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The People's Republic of Chemicals

Narrated by: Keith Brown
Length: 10 hrs and 15 mins
5 out of 5 stars (3 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Maverick environmental writers William J. Kelly and Chip Jacobs follow up their acclaimed Smogtown with a provocative examination of China’s ecological calamity already imperiling a warming planet. Toxic smog most people figured was obsolete needlessly kills as many there as the 9/11 attacks every day, while sometimes Grand Canyon-sized drifts of industrial particles aloft on the winds rain down ozone and waterway-poisoning mercury in America. 

In vivid, gonzo prose blending first-person reportage with exhaustive research and a sense of karma, Kelly and Jacobs describe China’s ancient love affair with coal, Bill Clinton’s blunders cutting free-trade deals enabling the US to "export" manufacturing emissions to Asia in a shift that pilloried the West's middle class, Communist Party manipulation of eco-statistics, the horror of "Cancer Villages", the deception of the 2008 Beijing Olympics and spellbinding "peasant revolts" against cancer-spreading plants involving thousands in mostly censored melees. 

Ending with China’s monumental coal-bases decried by climatologists as a global warming dagger, The People's Republic of Chemicals names names and stresses humans over bloodless numbers in a classic sure to ruffle feathers as an indictment of money as the real green that not even Al Gore can deny.

©2014 Chip Jacobs and William J. Kelly (P)2018 Chip Jacobs and William J. Kelly

Critic Reviews

“The Smogtown (2008) authors return with a look at China’s air pollution problem, and it is a doozy. Combining a crash-course history lesson that includes everyone from Confucius to Chairman Mao with a withering rant about the country’s nonexistent environmental policies, Kelly and Jacobs give readers everything they need to know about why China is ground zero for the planet’s future, including its coal bases serving as 'global warming daggers.' There is a lot to take in here, and the narrative’s power is as much due to its style as substance. The prose is sharp, vivid, and direct, leading readers through hard-hitting chapters about the Beijing Olympics, America’s Walmart, made-in-China addiction, and the casual way in which eco-statistics are manipulated. Kelly and Jacobs pillory the actions of as many American politicians as Chinese, noting policy missteps and political weakness with a take-no-prisoners attitude that readers will find refreshingly candid. While the tone can sometimes seem a bit glib, its bracing nature will likely be a tonic to those seeking a straightforward take on this urgent subject while also making for a surprisingly enjoyable read.” (Colleen Mondor, Booklist)

“A scathing denunciation of how America outsourced its industrial capacity to China, a package that included catastrophic pollution. Investigative journalists Kelly and Jacobs again team up in a hard-hitting follow-up to their 2008 environmental page-turner Smogtown: The Lung-Burning History of Pollution in Los Angeles. As 'self-deputized gumshoes' covering the environmental beat, the authors felt they could not ignore the ugly reality in China. As the air in LA improved, in China, a 'nauseating, gray-brown cloud from an oversaturated sky' was darkening the landscape...." (Kirkus)

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