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The People's Republic of Chemicals
     

The People's Republic of Chemicals

by William J. Kelly
 

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Maverick environmental writers William J. Kelly and Chip Jacobs follow up their acclaimed Smogtown with a provocative examination of China’s ecological calamity already imperiling a warming planet. Toxic smog most people figured was obsolete needlessly kills as many as died in the 9/11 attacks every day, while sometimes Grand Canyon-sized drifts of

Overview


Maverick environmental writers William J. Kelly and Chip Jacobs follow up their acclaimed Smogtown with a provocative examination of China’s ecological calamity already imperiling a warming planet. Toxic smog most people figured was obsolete needlessly kills as many as died in the 9/11 attacks every day, while sometimes Grand Canyon-sized drifts of industrial particles aloft on the winds rain down ozone and waterway-poisoning mercury in America.

In vivid, gonzo prose blending first-person reportage with exhaustive research and a sense of karma, Kelly and Jacobs describe China’s ancient love affair with coal, Bill Clinton’s blunders cutting free-trade deals enabling the U.S. to "export" manufacturing emissions to Asia in a shift that pilloried the West's middle class, Communist Party manipulation of eco-statistics, the horror of cancer villages, the deception of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and spellbinding peasant revolts against cancer-spreading plants involving thousands in mostly-censored melées. Ending with China’s monumental coal-bases decried by climatologists as a global warming dagger, The People's Republic of Chemicals names names and emphasizes humanity over bloodless statistics in a classic sure to ruffle feathers as an indictment of money as the real green that not even Al Gore can deny.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

* FOREWORD REVIEWS (5 hearts): “The rapid industrialization of the world’s most populous nation has far-reaching effects for the world’s environment and economy, and in The People’s Republic of Chemicals, journalists William J. Kelly and Chip Jacobs detail how extreme China’s pollution problem has become. The authors do a nice job of mixing firsthand journalism with history and using a reporting style that thoroughly explains an important but potentially wonkish in a way that should make it accessible and interesting to a large audience. Kelly and Jacobs trace China’s current situation back centuries, from the East–West connections formed during Marco Polo’s journeys there, through the growth of China’s coal industry, up through the export-driven economy that has grown in recent decades—and the constant increase in new factories to feed that demand. While industrialization has exploded, it has also created a series of crises in public health, with millions of Chinese adults dying prematurely due to air pollutants … (They) help tell this story by introducing readers to people directly impacted, from villagers dying from illness to activists trying to get accurate information about China’s smog to citizens. … Kelly and Jacobs don’t skimp on either the hard science or the policy analysis. They detail how the smog got so bad, using previous smog disasters in California and Japan for context … Similarly, the pair do an outstanding job of showing the causes and effects of the interdependency between American consumers and Chinese manufacturers. The result is a well-rounded portrait …”

* 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

Kirkus Reviews
2014-09-10
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 reliance on coal to fuel its industrial machine depends on coal imports from the U.S., creating a new market for the American mining industry. In 2013, Kelly traveled to China to examine the situation, while Jacobs constructed a dossier on the real story of how the U.S. created cleaner air on the homefront by turning manufacturing plants into shopping malls that sold cheap merchandise produced in China. One of their examples is a "$200 million-plus shopping mall called the Burbank Empire Center [that] rests on the land where Lockheed's B-1 plant used to be." 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. Despite Gore's prescient warnings, they write, they "failed to construct any backstop of 'ecological accountability,' especially in the world's fastest-growing economy." Kelly provides an on-the-ground report on the new China, which combines an across-the-board improvement in the standard of living with a quality of life made miserable by unbreathable air, polluted water and more. He finds increasing popular unrest with the situation and a central government hamstrung by corruption, struggling to deal with it. 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.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781940207254
Publisher:
Rare Bird Books
Publication date:
11/25/2014
Pages:
280
Sales rank:
959,523
Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.20(d)

Meet the Author


William J. Kelly is the co-author Smogtown: the Lung-Burning History of Pollution in Los Angeles and the author of Home Safe Home. His reporting has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Consumers Digest, Inside Climate News, L.A. Weekly, and the California Journal, among other outlets. He was chief spokesman for South Coast Air Quality Management District, the smog control agency for greater Los Angeles, and is currently the senior correspondent for the California Current. Kelly, the recipient of numerous writing awards, lives in the Los Angeles area.

Chip Jacobs is the co-author of Smogtown: the Lung-Burning History of Pollution in Los Angeles and the author of The Vicodin Thieves, The Ascension of Jerry and Wheeler-Dealer. Jacobs’ reporting has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, CNN, Bloomberg View, the Daily News of Los Angeles, L.A. Weekly and newgeography.com, among other outlets. Jacobs, the recipient of numerous writing commendations, lives in Southern California. Visit chipjacobs.com to learn more.

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