China’s pollution is overblown. Sure Beijing has bad days. Look at this US EPA article on America’s history of pollution here to start thinking about where the US was just a generation ago. In my mind, I see the 50″s as a great time in the US. It was also a very polluted time and everyone smoked for example.
China’s Pollution and America’s Pollution
In the 40’s and 50″s the US was in a really bad state on pollution. I do not see my siblings, born in the 50’s having horrible health. Yet, people are petrified of letting their kids go outside in China when our families lived 24/7 this way through the 40’s and the 50’s. When the problem got serious in the US, like when 40 people died in a few weeks in 1948, things did not change immediately. Real change is usually linked to the Clean Air Act of 1970. That was 22 years later. It costs a lot of money to clean up the air and water. So it took a lot of political will before the US acted decisively to clean up its air and water- except for big cities like Los Angeles that still struggle. The picture up here is from recently in Los Angeles. I distinctly remember the burn in my lungs hiking in the hills above Los Angeles a few years ago.
Does anyone remember the commercial with the Indian looking at the trash and crying. That was a 1971 commercial. See the report on that commercial here. So America from one low point in 1948, still had a long way to go in 1971.
We were not all dying in 1971. People are not all dying even in Beijng now. However, facing pollution is a good idea. China is in the transition to a consumer driven society. China is under pressure and allowing more industrial pollution in this process. This too will pass. We should not expect all Beijing people to have high infant mortality and low life expectancy because of this. We should not think that we or all our relatives were suffering in the 50″s. Sure America was polluted then, but life expectancy continued to go up.
So, am I glad the US cleaned up a lot during my lifetime? Sure. Am I glad that China has cleaned up a lot in the last 20 years? Sure. Trains used to be smoke filled and now are pristine. Trash used to be everywhere, and toilets were horrible. All that has changed a lot.
China still has a long way to go, and they will live through it just like we lived through the 50’s. I do not however, think we should get too alarmed. This too will pass.