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JULY 21, 1997

Opinion

Independence Day Lessons from China

  This July brought two independence day celebrations. One in the United States on July 4th and one in China on July 1st as the British withdrew from Hong Kong. While the city of Hong Kong is a prosperous jewel, our image of China is less glowing - the smoggy cities of Shanghai, the polluted rivers where fish populations have been decimated. The picture which remains clearest in my mind is that of an old Chinese fisherman with a simple bamboo pole, casting his line into a virtual cesspool. In fact, China is asking for $50 billion from the World Bank to clean up its pollution.
  
   In stark contrast is the United States. We have industrial growth, prospering agriculture, expanding cities, breathable air and drinkable water. And you can still catch salmon in Puget Sound. Our environmental progress has been noteworthy and, while we have some distance to go, we have come a long way. That alone is cause for celebration.
  
   But as we look to the next century, we need to remember a couple of things about our environment. First, industry has cleaned up its act. Now it is up to us - individual homeowners and drivers - to look at how we use chemical in our homes and on our lawns, how we commute and how we use water.
  
   And we should be careful not to go overboard with environmental laws and regulations which could kill business in America. After all, prosperity and profits pay for all those expensive environmental protections we take for granted in the U.S. Without that prosperity, you can't afford environmental protection. Just ask China
  
   Don C. Brunell, President, Association of Washington Business