Today's title is a statement often made by children who see someone else perform an act that they're scolded for themselves. This statement is not limited to children, however, as nations often employ this as justification for actions that are deemed careless.
I speak, for the moment, about the ever increasing levels of carbon in our atmosphere by some of the larger countries on the planet: China and India.
China currently has several thousand coal-powered electricity power plants, as well as India. Some cities even have illegal coal-generated plants to pick up the slack where the state-owned operations are unable to keep up with demands. Western nations cry foul over these dirty polluters saying that with the rising emissions of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere, we will drastically alter the climate of the entire planet.
Both China and India have responed along the lines of: "You did this for 200 years. Who are you to tell us any different?"
In a sense, I can't blame them. Coal fired power plants are much cheaper than the alternatives. They provide a consistent source of electricity, and both China and India have, what is currently, a seemingly-endless supply of this fossil fuel. Nuclear powered generators take an excessive amount of time to construct, and many Western nations become uncomfortable when new nuclear generators are started in certain parts of the world. Wind is a viable option for some villiages, but the number of generators that would be reqiured makes this very clean option excessively cost-prohibitive.
So what's the option?
Personally, I don't know which side of the fence to cast my vote with. This is one of those situations where I agree with some of the West who believe that this massive source of carbon emissions will hurt us all, while at the same time I agree with Asia's stance that they need cheap and plentiful electricity in order to compete on a global scale. I don't like the fact that the combined carbon emissions from all nations are on the rise, but at the same time I'm forced to ask myself "what other cost-effective option is there?"
Unfortunately, like everything else in life, this all comes down to money. Big utilities companies and state-run initiatives will not spend half a billion dollars on a nuclear generator if the surrounding area will not require that level of power, or be capable of affording it. Wind mills are often considered in areas of high wind, but tend to be an eye-sore for the local populations, so are typically rejected if a large number of them are required. Hydro-electric dams are a great source of seemingly-unlimited power, but there are only so many waterways that can be converted for this purpose.
So what else can be done?
For the moment, I'm forced to agree with these Asian nations and many other nations around the world that still employ coal-fired power plants (Canada and the United States included). These massive centres for pollution cause more damage to the planet than most of us can comprehend, but at the same time they provide us with the electrical power that we've come to depend on.
While many people balk at Asia's response to their power generation, we tend to ignore the big picture. As it stands, the average Canadian uses well over ten times the amount of electricity of the average Chinese person. 25% of our power comes from conventional thermal sources (coal, oil, natural gas), with over 50% coming from hydro-electric dams. We seem to forget that not every country is as naturally wealthy as Canada.
While the West was polluting the atmosphere from the onset of the Industrial Revolution, Asia was kept relatively pristine and clear. The West learned the hard way what excessive pollution and exposure to airborne chemicals did to both the human body and the surrounding environment. While we've taken some strides to clean up our act, we're hardly innocent.
Of course, this means that now it's time for some parts of Asia to learn this lesson.
Just as we've seen time and time again in our collective histories, we tend to make the same mistakes over and over. At one time, London was the most polluted city on the planet. Spewing forth chemicals so dangerous and corrosive that people would die just by breathing the air. Thick black clouds would completely enshroud cities and kill off surrounding farmland. Disease would run rampant and mortality rates would drastically change. Now this lesson must be learned in cities like Linfen, China.
We need to find more sources of cheap energy. Sources that have little to no impact on the environment. The Earth does a remarkable job of repairing itself despite all the surface damage we've caused, but eventually we may do so much harm that the planet cannot recover in a reasonable amount of time. I can't pretend to have the answers, but I can say that I understand both sides of the argument.
I only hope that we all learn from our collective mistakes before it's not too late.