When you bought your last Apple iPod, you may have been aware that it had been manufactured at a factory in China, perhaps the Foxconn plant in Shenzhen in the province of Guangzhou. (Let’s put aside for the moment the working conditions there.) You may have been aware too that in manufacturing your electronic marvel, the Shenzhen plant emitted roughly 25 pounds of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide. It’s even possible that you were aware of the 9-10 pounds of CO2 emitted in transporting the device to you from China. (See Apple’s environmental report for the iPod classic [PDF].)
Here’s what you probably didn’t take into account: The coal that powered the Foxconn plant in the south of China likely was mined in the far northern province of Shanxi, transported by truck or rail to coal terminals on the coast (e.g., the port city of Tianjin), and from there shipped by freighter to Shenzhen in the far south. Nor did you likely consider that the air above the Foxconn factory in Shenzhen moves eastward, making its way to Los Angeles in about three weeks’ time. Scientists have calculated that roughly 30 percent of the air pollution in Los Angeles originates in China.
Thus far, then, your iPod has contributed to glacial melting in the Himalayas, the dirty air in Guangzhou, and the increasing incidence of respiratory disease in China.
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