The New York Times was reporting this story like it was surprising in the slightest:
A rare, nearly blind white dolphin that survived for millions of years is effectively extinct, an international expedition declared Wednesday after ending a fruitless six-week search of its Yangtze River habitat.
The baiji would be the first large aquatic mammal driven to extinction since hunting and overfishing killed off the Caribbean monk seal in the 1950s.
For the baiji, the culprit was a degraded habitat — busy ship traffic, which confounds the sonar the dolphin uses to find food, and overfishing and pollution in the Yangtze waters of eastern China, the expedition said.
”The baiji is functionally extinct. We might have missed one or two animals but it won’t survive in the wild,” said August Pfluger, a Swiss economist turned naturalist who helped put together the expedition. ”We are all incredibly sad.”
Almost all of the water in China is horribly contaminated, the only thing thats surprising to me is that anything could live in the Yangtze at all with the amounts of pollutants dumped in there by industry. Chinese people don’t drink the water, which is a pretty clear sign that I shouldn’t either. Which is a pretty good excuse to drink beer instead (I love Tsing Tao!). Seriously though, a permanent haze hangs over Shanghai and Suzhou that would put LA smog to shame. Black soot covers my Dad’s balcony after a few days, and your skin feels dirty after walking around outside for a while. Window-washers (some who dress like SpiderMan) are an extremely common sight, as the soot and pollution needs to be cleaned off frequently or it cakes up, making the windows opaque. The pollution is so apparent that it makes me more than a bit nervous thinking about what the downstream effects of nearly no environmental reguations will be on China and its people (my family included).
And yes, the LAWS are in place to reduce pollution. There is just zero enforcement, which is a common thread throughout Chinese law.
For example, many satellite dishes are illegal. Some are legal, but they cost a LOT. Or, you can get the illegal ones for next to nothing. Landlords and apartment complexs that house ex-pats are complicit in their tenent’s crime. An ex-pat friend got this email:
There is a government inspection next week. So, next week a man will come by your apartment to take down your illegal satellite dish. Then, he will come by again the next week to put it back up. Thank you.
Her response? That’s so China.