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 Economic Development and Environmental Protection

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Economic Development and Environmental Protection

by Fang Hsin

Source: Peking Review, No. 29, July 20, 1973
Transcribed for www.wengewang.org

    THE increasing amount of harmful industrial waste liquid, gas and residue in capitalist countries has resulted in serious pollution and damage to the environment, thus posing a threat to the health of the people. The question of economic development and environmental protection, therefore, has aroused widespread concern. With socialist construction surging ahead in China, it is important that we rely on the superiority of the socialist system to protect and continually improve our environment at the same time as we speedily develop our economy.

(I)

   Man utilizes natural resources to create wealth through labour and develop the economy. In this process, he constantly transforms nature and improves the environment. But because of man's limited cognitive ability and knowledge of science and technology, economic development often brings harmful influences to the environment and hence to humanity. In explaining such influences, Engels cited the example of reclamation. In Mesopotamia, Greece and Asia Minor, people destroyed large tracts of forests to obtain cultivable land. They never dreamt that they were bringing, in succeeding ages, devastation to these areas by removing, along with the forests, the collection centres and reservoirs of moisture. In the same way, the Italians in the Alps cut down the fir forests on the slopes, having no idea that by doing this they were striking at the roots of the dairy industry in their region; still less did they have any inkling they were thereby depriving their mountain springs of water, making it possible for these to pour still more furious floods on the plains during the rainy season.
   There are, however, profound social causes for the serious pollution and destruction of the environment in capitalist societies. There, making money is of primary importance. Engels pointed out: "As individual capitalists arc engaged in production and exchange for the sake of the immediate profit, only the nearest, most immediate results can be taken into account in the first place." Speaking of the malpractices of the Spanish planters, Engels penetratingly exposed the crime of the bourgeoisie in destroying the natural environment in order to get profits. Spanish planters burnt down whole forests on Cuba's mountain slopes in order to obtain sufficient fertilizer from the ashes for one generation of very highly profitable coffee trees. As a result, heavy tropical rainfalls afterwards washed away the unprotected top soil, leaving only bare rock.
   Such uninhibited plunder of natural resources and destruction of environment increased along with the development of capitalist industry. In the mid-18th century, the industrial revolution took place; while the invention and popularity of the steam-engine released great productive forces previously unknown by society, it also gave rise to grave environmental pollution. Engels pointed out: "The first requirement of the steam-engine, and a main requirement of almost all branches of production in modern industry, is relatively pure water. But the factory town transforms nil water into stinking manure. However much therefore urban concentration is a basic condition of capitalist production, each individual industrial capitalist is constantly striving to get away from the large towns necessarily created by this concentration, and to transfer his plant to the countryside." New pollution ensued, as Engels said, because "modern capitalist industry is constantly bringing new large towns into being there by constant flight from the towns into the country." This is the insuperable vicious cycle'' of capitalist society.
   Monopoly-capitalists lust for maximum profits in capitalist countries today, and this results in even greater anarchy in production. Factories discharge industrial wastes and natural resources are exploited at will: cities develop even more abnormally and the environment suffers even worse pollution and harm, and the health of the masses of the labouring people is seriously endangered. All these facts, past and present, point to the conclusion that the pollution and destruction of the environment in these countries is a social phenomenon of capitalism and a manifestation of the sharpening contradiction between the private ownership of the means of production and the social character of production.

(ii)

   The socialist system is the most advanced social system in the history of mankind. Under socialism, public ownership of the means of production replaces private ownership and planned economy replaces anarchy in production. Industrial and agricultural production is arranged rationally; the abnormal development of the cities and urban concentration of population are avoided, so that urban construction Is carried out in a planned and rational way and the masses can be mobilized and relied upon to protect the environment. In a word, the socialist system provides favourable conditions for protecting and improving the environment while swiftly expanding the economy. This does not mean, however, that the question of environmental protection does not exist under socialist conditions. On the contrary, we must pay great attention lo it while developing the socialist economy.
   China is a socialist country which "proceeds in all cases from the interests of the people." The basic object of developing the socialist economy is the people's welfare. An important principle in such development, therefore, is to protect the environment and eliminate industrial wastes. This is also the bounden duty of socialist enterprises. Otherwise, pollution and destruction of the environment will be harmful to the health of the workers and staff members and the people in general, and this will go against Chairman Mao's revolutionary line and the fundamental object of socialist economic development.
   Economic development gives rise lo the problem of environmental protection which, in turn, is an indispensable condition for carrying on normal production and developing the economy. if we allow the environment to be polluted and destroyed through lack of protection, it will endanger the people's health and the development of the socialist economy. Harmful industrial waste gas and liquid invading the farms hamper the growth of the crops, reduce yields or kill them altogether. Harmful waste liquid flowing into the rivers, lakes and seas endangers the growth of fish and other aquatic life and oven causes them to die in large numbers. Industrial residue, if it is allowed to accumulate, will take up large tracts of land and farms, and if it is discharged into the rivers, will cause them to silt up and hampers navigation. Harmful waste liquid corrodes ships, pollutes water sources and spoils the water for residential or industrial use, thereby affecting the quality of industrial products. Besides, industrial waste gas corrodes workshops, pipes and other facilities.
   Whether from the point of view of the object of socialist economic development or from the needs of developing the socialist economy itself, environmental protection is important and indispensable. Marxism holds that a problem should be observed from the relation between things and their development. Environmental protection must be carried out in order to develop the economy faster. Conversely, if environmental protection is neglected in the course of economic development, the people's health will be threatened and the economy will not be able to develop well. Experience has shown that pollution of the environment is rapid whereas its elimination takes a longer time. We must, therefore, lose no time in strengthening prevention work while seriously undertaking elimination of pollution. This will benefit our people and our future generations.
   Chairman Mao has taught us: "Marxist philosophy holds that the law of the unity of opposites is the fundamental law of the universe. This law operates universally, whether in the natural world, in human society, or in man's thinking. Between the opposites in a contradiction there is at once unity and struggle, and it is this that impels things to move and change." Like all other things, the contradictions between economic development and environmental protection are constant and absolute and their unity is temporary and relative. Economic progress will give rise to new problems in environmental protection, and new problems in this field will arise and call for solution after the old ones have been solved. This is the dialectical relationship between economic development and environmental protection. We must have a correct understanding of it. Under the socialist system the ability to protect and improve the environment is decided, to a considerable extent, by the economic and technical level. Only when the economy develops at a faster pace can this ability be raised more rapidly. Therefore, we can only solve the problem of environmental protection by developing the economy, and not seek a good environment by slowing down economic development or by other negative methods.

(III)

   Chairman Mao has pointed out; "Socialism has freed not only the labouring people and the means of production from the old society, but also the vast realm of nature which could not be made use of in the old society." To develop multi-purpose use under socialist conditions is an important means for both developing the economy and protecting and improving the environment.
   Environmental pollution in modern times is mainly created by industrial waste gas, liquid and residue. In the absolute sense, however, there is no such thing as ''waste.” There are unused materials in the world but there are no materials which cannot be used. What is "'waste" under a certain condition can be turned into a useful thing under another condition; what is "harmful" under a certain condition can be turned into a "beneficial" thing under another condition. The Chinese Government is embarking on, in a planned way. work to prevent; and eliminate environmental pollution caused by industrial waste gas, liquid and residue. Some achievements in this respect have been made. For example, piled high and unused, the slag of an iron alloy plant used lo be a harmful thing. By adopting multipurpose use in the past few years, it has been turned into many products. This not only gets rid of the harmful effects of the slag, but provides industry with an excellent abrasion-resistant and corrosion-resistant material.
   Multi-purpose use is also the inevitable road for concentrating on production in breadth and depth and developing industry with greater, faster, better and more economical results. Guided by Chairman Mao's revolutionary line and crossing the boundaries of trades, many enterprises in China are making big efforts in multi-purpose use. While maintaining one field as their main activity, they develop in a diversified manner. Instead of using resources once, for a single purpose and at a primary level, they make use of them many limes, for a wider purpose and at a higher level. Thus, they tap a new and tremendous source of raw materials for socialist construction and open a new and broad field for economic development. For instance, substantial results were obtained by multi-purpose use in 1971 alone. Peking made use of more than 1.5 million tons of different kinds of solid waste. Shanghai extracted more than 6.500 tons of some 20 precious and rare metals from industrial waste residues, and re-covered over a million tons of dyestuffs, waste acid, caustic soda, oil and fat and fertilizers from industrial waste liquids.
   Mankind's ability to know and protect natural environment grows continuously with economic and scientific progress. History proves that many things, once regarded as waste, have become valuable today. Things which cannot be used today may become useful tomorrow. In the 19th century people produced soda from salt and sulphuric acid. The large amount of hydrochloric acid formed in the process of production Was regarded as poisonous water and its disposal created pollution. Later this poisonous water became a basic raw material in the chemical industry.
   At the turn .of this century people used coal to develop the iron and steel Industry, and tar produced in making coke was regarded as a waste. But it was later discovered that this is an important raw material for making dyestuffs, pharmaceuticals, synthetic rubber, synthetic fibre and synthetic plastics. In the course of our industrial development today, many things are disposed of as waste because we do not fully know them yet. Sometimes they create pollution and bring on arduous tasks in environmental protection. Rut we are fully convinced that with the development of production and science, these harmful things will certainly be turned into valuable things.
   It is necessary to point out that to prevent any harmful effects we must seriously deal with industrial waste gas, liquid and residue which are very harmful and cannot be recovered and used for the lime being because of technical and economic limitations. But in the people's interests, this is very necessary even if it calls for certain expenditures.
   Chairman Mao has taught us: "In the fields of the struggle for production and scientific experiment, mankind makes constant progress and nature undergoes constant change; they never remain at the same level. Therefore, man has constantly to sum up experience and go on discovering, inventing, creating and advancing. Ideas of stagnation, pessimism, inertia and complacency are all wrong." Guided by Chairman Mao's revolutionary line and. with the superior socialist system and hundreds of millions of industrious and ingenious working people, we will certainly create a society with a highly developed economy and a beautiful environment as long as we lake the struggle between the two lines as the key link, carry out overall planning and rational geographical distribution and go in for multi-purpose use to turn the harmful into the useful.

Source: Peking Review, No. 29, July 20, 1973
Transcribed for www.wengewang.org




  
  
  

 
 
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