Here's that pesky environmental Kuznets Curve again

We don't have to go far to find people telling us that China's gross pollution is the future fate of us all. Capitalism and development lead to air that chokes, water that poisons.

And that just isn't how it works at all now, is it? That gross pollution, like our own Industrial Age, is a stage which is passed through. A simple and useful description of the point being this about China's very pollution

“In the past, we made money first and could only talk about the environment later. But it’s clear the government has changed its mind,” he said. “We can see everything is starting to move in the right direction.”

That's simply what happens. When the alternative to straining every sinew to make a living is not to live then the environment gets very short shrift. At some point in development that luxury good (this is a technical term, it means we spend more of our rising incomes upon it, not that it is a luxury in the colloquial sense) of clean air gets the attention it might deserve.

This is simply an observation of how the world works, not something we say either should or must be. It's just that every society which has developed has done this as it develops. We've no reason at all to think that this won't be true of China, India, Bangladesh and the others too.

The real importance of the observation is that we shouldn't be spending heavily on that clean environment when such diversion from merely making a living does actually kill people. The lesson being don't become Greenpeace too soon.