What Do Chinese Dumplings Have to Do With Global Warming?

A refrigeration boom is changing the way Chinese people eat — and threatening the planet in the process.

Comments: 84

  1. What a fine example of solid, in-depth journalism. It leaves the reader, like the writer at the end of the article, satiated and enlightened. Thank you!

  2. K, others would say that the Berkeley/Greenpeace crew has funded a 4,000-word political opus, in the one-sided Piketty/Saez research manner, that can be summed up to this:

    China wants a USA lifestyle. Which we and our "evidence-based" theories assert are wasteful and contribute to global warming.

    Left out: those with "evidence-based" theories who assert refrigeration is superior to becoming Portland, Ore., and its high land prices. And that global warming is not settled science, and which higher energy prices make moot because such prices hold down consumption without millions of bureaucrats.

    Also left out: what winters are like in Sichuan (Jan: 43 degrees F); India should be stopped from becoming China and the USA; and Piketty/Saez are right, even if they leave out out-flow data.

  3. India "should be stopped"? How do you propose that? Put a ban on economic growth on India?

  4. Fascinating history/exposé of refrigerated foods. Seems another example of 'invention being the mother of necessity', as now that we have this option, it seems unthinkable to do without it or even to explore ways of moderating our dependence on refrigeration. Ironic--since the goal is to extend the usable life of food--that this has actually led to its own waste generation stream.

    As I write this, I leave tomorrow to take a group of 16 for a week's camping in Denali National Park. Cooking for ourselves with no access to electricity--and thus no refrigeration--we'll nonetheless manage, altering our diets a bit, and learning to be comfortable not refrigerating some things that we always would at home.

    Certainly refrigeration has its place in our modern world, but in the process it has supplanted much more environmentally and nutritionally sound and culturally variegated local food production, along with practices such as drying and canning. And is cooking the planet to boot.

  5. Entertaining read along the lines of Freakonomics!

    Would be keen to read another article on the supply chain and food waste in India, which is at an earlier stage on the same path of "development". Comparing the two would give a clearer view of the tradeoffs.

  6. Sorry ,there will be no development in india on the scale that is happening in China. In India food is very costly bec of high inflation and even middle class finding it difficult to fill their grocery bags.
    Here right now it is a problem of food availability at affordable prices for the masses.
    80% of indians do not consume meat and this removes automatically the need for so much refrigertion.

    Great Article. Keep it up!

  7. It will take allot of coal to run those refrigerators. The planet would be much healthier if Mao were still running things and everyone commuted on a bike.

  8. Me Bass, I believe the cultural revolution and Great Leap Forward are among the many costs of national development. Giving some consideration to the difference in human scale between China and the US (5/1), our approach arguably is equally costly - slavery for example. And China has compressed its modern nation building into less than 70 years - a remarkable feat.

  9. National development did not justify slavery, and neither does modern Chinese prosperity excuse the MILLIONS who died under Mao and the cultural revolution.

    Ask some Chinese who actually lived through this, if it was worthwhile so that today they could have a TV or refrigeration!

  10. Excellent. I eagerly await the author's upcoming book, as well as more in-depth pieces of this caliber in the Magazine.

  11. An excellent argument for food preservation by irradiation. Irradiated food needs no further cold chain.

  12. Meanwhile, you irradiate all the nutrients. So what's the use?

  13. well, say good bye to that last bluefin tuna.

  14. Nah, we'll soon be able to genetically engineer them.

  15. And what do you expect the Chinese to do, NOT refrigerate. Imagine walking into McDonalds here in the States and seeing hamburgers laying out by the fryers? Is the NYT suggesting we should revert to the 1920's? Do they want plagues again? I applaud the Chinese for moving in the right direction and expect and hope they continue. The more refrigeration the better medical care, food supply, comfort etc. And do I worry about flourocarbons, well as a coolant to the earth NO.

  16. Hi there J

    Real local food, not only is nutritious, but it also has a low impact on the planet. Sure, minimal refrigeration is necessary. Especially in regards to seafood. But the problem is the brainwashing push from Big Food to convince consumers that convenience food is the solution.

    For several thousands years humans consumed fresh, dry, smoked, or pickled food. The push for convenience food has everything to do with increased revenue for Big Food and very little to do with nutrition.

  17. Kaiso boy: You must of skipped the part of the article about the Chinese living with chronic low level food poisoning. Or are you down with diarrhea and dysentery!

  18. What an informative and nuanced article! This is the type of journalism excellence the Times should promote.

    What keeps me thinking even more is that with (and because of) our extensive cold chain infrastructure, we waste so much food on a per capita basis. If China follows in our footsteps, we would only be generating more energy to contribute more to out planet becoming a ball of heat, not the reduction of food waste.

    We need to address this issue ourselves too by changing our food wasting culture instead of simply demanding other countries to halt their modernization process.

  19. Vastly worse for the environment is that China is increasing its consumption of animal products. From the NY Times:

    "​Five years ago, the United Nations Food and Agricultural​ Organization published a report called 'Livestock’s Long Shadow,' which​ maintained that 18 percent of greenhouse gases were attributable to the​ raising of animals for food. The number was startling.​ A couple of years later, however, it was suggested that the number was too small. Two environmental specialists for the World Bank, Robert​ Goodland (the bank’s former lead environmental adviser) and Jeff​ Anhang, claimed, in an article in World Watch, that the number was more​ like 51 percent."


    Boycott cruelty. Save the planet. Eat plants.


  20. One aspect of American food storage is the way the food is packaged for consumption. If you want a tomato you can choose a pack of six or one single, unpacked one. Individual, unwrapped food is always more expensive than the packaged food. "Value packs" of meat must immediately be disassembled and re-packaged for individual needs: if not done perfectly, the meat becomes freezer-burned and inedible.
    I'd really prefer a loaf half the size of what is available. I have to freeze half to avoid staleness and mold.
    Supermarkets are usually a drive from a home. To conserve gas, one buys as much as can be stored and eaten. We are encouraged to combine errands and not buy too little of what we need, since under-buying will generate more trips.
    But then this heap of food goes bad, so there's the double whammy of spoiled food and having to go to the market again, wasting gas as well as food.
    Finally, we have all this food in the house tempting us to eat it. It would be interesting to read a study tying excess refrigeration to the rise in obesity.
    As well as having choice of food, we really need more choice in the sizes we buy. Of course, offering less won't make as much money for corporations, who shove as much as they can at us. What's a two-person household supposed to do with a 24-ounce lasagna casserole? Our solution is not to buy it, buying unprocessed, unpackaged food as much as possible.

  21. Strange- in Belgium the prices are the opposite, bulk (a single tomato or carrot, say) is always cheaper than the package. Wonder why?

  22. I shop at COSTCO for some items and it really isn't a major task to wrap meats well for the freezer. The same with their Italian Bread which I like. I freeze one loaf and after it defrosts I pop it into the oven along with some other dish I am bakingso there isn't waste. Some of us grew up in large househods(eight kids) and learned this. Our mothers also took Home Economics in school and learned how to do this. From the looks of some people's shopping carts I see when I shop they must not teach the subject any more. Too much preprepared meals,with high sodium and sugar. A lot of the people on SNAP could make their food dollars go further with some simple courses on food prep and storage instead of all the prepared stuff they buy.

  23. Let me repeat: your mother (or anyone now over 50) took HOME EC in high school, and learned the basics of cooking, meal planning, storing food and so on (if she did not learn it at her mother or grandmother's knee).

    Today, nobody is learning these skills, as they were deemed "old fashioned" and "not feminist", and all girls are now discouraged from homemaking and steered towards jobs in STEM and other similar professions.

    I believe BOTH boys and girls should have at least 2-3 years of Home Ec classes, starting in elementary school. It is a very good life skill, and it has nothing whatsoever to do with gender.

    Poor people on SNAP especially suffer, as culturally they have lost the survival skills of their ancestors. Many of our great regional cuisines grew up out of "poor man's cookery".

    Every grandma used to have recipes that stretched a pound of meat to feed six hungry people, or reused leftovers. Not anymore. We are now a culture of frozen foods and microwave ovens. It is a rare person anymore who can make, from scratch and without a recipe, a pot of soup (very thrifty and uses up leftovers!) or stew.

  24. I too found this article fascinating--very well researched, nuanced, and unusually un-judgy for an article that discusses food safety in China. I'm now curious about the energy savings that refrigeration may imply on the agricultural and livestock industry supply sides. Agriculture and livestock are significant contributors to greenhouse gases--15%, in China, according to a quick web search. Presumably there is significant oversupply of meats and produce to compensate for the massive losses downmarket ("nearly half of everything that is grown in China rots before it even reaches the retail market"). I wonder to what extent the emissions savings on the supply side will balance out the additional emissions incurred throughout the cold chain.

  25. According to current research, though, Chinese consumers are demanding more meat, the production of which has a very large carbon footprint. So the supply-side savings with regard to carbon emissions may be minimal.

  26. Earlier this week the NYT published an article on the problems of India generated from the lack of toilets, modern sanitation, polluted water and water ways and the waste produced by 600 million people who defecate openly in the streets. The scope of the Indian sanitation problems are unimaginable. Now we see that China, another nation with a population greater than 1 billion has additional food and food waste problems as great or greater than China's woes. Between these two nations, the need for modern sanitation, clean and pure water and food supplies and the effects of both nations on climate and pollution, the costs, impacts and eventual solutions are beyond our ability to fully understand or fathom. There are no immediate or easy solutions. In fact, it is difficult to see from this article if there are national efforts even being considered. One thing is certain. Sooner or later some of these oversized societies, social networks and governments will be faced with problems of food supplies, water, energy and sanitation that are overwhelming. The possibility of war, famine, plague and global disruption of normal weather and rain cycles will impose solutions but only after catastrophic and disastrous effects have decimated or destroyed whole populations around the globe. The prospects of an over populated, polluted planet are all too real. Perhaps an extinction of our own creation has begun.

  27. A bit xenophobic.

    I look at obese Americans consuming gross patters of meats, driving gas guzzling SUV's (mostly without passengers) and at my neighbors' huge motor boats and wonder at people who only see over consumption overseas.

    As for this article, it is, indeed, very excellent . I just wish I could savor the fresh, real stuff. Meanwhile, I'll cook up the sesame paste dumplings in my freezer. They are not commonly on restaurant menus in San Francisco. In contrast, pot stickers and multiple other dumplings are served up within minutes of when they were hand made.

  28. Heh. My favorite purchase in my neighborhood is frozen dumplings made by some Nanas {I wish I knew the right word for Chinese grandmas} in the back of an awesome Chinese restaurant. I consider them the closest thing I'll ever have to homemade dumplings.

    I had no idea about the dominoes of freezing dumpings and the climate impact. It was a terrific way to structure this piece about increasing access to technology that we take for granted in the US, but in many parts of the world are new (or not yet even available in some). And who are we to say they can't have it because of the energy use?

    Really enjoyed this view into China.

  29. Thanks NYT. I really enjoyed the article, more please. Nice to have a China article without the usual political commentary.

  30. What an excellent, thorough article. Very unusual, for the times, to have such a thoughtful , non-polemical article about China, that stands in stark contrast to the many articles simply lambasting China for its food supply and environmental challenges. Here, thankfully, we have a historical and comparative context. As someone who has come to appreciate traditional food preservation methods and minimizes the use of refrigeration, I especially appreciate the discussion of the impact of the "cold chain" on the rich traditional food culture of China. We can only hope that the Chinese and their government will come to understand the implications of the industrial "cold chain" on the environment, traditional practices and the quality of foods before the allure of Western "progress" and "luxury" leads them down the road of unrestrained "economic development."

  31. It's interesting to read a story about Chinese cold chain industries and frozen food. Originally from Sichuan, it really reminds me of traditional Sichuan Pickles and dried vegetables that I had in my childhood. But I really don't think the cold chain industry would put these foods in danger. After all, China is on the path that every developed country experienced while developing rapidly. To absorb new things doesn't mean the old thing will die.

  32. Excellent. Well researched and written. Thank you.

  33. Nicola Twilley: Thanks - I loved this article and the way you move a 'foreign' issue to a local and global issue.

    40% food waste is astounding. In cities that don't support food waste composting it also represents sending nutrients from farmland straight to the dump.

    I feel for the Emerson guys. They know that they don't have a complete (i.e. long term sustainable) solution but doing nothing isn't a solution either.

    Cold chains throughout the world seem like an excellent opportunity for materials science and improved insulation.

    They are also an good opportunity for synergies. Our local community centre has a hockey rink and a swimming pool. The heat generated by the rink's refrigeration units is used to heat the pool. Manufacturing synergies will be more difficult to identify and assemble. Hopefully the energy savings will make it worth while.

    (Now I'm off to find that old copy of Atlas Shrugged to see if Ayn Rand is also against heat transfer.)

  34. Many Mediterranean shun food that is frozen, and mostly prefer food that is seasonal as they consider frozen food as not being fresh. Indeed, there is a frozen section aisle in every supermarket here, but many consumers prefer to prepare homemade meals from scratch. Besides, if you prepare homemade meals yourself, at least you know what ingredients you put in them. Moreover, people here would rather buy food locally produced. There are farmer's markets in every neighborhood of Athens at least once a week. Although the ingredients are listed on the package, they use CHEAP ingredients - corn oil instead of cold presses olive oil.

  35. Over a billion Chinese consuming at American levels will lead to environmental disaster, there's no doubt about it. I started warning about this 20 years ago, but it's not PC to bring up the issue. China's prosperity means eventual doom for the world. The Chinese still have a long way to go before they reach American levels of consumption, but when they do it will break the back of modern civilization.

  36. I have an idea. Why don't we take turns? We can go back to subsistance agriculture for a few centuries and give China a chance at industrial society for a while?

  37. So the Chinese should not be ALLOWED to live a life of affluence like Americans and Europeans. OR, MORE LIKELY do YOU mean that Americans should drastically curtail our wasteful lifestyles?

  38. Thanks for the comments. I would like to see Americans and West Europeans curtail their consumption somewhat. Personally, I'm trying to live that life. We live in rural Vermont. We burn wood pellets to stay warm in winter, except when it goes below zero and I have to burn a little fuel oil. We have a car because work, doctor's offices, etc., are 25 miles away. But I walk or ride a bike every chance I get. If I lived in the city, I wouldn't have a car at all. We grow some of our own vegetables. Overall, we live a modest (by Western standards) lifestyle. On the other hand, I don't believe we in the advanced countries should strive to return to 18th century conditions. Moderation in all things, as the Greeks said.

    I didn't say the Chinese shouldn't be allowed to live the life they choose. How can I/we prevent them from doing what they want? On the other hand, I really don't care a whit about the Chinese.
    What becomes of them concerns me not at all.

    What I would really like to see is a gradual reduction in the Earth's human population to, say, 2 billion people total by the next century. This would alleviate many of the problems we now face, particularly the overstrain on arable land, fresh water resources, and the oceans. With current technologies and a smaller global population, all humans could achieve a very high standard of living indeed, and without major environmental disruption.

  39. Fantastic article, combining everything from logistics to sustainability to food and culture. More writing like this and less TV coverage, NYT!

  40. Attn. Times' Editors: more stories like this, please!

  41. First-rate writing and research on an important topic. Thanks, Nicola Twilley.

  42. This is a wonderful article that could benefit from more photos. The wet markets in China are incredible to see and witness. Also meat curing outside houses in small villages before the new year is quite amazing. The Walmarts are also a very different experience that one here in the States. You have to see it to believe it!

  43. But the cold chain isn't merely for Chinese consumers. Chinese producers are already planning to move into the U.S. processed food market in cooperation with American firms, and to evade labeling laws while doing so. That makes the sanitation of food processed in China an important issue for Americans as well. It's not just pet jerky we need to worry about, it's our own dinners that will soon be coming from these mammoth factories.

  44. Should Americans also worry about their smartphones, laptops, clothing coming from all those other mammoth factories? I think some of these fears may be based on stereotypes. Did Chinese producers really evade labeling laws in the US? If they did, were they American collaborators accomplices? Did they condoned these actions in the spirit of collaboration? Why did the FDA allow such collaborations/M&A activities to go forward? Such accusations should be supported by data and evidence, preferably from the likes of NYTimes.

    Globalization is inevitable. One may argue that US is exporting obesity and junk food to China with thousands of KFC and McDonald stores. And unfortunately some uninformed Chinese folks are saying just that.

    Look, as a Chinese American, here is what I'd like to remember and think about. Starbucks now has thousands of store in China. They are well known for their world-class employment practices and now every Chinese barista own a piece of the company through the company's stock option plan. And this helped to push retail Chinese employment practices forward, because Starbucks is getting the best people. Think about it. An American company helping poor migrant workers finding a livelihood, developing self-confidence and owning a piece of a world-class company. As a Chinese American, I am proud of what Starbucks is doing in China, and this is the kind of stories that I'd like my American and Chinese colleagues to know about and remember.

  45. It's important to note that Chinese food products look like American products. Most of the little peach cups parents are putting into their children's school lunches are from china. The only indication is a tiny made-in-China on the bottom of the cardboard 4-pack.

    It appears that the cups are a good value when you look at the unit price but they are not. The unit used on the cups is by weight, but the cups contain a great deal of liquid HFCS probably produced in the US and shipped to the Chinese factory to be combined with Chinese peaches. Selling a liquid by weight and not volume is misleading.

    I found it was much less expensive to use fresh fruit with reusable lock-&-lock containers. There wasn't much labor either if you're already buying fresh for other meals as well.

    We need to keep our food supply at home for national security. What would happen if all our food came from other countries? I think we, as a country, should be having some sort of published "food trade balance" so we know how much food is imported and exported every year. If the imports get really high we'll easily see the scale of the problem.

  46. Though I'm in Hong Kong now, I lived in China for seven years, north and south, and still go there occasionally. A good article, but salient to the discussion is the frequent use of standing air-conditioning units as fans. In both restaurants and shops, its usual to see doors wide open in summer heat while these AC machines blast cool air onto the customers, and into the street. In Hong Kong, though less common, one still sees it. How much energy is wasted, and how much sooner the units need to be serviced, re-gassed, and ultimately replaced is anyone's guess.

  47. The reason for keeping the doors open is to attract customers who seek a refuge from the outdoor heat. You see it also in other urban area such as NYC.

  48. Yes, IN. You can offer an explanation. But it is still incredibly wasteful. There should be a law banning always-open doors to storefronts and restaurants.

  49. In hot, humid Florida (and probably much of the South), this is standard business procedure, and yes, it is to attract hot sweaty customers inside for a blast of chilly air. It works beautifully.

    I was horrified when I first saw this, as it is such an alarming waste of energy.

  50. After exploring traditional food(ways) on several continents, some thoughts:
    Live-fermented foods, which nourish and (re)populate our gut flora, have significant benefits which are beginning to be uncovered and appreciated. Even my southern-born and bred US matriarch had this rule: one fresh and one pickled vegetable with every meal.

    Many food cultures, including Europe and south of our border, purchase fresh foods daily, on the way home from work. We in the US can recover this, in part, through farmers markets, farm stands, and CSA baskets. Hence possible to purchase vegetables and fruits picked same day, most storable at room temps until consumed at home.

    We are blessed with a community cannery, where for pennies per container we and neighbors gather to preserve foods picked or purchased in bulk. Including live kraut and other pickled veggies. Foods which never see refrigeration from field to jars to pantry to table.

    We can learn from other food cultures, and recover our own, in exploring options to refrigeration. Choosing to live with a mid-sized refrigerator helps. In Seoul, much container gardening is edible. In Honduras, postage stamp yards oft include fruiting trees and veggies, over a lawn.

  51. Richard, you are right on the mark! A small family garden offers much more to all concerned than any well manicured lawn.

  52. Fantastic writing, fascinating subject!

    Re: climate change and food availability, China has experienced famine and those who have read about it must shake in their boots to think it could happen again soon. Desertification, as well as severe air and water pollution are harming China's ability to grow food. And considering the uptick in extreme weather due to climate change, China's leaders need to ramp up a clean energy revolution ASAP. Solar panels on every building...massive windfarms and concentrated solar farms providing electricity...... then they can consider a refrigerator in every home. Until then, I like Mr. Dai's way of thinking.

  53. Or, they could just buy Brazil!

  54. When it comes to produce, the problem is that the food chain, the time and distance from the farmer to the consumer is too long. Since I grow a lot of my own produce, the food chain from garden to kitchen counter is a hundred to two hundred feet at most, and produce doesn't start moving down this food chain until it's time to cook, so vegetables are on the kitchen counter within minutes of picking.
    In urban areas, there is lots of land that could be used for food production: acres and acres of roof tops, strips of land through city parks, vacant lots, unnecessary parking lots, school grounds. Cities could produce much of the produce they consume, greatly reducing the food chain. With ingenuity, it would be possible to have just-in-time produce on grocery shelves that is minutes to at most a few hours old, dramatically reducing transportation and cooling costs and CO2 emissions, plus giving consumers the pleasure of eating super fresh produce.
    In Japan there are many direct-sell produce markets that are supplied by nearby farmers. Farmers receive hourly emails, telling them what produce has sold and what produce needs to be brought in soon. Throughout the day, farmers are connected digitally and supplying super fresh produce to these markets. These systems do away with a vast infrastructure of warehouses, trucking companies and cold storage facilities, and provide much fresher produce to customers. amanandhishoe.com

  55. China is somewhat blessed to have a problem such as this: a surplus of edible food that goes to waste. When you look at other spots in the world like Somalia and other regions of Africa, parts of India, Haiti and even some regions of South and Central America, they would love to have this problem of surplus food to waste.

  56. Chinese American here. Interesting reporting on an important topic. ...Too bad the article takes a wide left turn at the end with a big quote by a white cookbook author who laments the changing times for far away foreign people and then ends with the opinions of a bunch of drunk guys in a kitchen.

    The idea that a nation of 1.3B people should suffer from (among other things) 'minor food poisoning' several times a week so that we can have lawns is short sighted and possibly more importantly it misses the point: Chinese people in China want refrigeration for all the same reasons we Americans want it!

    Will it be the end of the world? ...There are no 'lawns' in China. Will you be getting rid of your lawn any time soon?

  57. Please look at the labels of your favorite American food brands - many of them are increasingly saying Made in China or Made in Mexico.

  58. it's past time for the over-developed world to model appropriate technology such as traditional methods of food preservation, home construction, and other basics, as well as modern improvements such as composting privies. not to mention carbon sequestration techniques such as reforestation, and biogas from biochar.

    if we are to have a prayer of arresting the climate change we are causing, we must acknowledge that PV and wind power are but baby steps. it's time for real change. like real relocalization, the progressive form of local control.

  59. If most Chinese experience gastric distress of some type twice per week, I guess neither old style preservation methods nor refrigeration is working well enough for them.

  60. This is first rate reporting, and it is why I am a home subscriber. Thanks for investing in it.

  61. I think people ought to be wary of diminishing food waste. It seems like a good idea when looking at it meal by meal or family by family, but if we look at the food production system of humanity, let's not think of it as a mechanical thing where efficiency rules.

    Food is a biological thing dependent on weather and soil and water. If any of those things go wrong (which happens continually--ask a farmer), we lose some food.

    While the "waste" seems enormous, anybody who hasn't looked at their assumptions or the alternatives might do well to consider the fact that we _always_ want a surplus of food and that we never, never, never want to not have enough food to feed people.

    Biology is not nearly as clear-cut as engineering physics.

  62. At a time when less and less time, money, and effort is being spent on truly deep, long-form reporting, stories like these remind us all why good journalism is irreplaceable, inimitable, and worth paying for. Thank you, Nicola Twilley.

  63. Great article that combines great information with excellent writing. I loved the last line of the article.

  64. I read the entire article aloud to my husband---endlessly interesting.

  65. Thank you for a great article: my students will be "digesting" it soon.

  66. There are too many people on the planet.

  67. Unfortunately, it's too late to do anything about that.

  68. True - but it's not popular to bring this up.

  69. In my brief lifetime, I remember ice boxes and the early electric "fridges" and I also remember buying fresh real food every other days or so from the market ... meats mostly or seasonal fruits and specialty items. The veggies come from our garden ... lettuces to potatoes to kolorabi to broccoli to carrots and pickles, and more. most of which which were "put up" after harvesting. Leftovers were consumed the next day or made into soups or stews. I'm proud to say, we waste less than 15% and compost that.

  70. That kind of lifestyle is only possible when you have homemakers, who are at home to shop, prep, cook and do all the clean up work associated with cooking and homemaking.

    That went out the window in western society when we insisted that every woman was obligated to work full-time outside the home at a paying job.

  71. Fascinating article.

  72. Why isn't population control in every conversation about global warming? ZPG used to be commonly discussed. Now it is politically incorrect to mention it. So yes, there are too many people on the planet and they are all marching toward extinction.

  73. Totally agree. I think it's a Christian conservative thing. Nobody will touch the ZPG thing. But without population reduction, we had better be prepared to accept a lower standard of living.

  74. And behind the refrigeration revolution in China and its 1.3 billion people comes India with its 1.2 billion people (and still counting). I went on wikipedia just yesterday to see what the populations of China and India will be in 2050. China in 2050 is projected to have 60 million fewer people than China in 2015. India is projected to have roughly 400 million more people than India in 2015. That is a lot of new refrigeration. It's quite frightful to think the effects of that new consumption on an already strained planet.

    The surprise came with the third most populous nation in both 2015 and 2050--the United States. The US will have roughly 100 million more people in 2050 than in 2015. So, to the population growth tabulations--China will not grow and will in fact shrink its population. India will only grow 25% more (1.2 billion plus 400 million). And the US will grow around 33% more (322 million plus 100 million). Per capita an American is a far greater consumer of refrigeration (and all other industrial products) than either an average Indian or Chinese. The US is not doing anyone any favors by adding massively to the problem represented by the immense growth in consumption in China and India.

    So, before we start criticizing China and India, we may have to start looking closer afield for a partial solution to the problem. The US is in dire need of population control. Americans, including the condescending eco-conscious, should stop having children en masse and now.

  75. Good read. At the end of it though I had more questions than answers. By using advanced logistics less of the food is wasted and more importantly more mouths are fed. There are only finite resources on this Earth and every extra bit that is saved helps.

    What is interesting about this article is that many of the points apply to the second most populous nation in India. Between these two countries there are more than a couple of billion people and a significant portion of them undernourished and can do with extra servings of nutrition. If the use of refrigeration accomplishes that then job well done.

    If there is heartache over global warming (which I personally believe in) then time to buckle up and use the technology to help with that aspect (surely less wastage helps with less resources to grow more and right there less grazing of the land).

  76. Um. Toldja so. :-)


    Yes, I've lived without a refrigerator - and raised 3 kids without - for 35+ years now. If you go to that article; read the comments; then search my blog for "refrigerator" you will find pretty much EVERYTHING that you can read in this NYT article. Like - refrigerators waste food, and cause people to buy too much - oh, and stuff you WON'T find here- like - refrigerators - MAKE YOU FAT. "oh, I don't want to put this away, I'll just finish it..." "Oh, this is going to spoil, if I don't finish it...: "I am SO depressed... do we have any ice cream?""Of course we do, here, I'll have a bowl with you..."

    And surprise - YOU are descended from humans who- gasp - survived without a refrigerator!!!

    They sometimes cheated, though. Exactly like I do. I have a porch! And live in Minnesota. I use the porch to cool food. Imagine.

    And- Dai Jianjun Xiān sheng - is 100% correct.

  77. Not accounted for are Chinese losses caused by the all too common food poisoning mentioned in the article.

    The transfer of food losses in America from the food chain to the home refrigerator is interesting. Our home refrigerator is remarkably bare unlike many (ok, all) others I know of-- unlike our freezers, which are full of items purchased on sale and rarely wasted through spoilage. However, our dog is fat on leftovers indicating we still have a ways to go on end stage 'wastage'.

  78. I believe it should be "Longjing Caotang" (龙井草堂), not "Longjin Caotan"...

  79. now, write an article with the title "what do air conditioners in india have to do with global warming?"!

  80. The comments are as fascinating and compelling as the article.