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The People’s Republic of Chemicals



William J. Kelly and Chip Jacobs follow up their acclaimed Smogtown with a provocative look at China’s ecological calamity, which makes Los Angeles’ air pollution crisis of yesteryear seem like an easy-breathing dream. Toxic smog most figured was obsolete needlessly kills as many people there daily as the 9/11 attacks, while huge plumes of Asian contaminants ride the jet stream to rain down ozone and mercury on the American West Coast. In vivid prose blending first-person reportage with exhaustive research and a sense of karma, Kelly and Jacobs describe China’s ancient love affair with coal, and how the Clinton Administration’s push to bring China into the World Trade Organization accelerated the outsourcing of millions of factory jobs in another sucker punch to the U.S. middle class. They explore officials’ manipulation of Beijing’s eco-statistics, the horror of China’s “e-waste” and “Cancer” villages, the deception of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and spellbinding peasant revolts against disease-spreading plants that state censors often muffle. Ending with a profile of China’s gargantuan coal-bases, which climatologists decry as a global warming dagger, The People’s Republic of Chemicals names names and emphasizes humanity over bloodless propaganda. 
* Amazon / Barnes & Noble



* FOREWORD REVIEWS (5 hearts): “The rapid industrialization of the world’s most populous nation has far-reaching effects for the world’s environment and economy, and in The People’s Republic of Chemicals, journalists William J. Kelly and Chip Jacobs detail how extreme China’s pollution problem has become. The authors do a nice job of mixing firsthand journalism with history and using a reporting style that thoroughly explains an important but potentially wonkish in a way that should make it accessible and interesting to a large audience … Kelly and Jacobs don’t skimp on either the hard science or the policy analysis … Similarly, the pair do an outstanding job of showing the causes and effects of the interdependency between American consumers and Chinese manufacturers. The result is a well-rounded portrait …”

* BOOKLIST (starred review) : “The Smogtown (2008) authors return with a look at China’s air pollution problem, and it is a doozy … 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

* KIRKUS “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 …  A powerful warning that “a growing cloud of toxins aloft [are] swirling in the winds around the world and recirculating the pollution we hoped to shed.”

* THE NEW YORK TIMES: “Chip Jacobs, … an author based in Los Angeles who has written extensively about (the) ‘hazy brotherhood’ between L.A. and Beijing …, and William J. Kelly wrote “Smogtown … Now they have turned their attention to … how (China)  finds itself …’a toxified netherworld.'”

“The book’s California-based authors … find fault from Beijing to Washington, and remind readers that China’s pollution problems transcend geography …”

LIT/RANT “(A) well-sourced jeremiad about the state of China’s environmental problems. “The number of Chinese succumbing annually to preventalbe smog deaths effectively matched the number of people killed in the U.S. on 9/11 every day of the year,” write William J. Kelly and Chip Jacobs. And, of course, this situation will affect the rest of us. As China’s economy continues to grow at the expense of environmental protections, the authors note, “the butterfly effect is threatening to feel Pterodactyl.” … (An) indicator of just how frightening the lack of environmental standards for industrial pollution are in China’s race to the top of the economic heap. … (a)  jeremiad worthy of a prophet.”

CHINA URBAN DEVELOPMENT BLOG “An excellent starting point in understanding how China’s pollution problem got so out of hand in the first place and what can be done to stop it (or at least slow it down).”

* CHINADIALOGUE.NET “Authors William J. Kelly and Chip Jacobs joined forces once before … to write their climate classic, Smogtown: the Lung Burning History of Pollution in Los Angeles, a remarkable 2008 exposé and memoir about air quality, politics and health in Southern California’s smog belt. This time, the duo … (goes) farther afield to investigate air pollution that threatens to put a chokehold on the Pacific Rim … The writers do know their stuff … “A nation breathes its choices,” the authors warn, while admitting that “when it involves the People’s Republic and coal, it’s more than complicated. It’s ancient.” … (V)ivid imagery, highlights quirky personalities and hidden motives in the unfolding saga of climate change. Politics loom large. The book is simultaneously entertaining and alarming …”

* ASIAN BOOK REVIEW  “The authors’ message is to remind us that we’re in serious trouble and that the situation is getting worse. China’s many announcements about increased environmental protection and its impressive accomplishments in installing solar and wind power should not obscure the reality that the environmental situation continues to deteriorate. An obsession with growth continues to triumph over the environment. We may look back and see that the  severe air pollution in Beijing in recent winters, which on bad days has been like breathing the air in a forest fire, marked a turning point.”

* PASADENA WEEKLY  “More than a biting critique of China’s economic choices, which have led to the country’s current environmental crises, the book is also call to the Chinese government to curb its pollution and do the right thing, not only for itself, but the rest of the planet … Cancer villages, peasant uprisings, corruption at every level of society and tales of human struggle are interwoven with a gripping narrative. This truly impressive treatise of investigative reporting is a searing indictment of humanity’s disregard for itself.”

* ENVIRONMENTAL AUTHOR KIM HENDERSON: Authors of the award-winning environmental book, Smogtown: The Long-burning History of Pollution in Los Angeles, William J. Kelly and Chip Jacobs, do a great service in tackling this even greater environmental crisis—one with global implications … Written with literary flair and a wide and colorful range of vocabulary … (they) give fascinating social and historical context to provide important insight into what drives China’s relentless pursuit of economic growth and power … The enormous price China and the world are paying for consumerism is never more evident … Well-written, informative and insightful—The People’s Republic of Chemicals is a worthy and important read.

* GOODREADS  – Pam Thomas; 5 of 5 stars – “An exceptional book and a brilliant read. I learnt so much about air pollution and the collateral damage …” – Clare O’Beara;  5 of 5 stars – THE PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF CHEMICALS should make you think more about where your electronic and other goods come from, and I hope you will feel moved to contact companies through their social media sites, or by writing, and ask them about their policy on pollution. GOODREADS’ “LISTOPIA” for book includes “Introducing China” a and “Third World Medicine”



—  Chip in the China Press, emphasizing the role of “Angry Mothers” battling toxic air

—  Interview in the South China Morning Post connecting eco-calamity and globalized free trade

—  Chip in LA Observed’s “From ‘Smogtown’ to Model for the World?

—  Chip talking China-US environmental parallels with Al Gore & others in Beijing 

—  Bill speaking at Brown University’s Watson Institute China Summit 2015 

—  Writing the People’s Republic – Q&A in Wall Street Journal’s ChinaRealTime

—  Chip’s Q&A comparing Los Angeles and Beijing in The New York Times

—  Bill’s Q&A on the China Urban Development Blog 

—  KFI with Terry Anzur

—  Chip on KCRW’s Press Play with Madeleine Brand

—  Chip on KPFK’s Uprising Radio with Sonali Kolhatkar

—  Chip talks Frankenstein of emissions on The StreetAOL-Huff Post Live & Brainstormin’

—  Chip on Marketplace Radio series,  We Used to Be China

—  Chip in the Los Angeles Times series on China’s “Airpocalypse” here and here

—  Chip and Bill on CCTV-America connecting the dots between China’s coal addition and global warming 

—  Chip and William on CCTV talking environmental crisis. 

—  Chip and William chatting climate change, smog and the U.S connection CCTV America

—  William’s second story for Inside Climate News about how Clinton’s trade policies hastened China’s crisis 

— William Kelly’s first story about China as a global warming dagger for Inside Climate News



—  The People’s Republic of Chemicals among Foreword Review’s best climate-change-solution books

—  The People’s Republic of Chemical earns Gold and Silver at the Green Book Festival 

—  The People’s Republic of Chemicals named Indies Book of the Year Award Finalist

— Recommended by the Southern California Independent Booksellers Association

—  The People’s Republic takes silver at the Pacific Rim Book Festival & medals at the Los Angeles Book Festival 

—  Booklist names The People’s Republic one of top 10 best books on sustainability



* PRAISE FOR SMOGTOWN: THE LUNG-BURNING HISTORY OF POLLUTION Unknown-4IN LOS ANGELES“… – Remarkably entertaining and informative … This book is just amazing, a gripping story well told” – Booklist starred review– “Historical heft … style delivers substance in true Hollywood fashion, with character-driven plots draped in glamour and sensation … the history of smog has never been so sexy” – Los Angeles Times– “… In this tale of underhanded deals, gritty politics, community organizing and burgeoning environmentalism, the corruption is plentiful and the subplots replete with intrigue … the authors offer a zany and provocative cultural history.” – Kirkus “… Finished with a particularly powerful, forward-looking epilogue, this friendly, accessible history should appeal to any American environmentalist ”-  Publishers Weekly – ” … A meticulous chronicle of the city’s signature airborne grime and the civic and social forces that emerged to stop it ”Bookforum “… The narrative that emerges is more than a tale of a region and a populace besieged by smog; it is also a parable for a nation beset by environmental and social problems … (a) well-researched cultural history”Slate – “… Well-documented, highly engaging and widely relevant … Smogtown is not your typical “green’s” diatribe against big business and weak government. No, Jacobs and Kelly are much smarter and fairer than that ” – Sustainablog – “A climate classic … a remarkable … exposé and memoir about air quality, politics and health in Southern California’s smog belt” – CHINADIALOGUE– Named one of the top 10 environmental books of the year by Booklist; silver medalist, Independent Publishers Book Awards and Green Book Festival, recipient of the Green Prize for Sustainable Literature. Featured in the New York Times, Author@Google, C-SPAN and elsewhere. Sacramento Bee bestsellerMandarin VersionChinese bestseller. Winner of ten awards, including a Shanghai Book Award; named an “Outstanding Popular Science” book (China Ministry of Science), a “Most Influential” book (Xinhua) an official China National Library Recommended work (Wenjin Book Awards), among others. 



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