China’s impressive growth and gleaming towers are only possible because of a huge and frequently overlooked sacrifice, with millions ravaged by industrial poisons and much of the land blighted for decades to come.
These photos are by Lu Guang, of Zhejiang province, a former factory worker turned photographer who has devoted much attention to documenting some of the less savoury aspects of China’s rise.
His efforts to document the unfolding ecological catastrophe which blights much of China have recently earnt him the Smith Award for humanistic photography:
Even the Chinese government has published estimates showing it has been losing as much as 3% of its GDP annually due to the effects of pollution.
International bodies such as the World Bank have made much higher estimates, with anywhere from 6-10% of GDP lost due to the effects of pollution, suggesting GDP figures alone may be drastically overstating the actual, but undeniably substantial, gains in welfare realised by the Chinese people.
China’s impressive growth is set to lift hundreds of millions out of poverty, but this may only have been accomplished by mortgaging the health of as many, and at the cost of devastating much of China and the wider East Asian region.