It clogs our air, it contaminates our waterways; it shortens life expectancy and in some places, it makes life downright unpleasant. Let’s be honest. New Zealand is too small to ever have a pollution problem, yet we like to act as though our contribution to lowering the World’s toxicity is vital to further existence.
It is Beijing, China, that leads the world in pollution standings. If we like to go back a few years to the Beijing Olympics, we might recall the massive clean-up undertaken in an attempt to lower visible pollution levels. In the weeks leading up to the Games the highest polluting factories were shut down, literally tonnes of pond scum was lifted from waterways; further hordes of labourers took to Beijing streets simply to pick up litter.
Beijing has a population of approximately 20 million people. That’s one massive number for one mass producing city. Unsurprising, one could easily assert, that their level of pollution is so high; in fact that Olympic effort managed to improve air quality by 30%. Of course it took only a few weeks of regular activity for it to return to normal, but the potential was there.
Oddly enough the point around which I tread is not regarding Beijing – not specifically anyway. It’s the fact that although this problem has reached the point where one country’s airborne pollution is contaminating another, rectification of the aforementioned issue is not a challenge in which little old NZ (4.5 million) can realistically partake. Don’t get me wrong, we love to try, but until the population of one of our cities – until our entire country – reaches double digits, I truly don’t think that we qualify to run with the big boys.
Have you seen the size of Singapore? It’s a speck, a dead set speck on the globe. Yeah, well even they have over 5 million people. What about India? It’s a fairly big chunk of land, sure, but they’re pushing 1.3 billion. China in total is somewhere near 1.4 billion, again, over a huge land mass; out of interest, in the last year China added over twice NZs population to their own in child births alone. Then within China you have the city of Beijing.
20 million heads each vying for their portion of clean air.
These statistics illustrate that it’s primarily the concentration of people that causes problems. People live, people work, people develop; people pollute. The more people being active, the more space each requires. Singapore has a slightly higher population than NZ. Yet its land mass is less than Stewart Island of NZ. Japan is a better comparison. It’s around the same land mass – it’s even a similar shape.
Japan’s population is approximately 128 000 000.
Fortunately Japanese are renowned for being a clean people. Even so, 128 million is 128 million. Japan’s capital, Tokyo, contains around 13 of those million making it the most densely populated city in the world. Clean living or not it is simply implausible that this kind of activity (over 6000 persons per square kilometre) is not significantly raising pollution levels.
Finally, down to the Southern Hemisphere. Australia’s doing alright on 23 million and as far as I know, they don’t give a toss about the environment. Why should they? They have a massive country affording each all the space they could want, mineral rich soil along with a surplus of fresh air. That seems to be the theme. Vast land mass, relatively low numbers, carefree prosperity. Look at Argentina with almost double Australia’s population, but also with an expansive portion of land under them. They don’t make a big deal out of pollution, and nor should they.
So why do we?
Why do we make such a fuss about our ‘clean burning fires’, our ‘low emission vehicles’, prohibiting our ‘contaminated water run-off’ or ensuring ‘prudent waste disposal’ – the bloody ‘fart tax’ was a crock, the ‘carbon tax’ was no better; similarly ‘carbon credits’ managed to confuse and little more – so why the hell does NZ persevere?
Seems to me we don’t have enough going on in our sheltered little worlds to keep our fragile minds occupied, so worrying about trivialities is a pastime at which we have become adept. Other countries have wars; we have the Rugby World Cup. Other countries have real issues; we have P.T.A. meetings. Other countries have famine; we have no Marmite for our toast.
Honestly, we could not affect the state of the planet if the entire nation shit in a bucket and threw it in the ocean.
Article By Mit Reklaw
Edited By R. Swipe