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Happiness Covered in Coal Dust -- Writer's Poke #406

A layer of pollution visible from space covers the most populated country on planet Earth. 

China uses more coal than the rest of the world combined. Not surprisingly, it is dealing with an incredible amount of pollution. The driving force behind China’s energy consumption? Not just China’s billion-plus population, but also the rise of the demand for “stuff” and the conveniences we in the United States have taken for granted for many years now.

A sheep farmer in China, for example, may live in a mud hut. Today, though, he has access to satellite TV. He may not have indoor plumbing, but he dreams of the day when he will be able to purchase the items he sees on that TV.

It’s not wrong for a Chinese farmer to want air conditioning and a refrigerator and a car and all of the material goods we take for granted. It’s probably not even appropriate for us to complain about China’s willingness to rape its land for coal and kill its citizens with pollution. After all, the United States and the rest of the industrialized world was probably doing the same thing not so long ago. 

Nevertheless, the price of happiness comes at a cost, and one reason to question China’s willingness to go through a baptize of fire – a fire generated by gigantic coal burning plants – is simply this: Why haven’t they learned from the mistakes of Western Industrialization? 

What price would you be willing to pay to be happy?

“It’s pretty hard to tell what does bring happiness. Poverty and wealth have both failed.” – Kin Hubbard


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