The prospect of China and India becoming the next great economic powers of the world raises concerns among environmentalists. The Worldwatch Institute, a Washington DC based organization that calls itself an independent research group for environmental sustainability, released its annual report, "State of the World 2006". It says demands on the environment and natural resources, the strain of food production for an increasing population, and pollution must be addressed. Melinda Smith narrates.
The Worldwatch Institute says the next few decades will be crucial for the development of our planet. It warns that without new models of development, a reduced dependence on oil economies and more attention to the preservation of natural resources, many people will suffer.
Chris Flavin, the president of The Worldwatch Institute, says China and India, and their nearly 2.5 billion people, are the keys to a sustainable future. He says, "The emergence of these two countries with 40 percent of the world population between them, moving into a resource intensive, high consumption kind of economy, presents huge challenges in terms of the resource requirements, the pollution they will produce in the future and unless they and the rest of the world now make a transition to a much more sustainable approach to meeting economic needs, the whole world is going to suffer the consequences."
According to the report, China and India have some promising developments in renewable energy resources. But at the same time, they show signs of Western-style development in areas such as the use of electric power and automobiles, with a rapid increase in their oil consumption.
Mr. Flavin adds, “The U.S. uses roughly ten times more oil per person as China does, it uses 20 times as many resources as India does. One of the lessons of that, is that if these two countries even get up to the per capita resource consumption of the U.S. we would need at least two planets Earth, just to support those two countries.”
Both countries have seen the consequences of unsupervised development. In China, a recent chemical spill on the Songhua River, poisoned the water supply to the city of Harbin.
Yingling Liu, China fellow and contributor to the online "China Watch", says that although the individual demands in her country are minimal, the total demands of 1.3 billion people are substantial.
"Most of the development in China now is to meet the basic demands of the Chinese people."
Worldwatch's Chris Flavin warns that the choices countries like China and India make in the next few years, will be decisive.
"It's the countries that are able to anticipate, plan for and invest in a more sustainable system, that are going to be the success stories of the 21st century."
But not everybody agrees with the environmentalists' warnings. Fred Smith, president of Competitive Enterprise Institute says the report is just another yearly negative story to frighten people and maintain the political control of the rich countries.
“There is no problems that earth faces except those of limiting men's abilities to solve problems” he said.
The Competitive Enterprise Institute has published several counterattacks to Worldwatch, arguing against the global warming, the limitation of resources and the attempts for population control.
Fred Smith, President Competitive Enterprise Institute says, “Wealthier is healthier, wealthier is cleaner, and finally for the first time China and India are beginning to join the wealthy world and they will be cleaner and healthier as a result.
The future in his words is a wonderful place if we can prevent the political restrictions on men's creativity to solve problems.