As we peel back the moral squalor of the socialist regimes in Eastern Europe, we discover the natural and physical squalor underneath. They exploited nature every bit as ruthlessly as they exploited the people. In their departure, they have left her choking amidst effluent, acid rain and industrial waste.
—Margaret Thatcher. Speech to the Conservative Central Council, March 31, 1990.
The most polluted spot on earth is Lake Karachay in the former Soviet Union. It is so contaminated with radioactive waste that having a single picnic on its banks can kill you. When the lake dries out, the wind spreads radioactive dust over vast distances. This environmental disaster was no accident; Soviet authorities deliberately dumped radioactive waste into the lake. Such disrespect for the environment, for the people, and for the unborn of the whole planet could only occur under a government in which the people have no say. The people of a democracy would never tolerate such behavior.
Likewise the unbridled pollution of China is occurring because of its centralized, non-democratic government. The people on the receiving end of the pollution have no way to rein in their corrupt rulers whose pursuit of graft drives the ongoing disaster. The communist government of China has sought to quash the reporting of pollution statistics on the grounds that it may impact ‘social stability.’ What they really mean is that it might cause political discord. They fail to realize that political discord is a force for good. In a free society public dissatisfaction creates the political will to fix problems. It is social unrest that has shaped all the evolved institutions of free government. Free public debate, freedom of the press, democracy, and the rule of law work together as a sophisticated, subtle, responsive, and ingenious solver of a society’s problems.
It is trite to say that we all have to live in this world and therefore pollution that travels across borders—which most pollution eventually does—is a legitimate concern for international diplomacy.