China Environment Rant
Blog action day is over, but I’m gonna sneak in this post anyway and hope nobody notices the deadline has already seen two days pass.Â This year the topic is the environment, and I’m going to rant about China’s environment a bit.
China’s environment is seriously messed up. If you’ve paid any attention to the media over the past several years, this is already painfully apparent. But despite repeated pledges from the Chinese government and the increasing coverage of this growing disaster, the problems keep getting worse.
So when will things get better? To find out, let’s look at this huge monster under the carpet from the perspective of an efficient and rational world and see what environmental economics would tell us about China’s environment.
Economics is a beautiful thing at the theoretical level. All problems basically solve themselves. In the case of the environment, the cost of damage can be indirectly measured (for example through regressive analysis of housing prices in different areas) – in essence, you can figure out how much people value different levels of cleanliness in dollar terms.
Once you have this value clearly figured out, you implement policy that maximizes it. In economic terms, it never makes sense to completely do away with pollution. But it also doesn’t make sense to live next to a radioactive river.
When done properly, the combination of environmental economics and policy makes everyone (on average) better off. Strict measures of GDP miss the benefits from such policy, but they are nonetheless there.
And China has many such policies – ones that would make the lives of hundreds of millions of people better if followed. There is a monetary value to keeping the environment cleaner, even for poor farmers in China. And the costs of some environmental regulation and cleanup is well under this value. The problem in China is that layers of corrupt officials stand between the policies and the people.
Protecting the People
The deep irony lies in calling China a communist country – one in which the people or workers are supposed to come first. This myth still lives on in today’s China, which has become perhaps the most capitalist country in the world and where the average person has ceased to really matter.
Given China’s current form of rule, what can be done to clean up the country?
Stricter rules? Heavier fines and penalties? (More executions?) What can be done to take the power from corrupt officials and put it back in the hands of the people?
Can you do anything?
What You Can Do To Make China’s Environment Cleaner
There’s not much that you can do to clean up China, except cutting back on buying things you don’t really need. Killing conspicuous consumption or even switching goods from China to another less-pollution-per-product country (if you have the money) can both reduce the damage you do to China’s environment (and the world).
If you’re sourcing from China, you can demand stricter standards for a higher priced good and use this as a form of marketing to the final customer (“greener products than the competition”).
What Do You Think?
This is not an experts opinion – it’s just my small effort to contribute to Blog Action Day. And there are no easy solutions to China’s pollution.Â Please leave your thoughts below if you’re able to.