At the time, I was indignant on behalf of the Indians and the Chinese, as he seemed to be implying that they simply could not be allowed to aspire to the same things that we had. But I probably misunderstood him. In this more recent column, he acknowledges that if China and India were to put environmental curbs ahead of economic growth, many of their citizens would remain impoverished. He concludes that the developed world should pay the freight for keeping the planet clean.
I arrived in China at Beijing airport and and took the train the following day to Zibo City. The entire region is heavily polluted, folks. I arrived on a day when the pollution was especially bad; the sky was grey from horizon to horizon with no hint of blue. Fortunately, not every day is that bad -- today for example, it was clear enough that you could see blue sky and even fluffy white clouds, which are usually invisible in the hovering murk. The grime settles thickly on the windows and the window-screens. So that's just the way it is. China burns a lot of coal and there are a lot of factories in and around the region.
As Gwynne Dyer pointed out, the West got a head start on ruining the environment. The old premier of my Canadian province, WAC Bennett, used to say that the stench from the pulp mill was the smell of money. And London was once notorious for its "pea soup" fogs. Once upon a time, all men lived and worked by wood smoke and candle flame.
In the short term, if you are thinking of coming to China to teach, research the pollution levels in the areas you're interested in and ask yourself what level of psychological and physical discomfort you can put up with. I'm not crazy about the pollution, of course, but it came as no surprise. What has been a pleasant surprise is the number of trees in the city and on the campus. There are many city parks, all beautifully tended. Soon large planters all over the city will be filled with summer bedding plants. The cherry blossoms are gone, but climbing roses are in bloom and calendulas are budding out everywhere. Today I also saw some gorgeous peonies, the nation's national flower. All the greenery helps a lot.