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The People's Republic of Chemicals Hardcover – November 25, 2014
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* BOOKLIST (starred review) : The Smogtown (2008) authors return with a look at China’s air pollution problem, and it is a doozy. Combining a crash-course history lesson that includes everyone from Confucius to Chairman Mao with a withering rant about the country’s nonexistent environmental policies, Kelly and Jacobs give readers everything they need to know about why China is ground zero for the planet’s future, including its coal bases serving as global warming daggers.” There is a lot to take in here, and the narrative’s power is as much due to its style as substance. The prose is sharp, vivid, and direct, leading readers through hard-hitting chapters about the Beijing Olympics, America’s Walmart, made-in-China addiction, and the casual way in which eco-statistics are manipulated. Kelly and Jacobs pillory the actions of as many American politicians as Chinese, noting policy missteps and political weakness with a take-no-prisoners attitude that readers will find refreshingly candid. While the tone can sometimes seem a bit glib, its bracing nature will likely be a tonic to those seeking a straightforward take on this urgent subject while also making for a surprisingly enjoyable read.” Colleen Mondor
* KIRKUS A scathing denunciation of how America outsourced its industrial capacity to China, a package that included catastrophic pollution. Investigative journalists Kelly and Jacobs again team up in a hard-hitting follow-up to their 2008 environmental page-turner Smogtown: The Lung-Burning History of Pollution in Los Angeles. As self-deputized gumshoes” covering the environmental beat, the authors felt they could not ignore the ugly reality in China. As the air in LA improved, in China, a nauseating, gray-brown cloud from an oversaturated sky” was darkening the landscape. China’s adoption of an open-door policy for American manufacturers was a devil’s bargain. The authors have harsh words for the Clinton-Gore pairing,” which allowed American industry to get out from under environmental regulation and benefit from cheap Chinese labor A powerful warning that a growing cloud of toxins aloft [are] swirling in the winds around the world and recirculating the pollution we hoped to shed.”
* ASIAN BOOK REVIEW The authors’ message is to remind us that we’re in serious trouble and that the situation is getting worse. China’s many announcements about increased environmental protection and its impressive accomplishments in installing solar and wind power should not obscure the reality that the environmental situation continues to deteriorate. An obsession with growth continues to triumph over the environment. We may look back and see that the severe air pollution in Beijing in recent winters, which on bad days has been like breathing the air in a forest fire, marked a turning point. For now, Kelly and Jacobs are understandably sceptical that environmental progress in China is for real.”
* CHINADIALOGUE.NET Authors William J. Kelly and Chip Jacobs joined forces once before to write their climate classic, Smogtown: the Lung Burning History of Pollution in Los Angeles, a remarkable 2008 exposé and memoir about air quality, politics and health in Southern California’s smog belt. This time, the duo (goes) farther afield to investigate air pollution that threatens to put a chokehold on the Pacific Rim The writers do know their stuff. Kelly and Jacobs delve behind the headlines and grim statistics of coal emissions and cancer village mortality to focus on the latest struggles to prevent thousands of needless deaths per day from China’s poisoned environment. The authors insist that this dismayingly high death toll could have been avoided. They argue that these deaths should be counted as casualties of China’s overly rapid economic revival. And the multinational corporations who have outsourced manufacturing jobs on such a vast scale must be considered complicit A nation breathes its choices,” the authors warn, while admitting that when it involves the People’s Republic and coal, it’s more than complicated. It’s ancient.” (V)ivid imagery, highlights quirky personalities and hidden motives in the unfolding saga of climate change. Politics loom large. The book is simultaneously entertaining and alarming, and doesn’t spare officials from criticism In post-W.T.O. China, something biologically creepy was only a factory pipe away,” the authors observe. They urge President Xi Jinping to make eco-restoration as much his legacy as ridding the party of the endemic graft.”
* PASADENA WEEKLY More than a biting critique of China’s economic choices, which have led to the country’s current environmental crises, the book is also call to the Chinese government to curb its pollution and do the right thing, not only for itself, but the rest of the planet Cancer villages, peasant uprisings, corruption at every level of society and tales of human struggle are interwoven with a gripping narrative. This truly impressive treatise of investigative reporting is a searing indictment of humanity’s disregard for itself. Every page leaves readers shaking their heads in disbelief, with every fact and figure illuminated by ornate prose and evocative passages. Through advocacy journalism, environmental activism, smog analysis, case studies and human stories, the book provides historical context that is absolutely critical to understanding why the Chinese so unashamedly abandoned their health in exchange for American currency.”
* LIT/RANT (A) well-sourced jeremiad about the state of China’s environmental problems. The number of Chinese succumbing annually to preventalbe smog deaths effectively matched the number of people killed in the U.S. on 9/11 every day of the year,” write William J. Kelly and Chip Jacobs. And, of course, this situation will affect the rest of us. As China’s economy continues to grow at the expense of environmental protections, the authors note, the butterfly effect is threatening to feel Pterodactyl.” While some readers may be put off by the extremely judgmental language Kelly and Jacobs use, others will find it as merely one more indicator of just how frightening the lack of environmental standards for industrial pollution are in China’s race to the top of the economic heap. (a) jeremiad worthy of a prophet.”
CHINA URBAN DEVELOPMENT BLOG An excellent starting point in understanding how China’s pollution problem got so out of hand in the first place and what can be done to stop it (or at least slow it down).
**The People’s Republic of Chemicals among Foreword Reviews' best climate-change-solution books**
**The People’s Republic of Chemicals earns Gold and Silver at the Green Book Festival**
**The People’s Republic of Chemicals named IndieFab Book of the Year Award Finalist**
**The People’s Republic of Chemicals takes silver at the Pacific Rim Book Festival & medals at the Los Angeles Book Festival**
**Booklist names The People’s Republic of Chemicals one of top 10 best books on sustainability
About the Author
Chip Jacobs is the author of five other books: Strange As It Seems: the Impossible Life of Gordon Zahler; The Vicodin Thieves: Biopysing L.A.’s Grifters, Gloryhounds and Goliaths; The Ascension of Jerry: Murder, Hitmen and the Making of L.A. Muckraker Jerry Schneiderman; Smogtown: the Lung-Burning History of Pollution in Los Angeles (with William J. Kelly); and the privately issued Black Wednesday Boys. Jacobs’ reporting has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, CNN, Bloomberg View, the Daily News of Los AngelesLA Weekly, among other outlets. Jacobs, the recipient of numerous writing commendations, lives in Southern California. Visit chipjacobs.com to learn more.
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The People's Republic of Chemicals is an amazing piece of on-site research telling a somber story of how China sacrificed the environment as early as 221 AD by converting "black" rock and fire into a filthy energy that put China in the center of the universe at the price of the environment and the health of the people. Jacobs and Williams recount the grim story the downfall of China by the Russian takeover of Manchuria and the Japanese conquest of the Chinese in the Korean Peninsula. The English learned how to use coal and how to mine it more efficiently than China. Again, this came at the cost of the environment and the quality of human life. Always these advances in the production of energy was accompanied by centralization of wealth, political power and discontent of the victims of this centralization and destruction of the environment.
The discovery of oil and it's use in amassing power reached an apex in the West with the globalization of the problem of wealth vs poverty and the destruction of the environment. This focused most notably in the USA where democracy afforded the victims the ability to combat it. Sadly, China has improved it's ability to extract and use coal and has harnessed the economic organization to amass the wealth with a new market socialism along with the ability to overcome resistance to the destruction of the environment with its totalitarian government. This has resulted in China becoming the leader in world ecological pollution and a world leader in economic development. Along with this leadership, China has not exhibited the desire or ability to balance production with ecological responsibility. In the words of the authors, 'At stake is the survival of our civilization and the habitability of the earth. Or as one eminent scientist put it, the pending question is whether the combination of an opposable thumb and a neocortex is a viable combination of this planet' If a Chinese president borrowed such impassioned rhetoric, he'd have to get permission from it's author:Al Gore, politician, visionary, businessman, and eco-mortal." Until then we will just have to wait and watch Chinese generated toxins threaten us, even poison us from aloft. It looks like the only hope for help will have to come from inside. Again quoting the authors, "....it seems in the arc of history there are times when only dissolution offers hope.
Just a few pages into “The People’s Republic of Chemicals” and my reservations were assuaged. Chip Jacobs and William J. Kelly electrify this subject. It is more than a dissertation on the devastating pollution issues facing the world’s largest country; it is also a recounting of the most relevant period of China’s history and the contemporary politics that have helped create this situation.
The writing is energetic and colorful, and the book moves as a swift pace without sacrificing meaningful details. It is peppered with heartbreaking stories of victimization of average Chinese citizens who are powerless to affect their situation.
This was obviously a major undertaking and Jacobs and Kelly pull it off with bona fide authority.