Social Scientist. v 5, no. 58-59 (May-June 1977) p. 98.


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FRANK KEHL

Approach to Environmental Problems

MULTI-PURPOSE or comprehensive use of wastes is what the Chinese call their approach to contemporary ecological problems. There is no indigenous Chinese word for "ecology". It is a neologism, sheng tai xue, literally meaning study of life formations. It would seem that China is achieving far more impressive results than the US or the USSR or any other country for that matter.

Visitors have noted the generally low level of atmospheric pollution in China. . Sceptics have retorted that it is to be expected in a developing society: to compare China with the US is to compare cherries and apples; a more reasonable comparison is capitalist US and socialist USSR. Irrespective of the social or political system, they say, all advanced industrial countries create and have the same kind of pollution problems. People who want the good things of life out of industrialization have to accept the'pollution that goes with it. As Margaret Mead puts it, ^The developing countries would like to have just one per cent of America's gross national pollution.'51

Talking with two Chinese urban planners in Peking in July 1971, I got a different story. About environmental abuse they said, ^Due to our socialist system, we should work not for profit but for the benefit of the people, and this is our advantage relative to the capitalist system."



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