Editorial: Society Should Determine How to Manage Development vs. Environmental Protection Trade Offs

In my opinion, the major takeaway from Beijing’s recent “airpocalypse” wasn’t the magnitude of the horrid pollution, but the freedom in which internet users and mainstream media organizations covered it.  There comes a point where political posturing over the technical specifics of 2.5PPM seems prosperous when you can barely make out the building across the street from you.  This was an article I came across in the indispensable Sinocism newsletter, and it is about as scathing a piece as I’ve ever read in mainstream Chinese media.

Note- There were a few sentences which gave me trouble here.  I’ve posted this article to /r/Chineselangauge, let’s see if we can figure these out.

Translation:

Editorial:  Society should Determine how to Manage Development vs. Environmental Protection Trade offs

Across the country, over 30 cities have been experiencing severely bad haze, notably Beijing.  This has sparked fierce public debate with ample resentment and self deprecation coming forth across the media and the internet.  Facing the dark, gloomy urban skies, one after another people in China are asking “what is going on?” and “what are we going to do?”

Environmental pollution in China is still accumulating.  Although recent political measures have had effects, the magnitude of the problem hasn’t improved.  On a macro level, China’s industrialization is not yet complete, and infrastructure construction is in full swing.  China is still the world’s largest construction site, lives up to its name as “the world’s factory”, and is in the process of becoming the world’s “car kingdom”.  China manufacturs 70% of the world’s iron and steel and roughly half of the world’s cement.  Under these circumstances, there is no way China can be as clean as Western countries.

But the recent pollution indeed does ring alarm bells.  It tells us that without adjusting our current development model, we will be suffocated, and never reach the other side.

So how do we make adjustments?  This is one of the biggest problem China faces.  Development is both a right, and a strong wish of the Chinese people.  Simultaneously, an unpolluted, or less polluted, environment is also demanded.  Under current technological conditions in China, these two stand opposite each other   In the near term, finding the best of both worlds is a pipe dream.

The government fundamentally cannot determine the answer to this problem on behalf of society.  Past governments took a “low key approach” to information about pollution.  Today, society won’t buy this approach.  A new conflict has emerged.  

From now on, the government must publicly communicate the truth about the pollution which surrounds us without delay, and allow society to participate in the entire process of resolving this problem.  Managing the relationship between development and pollution will be a thorny issue, but in the process of democratizing China, now is the right time.  Citizens should understand the importance of development, but also the urgency of maintaining a threshold of environmental protection.  This difficult choice of confronting these trade offs should proceed through the democratic process.

Whether it is environmental protection or paying lip service to environmental protection, in reality only pursuing development is reckless; pursuing environmental protection at the expense of anything else is impulsive.  China should actively find a carefully calculated balance between the two.

All sorts of extreme and provocative viewpoints surface in Chinese public opinion, often changing directions without cause.  The government administration —– (Reddit- help with this paragraph?)

In this period, lots of anger over the pollution is directed at the government, not all of it misdirected. It is obvious the government isn’t the only responsible party when it comes to this problem, but the government must fundamentally alter its secretive and unclear practices in dealing with pollution and environmental issues.  It must be open and transparent dealing with this “pressure valve” ….

Environmental issues should be considered solely environmental issues, avoiding politics here is just complicating the issue.  Dealing with this huge problem in Chinese society should be dealt with using facts and practical experience, and can become a model for how China handles other issues.  Environmental problems have already left us suffering miserably, we shouldn’t let political issues further stir up our problems.

After fully confronting our environmental problems, Chinese society can soberly weigh the issues, and pursue decisions in our collective interest.

Original Chinese (article here)

社评:环保和发展如何取舍应由社会决定

全国30多个城市连日严重雾霾,北京尤甚。这强烈冲击了舆论,各种不满和自嘲涌上媒体和互联网。面对灰沉沉、雾蒙蒙的城市天空,人们纷纷在问中国“怎么了”以及该“怎么办”。

中国的环境污染仍在积累中,近年的治理虽有一定收效,但问题的严峻性没有好转。宏观原因是中国的工业化进程仍未完成,基础建设方兴未艾。中国仍是世界最大的工地,也是名副其实的“世界工厂”,而且正在成为全球最活跃的“汽车王国”。中国生产全球70%的钢铁,约一半的水泥,这些情况使当下的中国不可能像西方一样洁净。

但近日的大气污染确实敲响了警钟。它在告诉我们当前的发展方式如果不做调整地继续强化,它只会窒息我们,我们走不到彼岸

该如何做调整呢?这是中国最大的难题之一。因为发展是中国人民的权利和强烈愿望,而拥有不被或少被污染的环境同样是中国人民的强烈诉求。在中国当前的技术条件下,这两者有很强的对立性,找到两全其美办法在今后一段时间内只能是个奢望

在这个问题上,政府根本没有能力为社会做决定,过去政府把一些污染的信息“低调处理”,代替民众在发展和环保之间做选择,但舆论不买这个账,这导致了一些冲突。

政府今后需把围绕环境污染的全部实情及时告知公众,让社会全程参与解决问题的过程。发展和环保的关系很棘手,但在中国建立民主的过程中,它的到来也算恰逢其时。人民应当了解发展的重要性和守住环保底线的急迫性,这个艰难的取舍应通过真正民主的方式一路做出。

不顾环保或者嘴上说环保,实际上只顾发展是蛮干;只要环保别的什么都不顾了,这是冲动甚至是说气话。中国或者主动在两者之间追求经过精心计算的平衡,或者忽左忽右,用反复的矫枉过正代价实现平衡。前一种做法显然是聪明和更成熟的。

中国舆论当下喜欢各种偏激和耸动,往往朝一个方向转起来就不顾其他,政府与其用行政干预“引导舆论”,不如把各种事实和利益关系都如实摆出来,让舆论在多元化的基础上内生出自我平衡的力量,只有这样的舆论才会自觉地被社会的总利益引导。

近一个时期舆论常把污染的怨气撒向政府,这有一部分没撒错,但政府显然不是环境污染的唯一责任方。环境问题之难,就难在它会触动全社会的发展利益,只要彻底改变前一阶段政府遮遮掩掩的做法,把事情完全敞开,社会在“该冲谁撒气”的问题上完全可以搞明白。

环境问题应完全回到环境问题上,避免政治在这里若隐若现,节外生枝。它应当成为中国社会面对巨大难题时就事论事的真正尝试和实践,也应成为一个样板。环境问题已经让我们苦不堪言了,我们不应再让政治搅进来折磨我们自己。

把环境问题的方方面面都搞得十分清楚之后,中国社会就可以静下心来认真掂量,做我们到底要什么,以及如何追求我们利益“极值”的决定。▲

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