env eco

Green Blog: A Tragedy for All

by Elaine Schwartz    •    Jan 16, 2013    •    328 Views

By Amy Tourgee, guest blogger, Kent Place School alumna and Environmental Studies undergraduate at Princeton University

This past summer, I was fortunate enough to travel throughout China for a few weeks.  I ate dim sum, climbed the Great Wall and was a subject of lots of staring by the Chinese people on the subway (apparently blondes aren’t very common there).  I thought I might experience some cultural shock in my experiences, but I surprisingly felt fairly comfortable in a foreign country in a continent I had never been to before…  The real shock came when I visited Beijing.

I had heard about the smog in Beijing, but I was certainly not expecting to be walking down a sidewalk in the city, unable to see the building across the street.  In fact, a friend who went to international school in Beijing said that sometimes his rugby games were canceled because of, not bad weather, but too much smog.

So, it came as no surprise to me that on a scale of 1-500 for air quality (with 500 being the worst air quality), Beijing scored a 755.  The score is almost as funny as it is serious – but it has implications for the rest of the world.  Air pollution cannot be contained and travels to other parts of the world – even as far as other continents.  To me, it has always seemed unfair that China’s industry can cause so much pollution, yet other countries may have to pay for it.

Economic Lesson

China’s air pollution is an example of the tragedy of the commons.  The atmosphere is shared by many individuals, yet one small group of these individuals can overuse the commons, causing negative consequences for every individual.  The burden of China’s pollution is not solely carried by China, but by the rest of the world.

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