China is known to be the largest emitter of greenhouse gases and thus the largest contributor to global warming. While this contributes to a worldwide problem, Thompson’s focus is on more immediate threats to health and prosperity.
The danger pollution poses for China’s city dwellers has been widely reported, with most focus on high counts of particulates, the so-called PM2.5s. Particles with diameters less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter are small enough to damage lung tissue and enter the blood stream.
The main source of these particulates is assumed to be the ubiquitous burning of coal. Does this particulate creation constitute a worldwide threat?
While not very many Californians are yet worried about pollution wafting over, China’s Asian neighbors are quite concerned. An article in the Washington Post by Michiyo Nakamoto provides background on the response by Japan.
"Since April 2012, levels over 70 micrograms per cubic meter have been recorded at six monitoring stations in Japan."
"Levels of PM 2.5 are being monitored at more than 500 stations across Japan but the government aims to increase that to 1,300."
Thompson indicates that the pollution being produced by China is imposed on other countries in multiple ways.
China’s polluted rivers produce a regional problem.
Thompson also seems to suggest that China might also be considered a potential exporter of epidemics.
This is a curious thought. While not generally considered a pollutant, a virus can be considered a form of poison. Is there something unique about China that might make it a likely breeding ground for dangerous viruses? An article by Florence Williams in the New York Review of Books provides some insight. It is titled How Animals May Cause the Next Big One. Williams is reviewing a book by David Quammen: Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic.
Many recent threatening illnesses have been derived from infections that have moved from animals to humans. The spread of the SARS virus is perhaps the most intensely studied.
"He describes how determined scientists eventually traced the SARS virus all the way back to Guangdong province....It turns out that Guangdong is ‘a province of ravenous, unsqueamish carnivores’ whose appetites fuel the biggest and most diverse live-animal markets in the world. Eventually, the culpable coronavirus was found in a civet cat, a mammal in the mongoose family, bound for a kitchen pot. More sleuthing showed that civets weren’t SARS’s main animal host. The civet had caught it from a horseshoe bat."
"How did the bat and the civet connect with each other? The gruesome live markets of southern China are an enterprising virus’s dream come true: such close quarters and all those stacked cages in a region where increasingly adventurous tastes demand a supply of exotic animals, including horseshoe bats."
Globalization entails more than the import and export of physical goods and the international exchange of financial instruments. As Thompson details, it involves the exchange of all the byproducts of human existence, including the noxious, the poisonous and the infectious.