A British man was reportedly trying to stage a "protest" against pollution in China on Monday by tying surgical masks on to two terracotta warriors on display at the British Museum in London.
What the man, and many Westerners like him, are ignorant of or shying away from, is the fact that they by per capita contribute four times or more greenhouse gas emissions than that of the average Chinese.
In order to sustain their lifestyles that demand convenience, easy accessibility, variety, and high quality goods at relatively low prices, they depend on laborers in China and other developing countries.
In doing so, they deplete the land, water and other natural resources and fossil fuels of these developing countries to clothe and feed themselves, furnish their homes, entertain their children with toys and equip their offices with computers and related peripherals.
As Andrew Simms, policy director of the London-based New Economics Foundation, points out in his most recent report, China has become the UK's "environmental laundry".
The high consuming style that the developed countries have promoted until very recently has left a far bigger ecological footprint than the average person in developing countries such as China, even though these very people in the West are condemning countries such as China as big polluters.
And they started it much earlier, with the Industrial Revolution, and continued on until the middle of the last century, when they began to seriously address pollution and environmental damage.
I have heard from a few Americans and Japanese recalling that it was not in the too distant past when their cities, such as Pittsburgh and Tokyo, were plagued with pollution problems.
But there is really little time to finger-point, as our home, the Earth, can no longer sustain the growth and wealth-plundering of human society by continuous wasteful consumption of natural resources.
Even though some people in the West may have doubts, I am sure most Chinese endorse President Hu Jintao's call in his report to the 17th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, to basically establish a production structure, a growth mode, and a consumption style that is energy and resource efficient and environment-friendly.
Many Chinese now realize it is time we reoriented the way our country has pushed for economic development and per capita income growth.
We must start calculating how much of an ecological footprint we make at the cost of production and growth. We should even begin to figure out how much water we waste to clean the vegetables and fruit that grace the tables in developed countries, and how much fossil fuel we burn in order to deliver fresh and valuable mushrooms across the East China Sea.
These are what Simms calls in his report "embedded carbon" and we must take note of this new notion.
We are already learning many lessons about what harm polluted air, dirty rivers and contaminated food have been doing to our health and quality of life.
I believe all Chinese are willing to stop our land from being used as the developed countries' "environmental laundry".
Staving off the impact of climate change requires full international cooperation, including changing the established way of life.
We Chinese are modifying our mode of development, but we have to question whether Westerners will change their lifestyle of high consumption and wastefulness.
(China Daily 10/18/2007 page9)