Love, and China's high price for breaking laws

Those low, low prices of made-in-China goods come at a high price after all. China’s industrial hyper-activity is causing problems. In what is seen as a rather unusual note of honesty, China’s leaders are admitting that the damage being done to their country’s ecology is something they can no longer ignore.

And so we read this from the New York Times:

China’s environment minister on Monday issued an unusually stark warning about the deleterious impacts of unbridled development on the country’s air, water and soil, saying the nation’s current path could stifle long-term economic growth and feed social instability.

In an essay published on the agency’s Web site, the minister, Zhou Shengxian, said the government would take a more aggressive role in determining whether development initiatives contributed to climate change through a new system of risk assessment.

Ignoring such risks, he said, would be perilous.

“In China’s thousands of years of civilization, the conflict between humankind and nature has never been as serious as it is today,” Mr. Zhou wrote. “The depletion, deterioration and exhaustion of resources and the worsening ecological environment have become bottlenecks and grave impediments to the nation’s economic and social development.”

“We must not any longer sacrifice the environment for the sake of rapid growth and reckless roll-outs, as that would result in unsustainable growth featuring industrial overcapacity and intensive resource consumption,” said Mr. Wen during an Internet chat widely publicized by the state media.

The remarks come at a time of unrelenting environmental degradation that has accompanied double-digit economic growth. Last year, China registered 10.3 percent growth, higher than its official target.

With its increasing fixation on social stability, the Communist Party may have come to realize the benefits of balancing economic growth with the public’s demands for uncontaminated food and water. In recent weeks, there has been a cascade of damaging news about the environment, from dangerously high smog levels in the capital to a study that found 10 percent of domestically grown rice contaminated with heavy metals. 

That’s quite the statistic. 10 percent of China’s main food stay is infused with toxic heavy metals. This, my friends, is another way of saying that there are and will be for some time serious health issues for the Chinese people.

And so, we should pray for these people. Thankfully, China is working with other nations to solve some of these eco-crises. But there are lessons beyond the technical and scientific that also require attention.

Like so many other cultures, nations and peoples, our brothers and sisters in China must learn that as the laws of nature can not be broken without consequence, human dignity can not be ignored. There is an anthropology to sound ecology, and it is rooted in love of neighbor. God has hardwired laws into the universe and also into us. He has given us a mind to understand them and a heart to listen to Him. He reveals Himself to be pure love (1 John 4:8) and, as Trinity, relationship. In being made in His image comes one particularly vital law for humans—the law of love—that, when broken, causes the most serious kinds of damage to human and natural ecology.

Thank God that the government in China is seeing the consequences of unbridled human industry and answering it with what seems to be concern for basic human dignity.

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Catholic Ecology posts my regular column in the Rhode Island Catholic, as well as scientific and theological commentary about the latest eco-news, both within and outside of the Catholic Church. What is contained herein is but one person's attempt to teach and defend the Church's teachings - ecological and otherwise. As such, I offer all contents of this blog for approval of the bishops of the Church. It is my hope that nothing herein will lead anyone astray from truth.