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The American Dream, the Chinese Version and Everybody Else

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Cross-linked with 44 Days

Reporting from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA

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This graphic lays it out clearly: the American Dream as a world model of success is unsustainable - and lethal to humanity's prospects for survival. (image by

I am so thankful that in coming back to the United States for the second time in four years, I am able to reimmerse myself in the lifestyle which I was born and raised. It's just the perspective I needed, compared to currently living in China's capital, Beijing, with its 21 million souls. The entire state of Oklahoma, including its biggest town, Oklahoma City, only has a desert island 3.8 million inhabitants. Lots and lots of land for a just few people out here west of the Mississippi. My upbringing was twofold. One was growing up in suburban America and the other spending considerable time on our family farm. What has got my head spinning while back is my suburban childhood and adolescence, in all its iconic American Dream glory.

If people like the Chinese gorged on natural resources at the same rate as Americans, the planet's 7,300,000,000 humans would need an additional 4.1 Earths, in order to satisfy their daily demands for water, food, housing, land, energy and other resources. Interestingly, the Chinese were almost at equilibrium in 2012, 1.1 Earths. But the world's most populous country is trying its damnedest to catch up with America's consumer driven gluttony. Current Chinese growth rates will assuredly deplete our planet's very limited resources just that much faster, starting with air, water, spiraling atmospheric and atmospheric temperatures.

To its credit, Baba Beijing's vision of their widely touted Chinese Dream espouses, in part, a return to the Confucian, Daoist tenets of simplicity, harmony and respect for the natural world. However, after a total of 11 years living in the belly of the New Century Beast, I'm not so sure how many of Baba's citizens are listening. The Chinese's recent pubic outcries and mobilization against air, water and land pollution are a hopeful sign that they at least see a ray of light. But like the frailty and hypocrisy of all humanity, there is still way too much of,

Don't watch what I do, just listen to what I spout out of my mouth.

Wearing PM 2.5 face masks when the air pollution index climbs above 300 is fine and dandy, but like their peerless American avatars of resource gobbling excess, too few Chinese are investing in the difficult, lifestyle changing process of reducing consumption. Americans and Westerners in general wouldn't recognize the word reduce if it hit them between their Visa and MasterCards. The fact that this wasteful, Western paradigm is the Chinese's goal to aspire to, is not only genuinely disappointing, but lethal to humanity's ability to survive into the 22nd century.

It is impossible to see the effects and consequences of the American Dream, if one does not live outside it in another milieu, for perspective, as I have had the opportunity to do so, for 25 of the last 34 years. The nine unaccounted years were when my family moved back to the United States, 2001-2010, which as a world traveling interlude, was also very instructive, what with the Clintonbushobama presidency, and its rabid drive towards Orwell's Perpetual War and imperial collapse.

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Sixteen years on the streets, living and working with the people of China: Jeff J. Brown is the author of 44 Days (2013) and Doctor Write Read's Treasure Trove to Great English (2015). In 2016 Punto Press released China (more...)

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