Pajamas, Truthdig, and China
Compare and contrast:
Pajamas Media — a collection of rightwing bloggers that promises nothing less than a full-fledged alternative to the dread mainstream media — is announced amidst a flurry of hype, having rustled up $3.5 million in venture capital. It is a fiasco from the word go, featuring discredited NYT reporter Judy Miller as its keynote speaker, pissing off its friends, changing its name to Open Source Media and then, under threat of lawsuit, changing it back. The resulting site is, to put it charitably, underwhelming, still bizarrely located at the domain osm.org and sporting a comically self-parodying logo.
Back at the grown-ups’ table:
The progressive magazine TruthDig.com launched — quietly — about a week ago. Its design is top notch, its goals well-articulated, its content rich and sophisticated. And I kinda doubt it has $3.5 million behind it.
Draw whatever lessons you see fit.
I bring all this up because there’s a must-read piece on truthdig right now called "China: Boom or Boomerang?" by UC-Berkley Journo Graduate School dean Orville Schell. It’s as clear, cogent, and comprehensive a presentation of the paradoxical phenomenon of modern China as you’re likely to find. It covers a lot of ground, but it’s clear that the environment is foremost of Schell’s concerns:
In 2004, China overtook the U.S. as the globe’s largest consumer of industrial and agricultural goods, and the consequences have been catastrophic for the country’s environment. Whether sufficient costly technology can be brought to bear quickly enough to both allow the high rates of economic growth to continue and to begin to compensate for all the environmental degradation that has already taken place is one of the most important questions China faces.
While there is an increasing awareness of China’s environmental problem, and while impressive strides have been made to understand the situation, the added increments of environmental degradation brought about by the growing population, increased consumer demand, the expanding industrial base, growing dependency on an export economy, greater human mobility and the consequence of ever larger resource use have so far meant that the desecration of the environment, as has just been so painfully made evident along the Songhua River, continues to far outpace any remedial action.
China now faces:
- Having one of the fastest-growing but least efficient energy systems in the world.
- Acid rain falling over one-third of its land mass.
- 75% of its lakes and rivers seriously contaminated and half of the water in its seven major rivers being unusable even for agriculture or industry.
- Having 16 out of the world’s 20 most polluted cities.
- Very serious deforestation, especially in the foothills of the Himalayas.
- Advancing desertification.
- Precipitously dropping groundwater tables all over the dry North China Plain.
Schell also has a blog post, responding to comments on the piece, that’s worth reading.