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China and the Environment
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A cyclist wears a face mask while cycling through polluted air in Lanzhou, in China's western Gansu Province on Dec. 5, 2006. (AP Photo)

The terrible story behind the story of China’s economic boom is the astounding environmental devastation that has come with it. China’s air, China’s rivers, even China’s seas, are deadly and dying. Half a billion Chinese do not have access to safe drinking water.

Problem is, the boom and the environmental crisis are two sides of the same coin — and growth-hungry China doesn’t want to let that coin go…

For three decades now, the number one goal of China has been hyper-growth and development. More towers — like those going up in Shanghai — more factories, more power plants, more coal. And in growth China has succeeded. But the price has been something approaching environmental catastrophe. Can China stop the spiral? It’s not clear.

In this hour, live from Shanghai, we’ll look at China’s environmental crisis, and talk to three people inside China trying to take their country in a new, greener direction.

Have you seen it? The environmental price of China’s hyper-growth? Can China and the world survive together another twenty years of success like this?

Guests:

Joining us first from Hong Kong is an extraordinary woman, Zhang Jingjing. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution calls her China’s Erin Brockovich. She’s director of litigation at the Center for Legal Assistance to Pollution Victims in Beijing. The Center is China’s first pro-bono environmental-aid office. In 2004, Zhang Jingjing won China’s first-ever public hearing for an environmental lawsuit, in a case against a Beijing state-owned power company. In 2006, she was part of a team of lawyers that won one of the biggest legal settlements in Chinese history for 1,600 villagers whose water had been poisoned by a chemical factory dumping chromium. She’s a hero to some, a pain to others.

Joining us in our Shanghai studio is Yang Fuqiang. He is vice president of the Energy Foundation, a group with offices in the US and China that funds initiatives to advance energy efficiency and renewable energy. He has been involved in energy and environmental issues for more than three decades.

From Beijing, Qi Ye, distinguished professor of Environmental Policy and Management at Tsinghua University School of Public Policy and Management. He was part of the international task force that in 2006 called for major changes in governance in China to address the country’s growing environmental problems.

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