Progress or Suicide?


“China, a land of famine” used to be a common characterization of the now prosperous country. Korea too used to conjure up an image of hunger and poverty. In fact, a biggest non-governmental international charity, “World Vision” began to help Korea in the 1950’s. Japan was not too much behind on poverty index. Now, some Americans want to build trade barriers against their cars, clothes, and electric gizmo. There are people keen to stop Asian money spiking up the price of real estate beyond the afford-ability of ordinary Canadians. Where are those former recipients of charity today? They are economic success stories.

Now China and India are top green house gas producers kicking off the U.S. to No.2 status and the European Union to No.3. Should they celebrate the biggest polluter status like a badge of honour? They are the successful story of free market system and industrialization. In fact during the 1950′ s, a teacher in social studies at my middle school in Japan suggested that the degree of success in advancement of civilization could be measured by the amount of water consumption and the volume of trashed garbage. The bigger the better: he said seriously. Japan, Korea, and China were the first success stories of the development model advocated by the Western countries since the end of the Second World War. Foreign aid worked for Asia like “Marshall Plan” did for Western Europe.

Science and technology; exploitation of natural resource, production and consumption; competition and free un-tethered market: those are some of the buzz words to be successful economy. They were encouraged to follow the Western model of development and succeeded. Asians have proven themselves to be good in the imitation game. But now some Americans hate it because they see Asians succeeding in what they had been encouraged to emulate. Ironical, isn’t it? What is scary is: what’s going to happen if and when Africans catch up with the rest of the world. The day is coming fast. That’s why China is furiously investing in Africa as their future market.

More scary is the fact that very few people are questioning the direction of the development model. I am not rejecting progress. I am not a romantic advocate of the paternalistic and racist notion of “noble savages.” But I think we have to slow down to survive: sustainable development.

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