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.