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China's pollution nightmare is now everyone's pollution nightmare

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The process is already under way. Acid rain caused by China's sulfur-dioxide emissions severely damages forests and watersheds in Korea and Japan and impairs air quality in the US. Every major river system flowing out of China is threatened with one sort of cataclysm or another. The surge in untreated waste and agricultural runoff pouring into the Yellow and China Seas has caused frequent fish die-offs, and overfishing is endangering many ocean species.

The growing Chinese taste for furs and exotic foods and pets is devastating neighboring countries' populations of everything from gazelles to wolves, and turtles to parrots, while its appetite for shark fin soup is causing drastic declines in shark populations throughout the oceans. According to a study published in Science in March 2007, the absence of the oceans' top predators is causing a resurgence of skates and rays, which are in turn destroying scallop fisheries along America's Eastern Seaboard. Enthusiasm for traditional Chinese medicine is causing huge declines in populations of hundreds of animals – including tigers, pangolins, and sea horses. Seeking oil, timber, and other natural resources, China is building massive roads, bridges, and dams throughout Africa, often disregarding international environmental and social standards.

China has also depended on imports of illegally cut wood in becoming the world's wood workshop, supplying oblivious consumers in the US and Europe with furniture, flooring, and plywood. Chinese wood manufacturers have already consumed the natural forests of Thailand, Cambodia, and the Philippines, and at current rates will swallow the forests of Indonesia, Burma, Papua New Guinea, and the vast Russian Far East within two decades. Most of these forests are formally protected by law or regulation, but corruption and ineffectual enforcement have fostered a flourishing illegal trade.

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