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  • Writer's pictureKirk Hartley

China Orders Risk Assessments Ahead of Projects (and a Reminder Never to Assume Others Know History

Even China is starting to act on the recognition of the long-term costs and risks of pollution. Over the past few decades, the nation’s industrialization has included repeating the Western mistakes of creating massive pollution and early deaths or diseases. More recently, thousands of sometimes violent Chinese protesters have emerged to challenge new projects perceived as harmful to persons in the vicinity. Now, the New York Times and a Chinese environmental group are reporting that the Chinese government is said to have announced non-specific laws requiring "social risk assessments" before major new projects are undertaken.

As the saying goes, every journey begins with a single step. It will be interesting to see how the Chinese fare with their environmental regulatory journey. One wonders how much the "average" Chinese person knows about similar journeys in other nations. Recently, here in the US, I’ve learned that at least some subgroup of our young people have really no idea about the environmental journey in the US. That lesson came home to me when I recently guest taught a small, third year elective class at a law school class. During the class, I offhandedly mentioned Love Canal. The response was blank stares. So, I asked the obvious question and all the students confirmed they had never heard of Love Canal. The next question was whether they had had heard any stories about the Cuyahoga river burning, or knew of the book "Silent Spring." Again, all said no. Then I pursued the same conversations with a couple of young lawyers (in their 30s), and my mid-teenage daughters. The answers were the same.

What was that saying we learned in the first week of law school, but I still forget more often than I want to admit ? Never assume anything.

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