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Should we care about pollution in other parts of the world? If yes, what can we do to limit it?

Much of the world's electronic waste ends up in Guiyu, China, where old parts are recycled but chemicals like mercury leak into the water. Do you care? If yes, what do you do about it?

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  • Jun 8 2013: I care about pollution in any part of the world, but there is very little I can do as only one person. It takes a whole world full of folks to make change on that scale. And they need to be from many parts of the world, and all working together. Can ya guess how hard that would be to pull off?
    I can & have lit my one little candle but too many keep blowing it out.
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    Jun 24 2013: G'day QF

    Yes of course we should as that would show how responsible we are not how irresponsible we are!!

    The solution is so simple, stop our consumerist materialistic way of life!!

  • Jun 23 2013: Definitely, check out the show EARTH FROM SPACE and this is easily framed for all to see that we are one global community.
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    Jun 13 2013: I care although I keep a grain of salt, just because the media tells me it ends up there doesn't mean it does. It's a little hard for me to believe anything if I don't see it myself.
    • Jun 25 2013: Greg, do you believe in atoms, germs, and light. You cannot see any of these, yet you know they are real. Case in point, if the doctor says you have a bacterial infection and you should take a Z-Pak (Azithromycin) you probably do as she says. You can't see the virus, but you listen to the scientist. Same thing here, you can't see the pollution, necessarily, but that doesn't mean it is not there. Think about it.
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        Jun 26 2013: Well, the difference is that I can't see the bacteria, but I can feel the results, illness, or pain, so I can show a little faith. With the idea that all of a certain kind of waste is going to one place, I really have so little evidence that it's true.
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    Jun 11 2013: YES! Of course we SHOULD care. Too bad the majority of our society doesn't seem to care. What we can do- walk, carpool, don't be wasteful! Recycle. Encourage other people to do the same. It would be nice if I could drive through a town and see solar panels on every house. Use biofuels, and the most important EDUCATE yourself, others, and your offspring.
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      Jun 24 2013: Good ideas, Haley. Hey, I spoke to you a long time ago on another convo about attending the Burning Man Festival, at that time you were low on funds, I was looking at their ticket page and they do have a low income ticket option if you scroll down some ways: http://tickets.burningman.com/ Applications for those low-income tix have closed this year, but of course next year will be here before you know it. Course by now maybe you're rolling in dough, anyway I think you should do it, those things are maybe the most fun when you're young. I would have sent you this info on your email on your TED profile, but you haven't enabled email, if you check most people's profiles they do set up to let people send them email. If you go, let me know how it was.
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      Jun 24 2013: good points. IMO, it's not only about recycling, but also about consuming less.

      for instance, it seems that we haven't found a way to recycle flat TV screens or smartphones, so the next time we're tempted to buy a bigger TV or the latest smartphone, maybe we should think twice and understand either we really need it or not
  • Jun 10 2013: Anyone see HBO's "VICE" on "Oil Pirates in Nigeria"? OMG. They spill at a level of Exxon Valdez almost daily and it's just killing that eco-system. And eco-systems are like teeth--you lose one and the others start going. We must "care" about such things. America's hard right has undermined the climb of any kind of global governance, often portraying it as an evil "one world order". But when you see stuff like this, you have to ask, who is really the evil? We should be 21 years into Agenda 21 and have the emerging generation plugged in to contemporary global dynamics where problems like this are just not accepted to be "out of sight, out of mind". We can't have it both ways any more--be either part of the solution or understand you are part of the problem.
  • Jun 8 2013: No man is an island etc. A great deal of this stuff ends up where it cannot be handled safely, and there is more of this than needed. Shouldn't someone be an adult and deal with these problems? At the End of WWII and some other conflicts bad guys have been punished even executed. This behavior is criminal.
  • Jul 7 2013: Look at the recent talk here by Shell Oil - what happened - they started deleting comments. If that's the attitude, and it obviously is, there is no hope.
  • Jul 6 2013: There is nothing we can do, because Corporations care more about profits than environmental problems, let's assume that one Oil corporation care about environmental pollution and it is planing to close some Oil Plants, Do you thing Oil Plants around the globe will care? Perhaps with a hard propaganda we can convince one Oil Corporation in U.S but what about the Oil Corporations in China, Brazil, Mexico, India, Canada, Italy, Spain e others????? there is the problem 99% Oil Corporations care about money than Environment.
  • Jul 6 2013: We should care about pollution in other parts of the world. But people can do little or nothing about what they dont know. It is the responsibility of the people of the affected areas to get the word out.
  • Jul 4 2013: We certainly should care about pollution in any part of the world since it will affect us all. Pollution can certainly be limited but there are fundamental problems with current human behavior. Firstly, since most people don't see pollution in their back yards they don't take ownership of it and pass it off as someone else's problem. Secondly, we must look into the causes of pollution. Perhaps inefficient manufacturing processes which waste resources and pollute excessively because of cheap production costs. This for me is a major reason of pollution since our current economic system does not factor in the complete cost of manufacturing an item, etc. For example, let's say that the cost of electricity is 12 cents per kwh, that cost does not factor in damages in air quality if the power comes from a coal or nuclear plant. This certainly should have a price affixed to it as essentially a product is being subsidized to the detriment of the environment. The same goes for a bushel of corn; at $500. a bushel that does not include the cost of destroying rainforest, effects of fertilizers, insecticides, pesticides, etc on nature. The problem then is that we are not looking at the complete cost of production and placing artificially low prices on items; in effect subsidization.
    The solution would be to include the complete cost in a product but impossible to implement since costs would skyrocket as soon as the real costs are calculated and many companies would be unable to sell products. That would be a good thing since less consumption would be even better for the environment.
    Ultimately, it comes down to policymakers and businesses to make real big change but that won't happen since they are looking out for their own interests. These businesses are only looking to maximize profit by cheap/ dirty production and to sell as many products as is possible. The best we can do is limit our personal consumption and try to recycle which really doesn't do much.
    • Jul 5 2013: i agree but there's precious little we can do on a personal level. not only is our own consumption tiny in comparison to industrial and commercial use, but we're limited to what is made available to us to buy from those companies. we can make all the effort we possibly can and still it's only a drop in the ocean. better save the effort and spend it on trying to convince others so that eventually government moves to stricter standards.
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    Jul 2 2013: thanks Greg!
  • Jun 29 2013: Of course we need to care. Those waste can be made into burger for consumption so that i can get fat
  • Jun 29 2013: Hi Dear Questions First.Where is GuiYu?which province in china?GuiZhou?
  • Jun 28 2013: Jeffrey is right. The pollution in water and air is everywhere whether or not you see it or not.
    Let's just look at the problems in the U. S. We produced tremendous amount of garbage and dump them in the dumps on land. For large cities like New York, the municipal waste dept has to transport them to other places sometimes as far as Texas. Whether the garbage, in plastic bags or without bags, are stored above or under ground, the toxic substance in them will eventually leak out into the ground and slowly seeping into the ground water. So the problem is not very far from us but will be delayed because of the time needed for the decay toxins to leach to the ground water. Same situation might happen in the North East region by Hurricane Sandy which destroyed homes and other buildings into pieces and dump them into the ground or rivers or the sea. When the wind takes the electronic parts into the ground or water, you are not given the time to recycle them anyway. Furthermore when we discharge much organics into a lake, sometimes the water and the beach stink. The decay of the organic stuff releases CO or other air pollutants into the air that usually produces CO2 or other greenhouse gasses. The process is normally slow, but the current trend is certainly going to accelerate and "bite us" SOONER OR LATER. The lead and mercury, etc., even though in very low level, will also get into the fish and eaten by us. Prolonged intake of small amounts of lead or mercury is still unhealthy. Also, if the toxic pollutants get in the air, then it is definitely very dangerous for our health.
    We must stop this process by encouraging RECYCLE AND CONSERVATION. This process has to be done by everybody, not just by a few localities, because the harm of it will eventually hit all of us due to the slow but persistent increase of the severity of the situation. Global effort is preferable. But we could at least set a model, as soon as possible, for others to follow.
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    Jun 26 2013: May be we should be aware about how human stupidity could cause a desaster. Also train the society to raise against such pollution. This is the part of influence we could do during everyday duty.

    Also if we see a tendency in the world, it seems good to feel anxiety before it becomes a desaster.
    But I see here it`s a border. Such care about far away should be supported by more care about own environment, do you think?
  • Jun 26 2013: let them care if it really becomes a problem and the people don't like it they will cause chaos until the government does something.
  • Jun 26 2013: Greg,

    In the Chicago area we see the effects of pollution all the time. A suburb called Crestwood allowed carcinogenic material into their water supply for decades and did not tell the residents. Their cancer rate increased dramatically. Frequently Chicago beaches have to be closed when storm sewage has to be dumped into Lake Michigan.

    As a teacher I will tell you the cases of asthma in my students is increasing more than any other health issue. The oceans have more 6-pack pop and beer plastic in them than ever before. Garbage dumps are filling up and the methane is burned off, you can see it at night.

    As I tell my students, fine me a map with the town or city called Away. There is no Away. When we throw our garbage away it has to go somewhere, and it goes to municipal dumps. Here is an interesting short video that outlines the issue. Yes, it is from Britain, but remember, we all live on the same planet and breathe the same air.

  • Jun 26 2013: Care? Yes.
    Do? The only thing that would work would be military conquest and imposition of a lower standard of living on these other countries. Anything less would be ineffective.
    Thus, while we ought to care, there is precious little we can do except for whine about it. No amount of "disapproval", "negotiation", or "sanctions" will change policy in a communist dictatorship like China. It will pollute as much as it wants to, and the "environmentalists" will still blame countries with a far better record than China has for all the world's problems.
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    Jun 26 2013: Should we care? is that even a question? of course we should! we have to! Just because its in another part of the world does not mean it won't effect you...

    But why they pollute is a whole other issue, but addressing the questions "should we care", we must, not only for sustaining the only earth we have, but also not destroying it for future generations.

    PS; all life supporting systems are currently in decline, by 2055 if we continue consuming the way we do, all nations of the world will be in crisis, and a state of necessity will cover all organisms on earth (yes, including humans). PLZ...lets not let this happen.
    Look into and watch "The Zeitgeist Movement" and their movies, as well, look into the "Venus Project" for more information on how poverty, pollution, corruption, and inefficiency (like cell phones) - can be completely eradicated in a GLOBAL RESOURCE-BASED ECONOMY.
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    Jun 26 2013: .

    We should and have to care about it,
    because of our ultra-high accuracy or ultra-high sensitivity.
    (e.g. we can differentiate any person from 7 billion people on the planet)
  • Jun 25 2013: Of course we should care about pollution in other parts of the world because we have one atmosphere and winds carry pollutants from their source to other places. For example, Mt. St. Helens blew up May 18, 1980, and a few days later ashes were falling in Chicago. With time the ashes enveloped the globe. Pollution generated in Gary Indiana causes acid rain in New York. Likewise, pollution created in other parts of the world could have deleterious effects here; furthermore, as part of a closed world wide biosphere (think food web) what happens elsewhere has effects here.

    Of course we should be the global leader in reducing air pollution. As an industrial nation with the number 1 economy we produce a disproportionate amount of the world's air pollution. Furthermore, as a global leader among nations we should, well, lead. What incentive do other nations, especially emerging nations, have to use clean, renewable energy if we don't do it either. We then have the legitimate position of admitting our pollution sins of the past while showing that other nations do not need make the same mistakes we made. We can show them how to use clean energy and help them use it, too.
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    Jun 25 2013: I suppose a reason to care is empathy and sympathy. Anything that diminishes another human being's life makes mine a little worse. At the same time, we note that with any problem, the first responsibility for fighting it rests on the people it most directly affects, because they know the most about the problem and are in the best position to fight.
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    Jun 25 2013: In America we have been spared many, but not all of the horrors of out of control pollution in third world countries since the environmental movement of the 70s. It's not that we don't make pollution at a much higher rate than poorer countries, we've simply exported the production. When I was young people would burn their trash every day behind the house. There were septic tanks of human waste in nearly every yard. On rainy hot summer days it would be enough to knock you off your bicycle. Somehow our nation recognized the obvious need to correct the problem by building sewer systems. We are all using the same air, the same ocean, the same drinking water that has become a cosmic scale toilet for the worlds pollution. It's dumped by fascist corrupt enterprises, and the corrupt governments that turn their heads while the criminal polluters destroy the planet for generations unborn. Massive multinational corporations, mining ,and manufacturing, and their secret surrogates that provide the payoff money and political bribes. It is the #1 top priority for the survival of the human race. Do what is completely within the capability of science, and governments to correct. Pollution is in large part completely unnecessary with modern recycling, and waste stream control. Why are we committing suicide?
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    Jun 24 2013: thank you all for your great comments. not sure what this means, but i noticed that there are only 13 comments and the average on TED seems to be around 100.

    any comments?
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      Jun 24 2013: I don't know for sure why there are only a few comments. But I assume its because we don't know exactly what to do about this issue. Speaking for myself, when I read this question, I immediately answered yes! We should care about pollution in other parts of the world. After reading the second question, what can we do about it, I had no idea how to answer. I don't know what I can do to help prevent pollution in other parts of the world. I only know what I can do in my own community to prevent pollution. And even then, I don't do much. I can admit that all I do is recycle. I don't car pool, I don't use public transportation, I cant afford solar panels and I think most people can agree. This is why I think there were only a few comments. Because its hard enough to change our local communities. Sometimes saving other parts of the world can be impossible for certain individuals.
      • Jun 25 2013: We as Americans are most concerned about that which effects us personally and immediately. Looking around pollution elsewhere, at least to the uninformed, doesn't seem to be a problem. "If I cannot make money from it or if it doesn't cost me money, why should I care?" That seems to be the attitude of most people, and they are so indifferent to the problem that they didn't even both to post. So sad.
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      Jun 25 2013: Questions,

      The question is though to answer because most have to either admit not caring or admit not doing much about it. I think people feel empathy for this but are doing very little to affect it.

      The initial response is "YES I CARE!!!!" but then "uhhh, maybe i'm not doing that much, oh I'll skip this question"

      That my take and reason for not participating.
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    Jun 22 2013: The Earth is pretty much a closed system, so yes we should care about pollution and the degradation of ecosystems. We all live within the same atmosphere and breath the same air, drink the same water and eat food grown from the earth's limited amount of soil.

    China is growing very fast and the systems to deal with pollution and waste management has lagged behind in their race for modernity. They are no worse than the development of other industrialised nations, however, that can learn from past mistakes. They have huge capital reserves (of cash) which would be well spent developing a waste reclamation and pollution control systems. India, Indonesia are just a bad in this regard and need to do the same.
  • Jun 18 2013: We all live on different parts of the same world, it's very important that we all address pollution simultaneously. A perfect example would be the radiation from fukushima slowly traveling to the west coast of the US.
    I used to watch BBC faithfully, I always wondered why all of the cool new high tech eco friendly inventions were never implemented. One perfect example would be transportation, years ago there was technology made for hydro powered and solar powered cars as well as roads with solar powered charger coils to charge the vehicles as you drive.
    We have all these means and technology for a clean earth and free energy earth, but it wont happen.
    So its not that we dont know how, something or somebodies are preventing it from happening.
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    Jun 17 2013: Since we are all in one planet, we must do that, recently I've been going through the news; a lot of tragedies in this planet, in China for example there are villages called as "Cancer Villages" spreading a long the factories there, people who are working in are getting profit but it always end up with workers having cancers, if we didn't make actions toward this it will definitely affect all of us, if we didn't feel it now and moved as fast as we can we will for sure feel the pain and pay the bill sooner or later.
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    Jun 14 2013: Yes we should! And to limit it, we can support organizasions like greenpeace. Mainly, I've only supported through donations, but I've made a resolution to look up what else can be done via direct action. Do you have a suggestion particular to the waste in Guiyu, China? A particular company that can be boycotted? particular website or email to send letters to?
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    Jun 12 2013: yes we should. after all, we share the same earth. what happens in one place will affect the rest of us.