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Cohen: China’s Pollution Problems Mirroring U.S. Experience

Cohen Steven CCTV 101814China’s problems with air pollution mirror what the United States went through during the rapid economic growth following World War II, and the solutions will likely be the same, Earth Institute Executive Director Steven Cohen said Saturday on an English-language news program on China Central Television. Cohen was interviewed on Dialogue, a public affairs discussion program on CCTV, along with Professor Fu Jun of the School of Government at Peking University.

The show focused on environmental pollution and the problems of rapid development, and the challenges of sustainable development. You can watch the full half-hour program here.

Cohen said the United States faced a similar dynamic following the Second World War, with pollution rising as the economy boomed. But the increases in pollution — smog, poisoned rivers and toxic waste dumps — ultimately led to the passage of strong environmental legislation in the 1970s. The effort to reverse the trend and see pollution start to decrease took a decade, he said.

“The environment went from being an aesthetics issue – oh how pretty it is when the air is clean – to people suddenly realizing this is a health issue — this stuff can kill you, it can make you sick,” Cohen said.

He added, “That is now an awareness that we see all over the world,” including in China. The answer for China, he said, “is the same that we had in the United States: determined regulation and the use of technology.”

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