ZHANGJIAGANG, China – An incredible forest lies on its side in this gritty industrial town in southeastern China. On the southern bank of the Yangtze River nine-foot-diameter kevazingo trees from Gabon rub against Cambodian rosewoods and Indonesian teaks. Nearby, rust-colored bark from Malaysian pacific maples flakes onto stained concrete. Together, the horizontal forest contains more than 220 species from every corner of the globe. If they were living, they would create one of the most diverse spaces on earth. Instead the mountains of wood are a harbinger of the environmental changes unleashed by China’s rapid rise. As China has maintained three decades of unprecedented economic growth, it has outstripped its resources and begun scouring the world for more – in the process becoming the world’s top consumer of dozens of commodities, everything from logs, coal and iron ore to shark fins and tiger bones. The impact on forests highlights how China’s size and rapid growth has pushed up the world’s metabolism – with dramatic consequences for its shared land, waters and climate. Since 2000, the
MOUNT BACHELOR, Oregon – At more than 9,000 feet along the crest of Oregon’s Cascade mountain range, the top of this snow-covered peak normally enjoys some of America’s cleanest air. So when sensitive scientific instruments picked up ozone – the chief component of smog – at levels higher than downtown Los Angeles and well above health safety limits set by the Environmental Protection Agency in late April, scientists took note. Measurements of particulate matter – tiny bits of dust and black carbon linked with heart disease and lung cancer – reached one-third of the EPA safety threshold and counts of mercury – a potent neurotoxin – spiked. Besides fouling the sky for skiers on the mountain, scientists working in a makeshift laboratory on the peak were concerned because the pollution plume is evidence of an increasingly large cloud of toxic substances carried by the jet stream across the Pacific Ocean from China. China’s decades-long spurt of unprecedented economic growth has not only made it the world’s top consumer of many commodities but also its top
TRINIDAD, Colorado – When the New Elk mine reopened amid windblown prairies last winter, it attracted little attention. But the mine – a long shaft boring through some of the world’s most valuable coal – strikes at the heart of a growing debate about the future of American coal.
TUOJIA VILLAGE, China – When you think about China’s growing greenhouse gas emissions, you probably don’t think of people like Zhang Chao or his father Zhang Dejun. Zhang Chao, a 35-year-old middle school teacher living in small city in southwestern