more about money and power for politicians and self-aggrandizement for the activists blocking traffic in D.C.