I apologize for two China-bashing posts in such short order. The following articles suggest that the emerging Chinese middle class are in all likelihood going to behave like the upright walking primates they are and seek status with any and every opportunity. Eating wildlife is presently a way to show off in China. From Reuters:
Chinese police have seized hundreds of bear paws and dead pangolins that smugglers had injected with tranquillisers …
Other exotic wildlife that make their way onto Chinese dinner tables include camel’s hump and monkey’s brain. Tiger bones dipped in liquor are considered a tonic and tiger penis is believed to be an aphrodisiac.
“Wow that pangolin soup I had for lunch made me sleepy. Why is it dark outside?” Luckily, conflicting self-interest as well as a healthy dose of self-preservation is starting to have an impact.
As I mentioned earlier, the Chinese are also starting to “take out” the tropical forests on their side of the world to feed their unleashed egos. These problems might be ameliorated with a few articles in China’s mainstream press suggesting that civilized Westerners consider those who eat wildlife uncouth, even lowbrow (not to offend the few remaining cavemen out there) and that tropical hardwood flooring is for unenlightened cretins. To alter behavior, all you need to do is change what is cool. Sounds somewhat stupid, I know, but somewhat stupid is what we are. We have the subconscious instincts of social primates and they tend to lead us about by the nose.
Finally, according to China Watch, the Chinese government is backing away from using corn and wheat to make ethanol. They are growing a little uneasy about food supplies. This may turn out to be the tip of an iceberg.
A similar concern is starting to develop in Europe as well. I wonder how free markets will respond to rising food costs, as biofuels are presently competing for the same plants (not that biofuels have much to do with a free market at this time). As an American farmer, I would be jumping with joy. You might see the price of both go up until something else comes along, like cheaper imported biofuels or the perfection of cellulosic technologies.
Will our government respond with more subsidies, coupled with import tariffs, in an attempt to protect the growing infrastructure of soybean-based biodiesel and coal-fired, corn-based ethanol refineries from world competition, or let them compete, and possibly lose, on the free market as our carmakers are presently doing?