The Polluted Path to Prosperity

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India is just behind China in procreating their way to being the second most populous country on earth. At 1,266,883,598, India’s population has been, er, ah, shall we say, rather busy. India’s people probably will not likely be as proud to know that they are rapidly approaching being the most polluted country in the world. Of course, it goes without saying that being the most polluted state also means being the biggest polluter in this global economy that everyone is so excited about. An exploding population and one of the worst air pollution problems in the world will mean that somewhere around 1.1 million Indian citizens will perish from the effects of air pollution. To quote the New York Times, “the confluence of rapid industrialization, population growth and an aging populace in India that is more susceptible to air pollution.”


While the air is deadly, the water is no less so.  Contaminated water is killing the children of India at a rate that to use the word alarming would be too subtle. “Diarrhea is the third leading cause of childhood mortality in India, and is responsible for 13% of all deaths/year in children under 5 years of age, according to Subitha Lakshminarayanan and Ramakrishnan Jayalakshmy in a 2015 Journal of Natural Science article. India quite deliberately wants to industrialize and become an economic powerhouse; they take great pride in their citizens being promoted to CEO positions like Satya Narayana Nadella being the head of Microsoft.


I won’t blame all of the largest democracy in the world’s pollution on industrialization, as the population isn’t helping any. According to the Huffington Post, “Indian cities produce nearly 40,000 million litres of sewage every day and barely 20 percent of it is treated… Weak or non-existent enforcement of environmental laws, rapid urban development and a lack of awareness about the dangers of sewage are all blamed for water pollution. ‘Untreated sewage is killing Indian rivers.’”


Small wonder they want to come to the U.S., and bring all of the high-tech knowledge with them, leaving their soiled air, rivers, and landscape to those of the lesser born caste. You see, in India, the Brahmins run everything and the Untouchables, the lower caste, are allowed to wallow in the slime when the Brahmins are feeling generous. All kidding aside, the Untouchables in Indian society face discrimination that would make U.S. pre-civil war treatment of African Americans look like they were given the velvet glove treatment.


Environmentally, India is killing itself and its people in almost every way imaginable. Urbanization, water supply, wastewater collection and treatment are becoming serious problems. Eighty percent of the domestic water tapped passes back into the system as wastewater. Big industries such as steel and chemicals as well as cottage industries like textiles create toxic water and sludge that percolates or is washed into the water supply by rain, gone but by no means forgotten. Agricultural runoff as well as tapping the Himalayan Rivers upstream for water for irrigation is leaving the rivers as only a trickle by the time they reach the lower cities. Lastly and most disappointingly, cremated bodies, disposing of animal carcasses and mass bathing are stressing the rivers, making them unsafe.


The global economy has certainly given India many opportunities. The vision of environmental responsibility being a global consideration has largely been lost to a country that is polluting their air and water at rates that are unsustainable and are already costing lives. A more efficient and effective government (without corruption) could go a long way in correcting the problem. Whether that is likely to happen is anyone’s guess, and I would guess, at this point in time, not. The government corruption, bolstered by the social structure of India, is not helping, and it appears from all indications, that it will not be happening anytime soon. In the meantime, India’s people will suffer and die because of India’s desire to become a player in the global economy.




Leroy Added Nov 2, 2017 - 9:00pm
Sounds like India is following the Chinese model.  It works, as long as human life is not valued.  I was in China where the worst air pollution to date was recorded.  It was literally off the charts.  In Shanghai, my son had pneumonia three times in his first year of life.  I have to wonder how much was caused by air pollution.  The doctor suggested that we keep the windows opened to allow fresh air to come in.  I asked her, "You mean open the windows on days like this when it is rated extremely hazardous?"  She replied, "Maybe not.  Maybe it would be better on days like yesterday."  To which I replied, "Oh.  Ok.  When it is only hazardous?"
I don't see how any government could allow its citizens to suffer that level of pollution. 
Like the Chinese model, the wealthy of India will find their way to the US and Europe.
Jeff Jackson Added Nov 2, 2017 - 9:30pm
Yes Leroy, no doubt they want to come here and escape the consequences of that global economy that is only killing our jobs, not our citizens.
Ray Joseph Cormier Added Nov 2, 2017 - 11:33pm
This is Timely! I read the following earlier this morning.
By any stretch of imagi-nation, this is a current example of what Profit over People does to people. For Geopolitical purposes, Western Media portrays India as a Democracy.
In the two days demolition drive by Delhi Development Authority (DDA) in assistance with Delhi Police demolished more than 1000 houses at Kathputli Colony, in West Delhi on October 30th and October 31st 2017. During the demolition, Police lathicharged on the residents mercilessly and also shot some Tear gas on them. On the basis of a Public Notice served on October 25th to evict the place in 5 days, they carried out this drive. They demolished some 100 houses on day one with 5 Bulldozers on place and they came with greater force on next days to brutally demolishing the rest. The gross Human Rights Violation was done by Delhi Police in two days where they just behaved like they are meant to Peace and Tranquility but they have been brought by DDA to bring as much fear they can create through their Lathis and Abusive Languages. They beat anyone who tried to say a word, they pushed anyone, they grabbed the collars of anyone who resisted, be it man, woman or a child.
People from different communal groups living in the vicinity of each other for decades now. In the early 1970s, a handful of performers from Rajasthan settled in West Delhi’s Shadipur region. Artists who were primarily puppeteers and musicians often moved throughout the capital to perform and over a period of time Shadipur became a convenient location for the same. Over time, they were joined by a variety of artists and people from states like Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Bihar, Orissa and Jharkhand and together they formed a single settlement known as Kathputli colony (The term refers to string puppet theatre).
Home Demolition in Delhi: Thousands Rendered Homeless, Kathputli Artists’ Colony Demolished, Death of Democracy!
Thomas Napers Added Nov 3, 2017 - 5:24am
The problems you highlight in the article have nothing to do with India’s desire to player in the global economy.  They have to do with all the things you mention, overpopulation, poverty, government corruption.  The fact of the matter is that as India’s economy grows it will go a long way towards making all of those problems better. 
George N Romey Added Nov 3, 2017 - 7:39am
This in part is why the US loses out because we value human life. If only some of our corporate leaders felt the same way.
Jeff Jackson Added Nov 3, 2017 - 9:00am
Yes George, life is important, but no to everyone. Remember that coal mining executive (named Blankenship, if I recall correctly) that got sent to prison for endangering the lives of those miners. I have resigned from positions because they deliberately endangered lives when they knew better. 
Jeff Jackson Added Nov 3, 2017 - 9:02am
Tom, I think a lot of the Indian population will die while they pursue a position in the global economy. The cost of economic growth is already taking its toll, and I do not see less of it with economic development, I see more of it. 
Ray Joseph Cormier Added Nov 3, 2017 - 9:40am
The West had an almost monopoly on Earth's natural resources through White European Colonialism for Centuries.
With China and India striving to reach Western levels of economic development, the hard core reality is diminishing natural resources needed by more people. What then"
Ray Joseph Cormier Added Nov 3, 2017 - 9:47am
George, do you really believe "the US loses out because we value human life.?"
You write that like it's an absolute of American "exceptionalism" among all the Nations when clearly it is not.
opher goodwin Added Nov 3, 2017 - 10:06am
I just visited India this year - Chennai. It is an intriguing colourful place, full of vitality and contrasts. The old colonial buildings are crumbling and there is a lot of slum clearance and new developments. Religion is alive with festivals and temples everywhere. I suppose desperately poor people will try anything. The people were friendly and seemed happy but there were beggars and many people asleep on pavements, piles of rubbish and rubble everywhere and cattle and other livestock running free.
The air quality was very poor.
There were many posters and car signs saying 1&1 +1. Me, You and baby. There is a big drive to limit families and I gather it is having some effect. The trouble is that religion intrudes and there is a battle of numbers.
Even A Broken Clock Added Nov 3, 2017 - 10:51am
Jeff - good post. India still has a much larger percentage of its population living at a subsistence level in rural areas, so the problems with urbanization and increasing pollution will only increase.
You mentioned Don Blankenship in a comment (former CEO of Massey coal). He did complete his nearly 1 year misdemeanor sentence, but continued his legal crusade to have his conviction reversed even after he left confinement. His last legal challenge was turned down by the Supreme Court. So now he's trying to affect the court of public opinion by running commercials in West Virginia trying to lay blame on MSHA and Sen. Manchin (who was governor at the time) for their supposed role in enforcing ventilation protocols in the mines that Blankenship insists were the cause of the explosion. Never mind that the mines were horribly dusty with explosive coal dust that made what might have been a minor disaster into a major conflagration, Blankenship could not accept any responsibility for the explosion.  Wonder who that reminds me of?
Jeff Jackson Added Nov 3, 2017 - 11:54am
Thanks for the comments Opher. More than likely, the starving begging people you saw were the Untouchables, who are treated as less than human, less than the dogs of the Brahmin. Amazing so much poverty can exist with such wealth, but then, when the politicians look out only for themselves and the elites, you get that, and guess where it's coming next, you know, the country where wealth is concentrated in the super-wealthy 10% and everyone else starves? 
Jeff Jackson Added Nov 3, 2017 - 11:57am
Thanks for the comments Even. It's amazing that Blankenship is obsessed with exonerating himself from this. Perhaps all of the mining executives should have their children go deep into the earth with the miners. We might see more concern for the those who risk their lives.  
George N Romey Added Nov 3, 2017 - 12:45pm
India has always had a cast system and that mentality rules today.  I don't see that changing.  The Chinese on the other hand are beginning to become more western in culture and more wanting of what was an American middle class lifestyle.  However, people that visit China regularly tell China has a very long way to go with quite a few obstacles before a middle class springs forth. The Belt and Silk road initiatives are being used to proper China as the new superpower.  Still, the increase in pollution doesn't seem to be something China is very concerned about.
Jeff Jackson Added Nov 3, 2017 - 1:13pm
George, they're not that worried about pollution, because the only thing they lose is people, and they have billions of them. Mao had the same mentality. When Nixon was warming up to China, one of the conversations between Nixon and Mao turned to immigration and visitors, with Nixon bringing up the exchange of citizens, and Chairman Mao said: "How many million Chinese do you want?" 
Benjamin Goldstein Added Nov 3, 2017 - 4:05pm
It sounds stupid but the real source of wealth and well-being in the Western world was birth control. You want a better future. Have about 2-3 kids per married couple!
opher goodwin Added Nov 3, 2017 - 4:27pm
Jeff - the extremes were evident. The most amazing cars and abject poverty.
Dino Manalis Added Nov 3, 2017 - 4:48pm
Soon, India will surpass China's population and become the most populous country, but it's necessary for India and China to do more to protect the environment while maintain economic development.  They have to do both!
opher goodwin Added Nov 3, 2017 - 7:51pm
Dino - they should do more but that is not a priority in either of their governments.
Unfortunately it does not seem to be a priority or even a consideration anywhere around the world. I have travelled extensively and everywhere money comes first and the environment well down the list if on it at all.
opher goodwin Added Nov 3, 2017 - 7:53pm
Benjamin - that is almost right. But it was also having the welfare and pensions so that when you got sick or old you weren't reliant on your children. People living in poverty depend on their children in times of need.
Crack that and provide contraception, female education and remove patriarchal misogyny and you improve standards and bring down population.
Jeff Jackson Added Nov 4, 2017 - 7:41pm
Benjamin, China, knowing that they were expanding far more than they could feed (and this was after Mao starved 20 to 43  million during the Great Famine, the numbers were hard to pin down) tried for the "one-child policy" in the 1980s and ended up with infanticide for females because the Chinese wanted a male to carry on the family name. They now have an imbalance of males, or so I am told. They have 25% of the world's population on 14% of the world's arable land. At this point, I thing that China is thinking they will eventually "expand" their borders, as they are now militarizing the South China Sea.
Jeff Jackson Added Nov 4, 2017 - 7:43pm
Opher, it is pessimistic, but I think America is moving in the direction of extreme wealth and those of the wealthy class looking out for themselves and each other, and everyone else poor. We are definitely moving in that direction.
Jeff Jackson Added Nov 4, 2017 - 7:45pm
Dino, I think we need to bring more international pressure on both India and China. They're taking away our jobs, and yet pollute with impunity.  They need to stop the pollution and we need to realize that everyone faces the environmental damage and we will all pay, via global warming, that is if you believe in that stuff.
Ray Joseph Cormier Added Nov 4, 2017 - 8:55pm
Is there Time for Reality?
Jeff, you say "They're taking away our jobs, and yet pollute with impunity."
The Reality is the Global Capitalist Corporations will go to the Nation with the cheapest labour costs, and the fewest Environmental protections. Don't blame the Locals finally given the chance to improve their lot.
Of course they want Free Trade to be able to import all those cheaper products from over there Duty Free, to charge more over here. In the blind pursuit of Profit, they don't realize they are undermining the ability of workers here to make a decent living wage leading eventually to Economic Collapse. It already happened in 2008. If it already happened, it could happen again.
In 1974 my Business card read, National Marketing Representative, Mining Division, Dominion Engineering Works Ltd. in Montreal. This was before US-CanaDa Free Trade of 1987, North American Free Trade of 1994 and Globalization of the Economy around 1997.
When I was hired for the position, I didn't know much about the Mining Industry, but I knew there were lots of mines using the $200,000 Ball, Rod and Aname="fprsl">utogenous milling machines in 1974 Dollars.
I imagined I would be travelling coast to coast in CanaDa selling the mills. There was another Representative covering the International Market. Business was booming and he travelled all over the World 8 months out of 12. Nothing was happening in the Canadian Mining Industry.
A Canadian mine was not going to spend that much money to expand in CanaDa, where a Canadian worker cost $30/hr in pay and benefits, when they could go the 3rd World, and pay $5/day with no benefits or environmental regulations. The resources could be shipped to any Mine in Canada cheaper than digging it out of the ground here. With that fancy Business card Title, I was reduced to preparing his Sales Proposals, Production scheduling and other administrative tasks. I hated it.
I quit that position without having another job to go to. The next Day, I came alive to God when I was 29 going on 30. While the Executive Agency that always found me a better position and sent me to interviews for fantastic positions, I talked about my new found Faith in God during the Interviews.
After one Interview I thought went really well because of the intense interest the Manager showed, the next Day I called the Agency. What Happened? was the 1st question asked. I told him, "I thought it went very well. Why? What did he say?"
I had a smile on my face when he quoted the interviewer as saying, "I don't know what that guy was high on, but I sure wish I had some!"
DEW doesn't exist anymore with Globalization of the Economy, but
from that experience in '74-'75, I realized if that was happening in the basic mineral resource jobs, it wouldn't long before basic manufacturing would go the same way and so it has.
Ari Silverstein Added Nov 5, 2017 - 12:26pm
Economic growth and pollution work in the opposite direction as what you suggest.  Poor countries like India build coal power plants.  They also don’t have the extra money to tackle concerns about pollution when people are starving and homeless.  It’s only after a country achieves some level of economic growth that they begin to have the financial means necessary to eradicate pollution.  America, by way of example, has largely made the shift from coal to natural gas and oil.  To be sure, we waste a bunch of money pursuing solar and wind, but the fossil fuels we burn are far cleaner than those of India. 
opher goodwin Added Nov 5, 2017 - 3:30pm
Jeff - I think you are right - it is the logical extension of the capitalist system. Maybe they will realise that they have to cater for the masses though - to stop them revolting.
opher goodwin Added Nov 5, 2017 - 3:33pm
Ari - money isn't wasted if it is protecting the environment. That's money well spent.
Edward Miessner Added Nov 6, 2017 - 1:54pm
Jeff, excellent post. The noxious air pollution is due to the burning of a lot of fossil fuels, particularly coal, but also oil in the form of diesel fuel and gasoline or, as they say, petrol. This is true also in China and both countries are so severely polluted it behooves them to decarbonise their economies whether or not global warming is actually happening (it is). And China, with all its wealth, is now embarking on a program to do just that and is even setting sights on building itself a fleet of electric cars. India? I don't know if they are wealthy enough yet to be able to do just that.
But your post caused me to think... if there are so many Indians here in the US and other English-speaking countries and they're all Brahmins leaving their poorer countrymen behind to perish in the heat and pollutants, are they climate refugees before the coming changes in India's climate? Even now they are having these wicked heat waves and those are not necessarily caused by global warming... but to me they surely are aggravated, though.