It really behooves everyone to pay more attention to stories like this:

BEIJING, Aug. 21 -- Police clashed with protesters demanding the closure of a battery factory in eastern China they accuse of spewing lead into the environment, and dozens of people were injured, witnesses and hospital officials said Sunday.

Such scenes of frustration are becoming more common in rural China as villagers vent their anger against corruption, environmental degradation, pollution and the seizure of land for real estate development.

Another man, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, said about 1,000 police officers later went to villages and harassed and beat those who had participated in the protest, injuring at least 10 of them. The police were holding shields and wearing helmets, he said.
The man said as many as 5,000 residents retaliated later that night by “breaking into government offices and burning police cars.” He said the protesters wanted the factory to shut down or move, but company officials refused.

Why is this important? Because these are our batteries – the batteries you buy to put in your MP3 player, the one in your car, in the smoke detector at work, in the POS printer at Starbucks. They are manufactured, mostly, in China, and manufacturing batteries is a pretty nasty business (let’s leave aside for a moment what happens to them when they’re used up…) – lots of chemicals involved, many noxious, and they’ve gotta go somewhere. Time was, that somewhere was the Cuyahoga or Schuylkill, but now it’s not – it got too damned expensive to manufacture stuff and then dispose of the results of the manufacture in ways that wouldn’t, y’know, cause cancer for all the good folks living around and working at the factory.

So for the last 20 years or so, there’s been a relentless race to the bottom in terms of working conditions and environmental regulations – always someplace to treat workers crappier, pay them less, and give less mind to where toxic byproducts ended up – but that race had to hit bottom somewhere. For most industries, that bottom was (and is) China. The problem, of course, is that nobody (even Chinese! Those inscrutable Orientals, I tell ya…) really likes lead being dumped into their streams and backyards. And so, here is the pushback, finally: riots in the Chinese countryside.

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