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The Environmental Impact of Industrialization in East Asia and


									                  The Environmental Impact of Industrialization in East Asia and
                          Strategies toward Sustainable Development *

                                            Kim, Jung Wk
                               Graduate School of Environmental Studies
                                      Seoul National University
                                      Tel: +82-2-880-5653 (O)
                                        Fax: +82-2-887-6905

             * This paper was published in Sustainability Science, 1(1), pp. 107-114, 2006.

       The East Asian economy has been growing fast in recent years and environmental stresses are
building up rapidly. Transboundary air pollution, water shortages, drinking water contamination,
freshwater and marine pollution, deforestation, climatic disasters, and other environmental problems are
becoming serious threats to the well-being of people in this densely populated region. The ESI
(Environmental Sustainability Index) reported by the World Economic Forum in 2005 is a good indicator
of the environmental status of the region; most East Asian countries ranked at the bottom. East Asia is not
moving toward a sustainable society and the environment will not sustain the current rate of economic
development for long. The traditional culture of East Asia used to be sustainable, so we can learn much
from our traditions. Land use should be planned from an ecological point of view so as to best preserve
the land’s productivity and stability. There should be definite goals as to where and how much to preserve
the three important ecological bases: forests, coastal wetlands and agricultural farms. The forest is the
base for the terrestrial ecosystem, including flood control, water resources, and climate; the coastal
wetland is the base for the marine ecosystem; and farmland is the base for producing food. Within these
defined goals, limits should be set on how much land can be utilized for activities like urban development,
manufacturing, and recreation. Limits on the pollution load resulting from such activities should be set so
as not to irreversibly damage the environment. Economic development should be planned to allow the use
of energy and resources only after satisfying these constraints.

      Keywords: sustainability, sustainable community, sustainable energy policy, ecological land use,
industrialization and environment, East Asian environment
I. Traditional Environmental Policy in East Asia
       Traditionally, East Asians used to revere nature and observe strict environmental ethics. They did
not regard nature as a resource for human use but viewed human beings as part of nature, and sought a
life in harmony with it. They regarded such acts as destroying or polluting nature or the wasteful use of
resources as crimes that would incur divine wrath. Such traditions were well preserved in Korea until the
late 19th century. During the Chosun Dynasty (1392-1897), environmental crimes were punished under
the constitution. Illegal logging of trees, destruction of forests, dumping wastes such as ash and manure,
and polluting rivers were all acts subject to severe punishment. According to the constitution, for example,
the penalty for illegal logging in Forbidden Mountains (so designated to protect green areas, equivalent to
Green Belts in South Korea and England today) was ninety lashes plus restoration of the damaged trees.
However, the actual penalties enforced by ordinances were harsher: the penalty for illegal logging of a
pine tree was one hundred lashes, that for two trees or more was one hundred lashes plus lifetime military
service, and that for ten trees or more was one hundred lashes plus deportation to Manchuria (Ministry of
Interior, ROK 1978). Dumping of ash or manure was punished with thirty to eighty lashes, and damaging
forests by letting cattle loose, with one hundred lashes (Ministry of Environment, ROK 1990).
      Houses and towns were built so as to minimize damage to the environment and the use of energy
and resources. Houses were usually built facing south with mountains to the north to fence off cold winds
and maximize the use of sunlight. The Korean ondol is a good example of thrifty use of energy: it is a
heating system which warms up a house using exhaust-gas channels built under the earthen floor,
connected to the cooking fireplace in the kitchen. Just cooking twice a day was enough to warm up the
house all day long. It is one of the most efficient heating systems in the world.
       Villages and cities were carefully sited to minimize their environmental impact, especially water
pollution. Villages were usually built on the foothills of mountains below thick forests such as bamboo
forest, which protected the villages from soil erosion and water pollution. Agricultural fields were located
downhill from the villages so that human wastes could be used as fertilizer. Rice paddies, an efficient
wetland to remove nutrients, were located at the lowest places. Runoff waters were further filtered by
vegetation strips before entering the water channels, so that most of the surface water was drinkable. The
Han River, which flows through Seoul, used to be drinkable throughout the Chosun Dynasty, and even as
recently as 1960.
      Cities and towns were not built on fertile plains, which were saved for farming. The urban
population was controlled: the population of Seoul reached 200,000 in 1660 and remained the same until
the end of the 19th century (Seoul Metropolitan Government 1988). This was probably regarded as the
maximum allowable population that could sustain the forest around Seoul, utilize wastes as fertilizer on
nearby farms and conserve the water quality. This population size now is widely accepted as the ideal
population for ecological cities throughout the world.
      People were frugal in their use of resources and avoided pollution to the maximum extent possible.
All resources were recycled and there were no wastes to be disposed of. Vegetable gardens and domestic
animals were for recycling food wastes. Night soil and ashes were used for compost. Dishwashing water
was used to boil straw for cattle fodder. Even pouring hot water on soil was regarded as sinful because
people thought it would kill the soil. Villagers used to establish financing clubs to plant trees in the
       The top priority policy for government throughout Korean history was “the management of
mountains and waters.” This may be the reason why Korea used to be known as “the land with rich
forests and without flood or famine” or “the land with clean water and fertile soil.” Such environmental
ethics were once the norm throughout East Asia before the modern age of industrialization.

II. The Environmental Impact of Industrialization in East Asia
       The traditional Asian values regarding nature began to disappear with the Westernization of the
region in the late 19th century. Japan took the initiative in East Asia when the Meiji government was
established in 1868. The first priority of the Meiji government was to strengthen its military forces and
industrialize in the footsteps of the European countries. The industrialized powers began to exploit the

East Asian region backed by military force, and the powerless governments of the region lost control of
their territories.
        The first resources to be exploited were timber and minerals, which resulted in deforestation and
environmental devastation in the mining areas. For example, Korea lost 70% of its forest resources during
the Japanese colonial period between 1910 and 1945 and many mountains became barren (Kim 1988).
The Ashio copper mine in Tochigi prefecture, Japan, offers a good example of mine pollution during this
period. A copper smelter built there in 1887 was closed in 1972. But the entire village of Yanaka had to
be demolished due to heavy metal pollution and the mountain around the smelter still remains barren
(Shoji and Sugai 1992). Environmental disasters from industrial pollution such as Minamata disease, itai-
itai disease and Yokkaichi asthma also erupted in Japan.
       As the East Asian economy has been growing very fast in recent years, environmental stresses are
building up rapidly. Transboundary air pollution, water shortages, drinking water contamination,
freshwater and marine pollution, deforestation, climatic disasters, and other environmental problems are
becoming serious threats to the well-being of people in this densely populated region. The environmental
status of the region is well indicated by the ESI (Environmental Sustainability Index) reported by the
World Economic Forum in 2005. Most East Asian countries ranked at the bottom: North Korea was 146th
among 146 countries evaluated, Taiwan 145th, China 133rd, South Korea 122nd, and India 101st (Yale
Center for Environmental Law and Policy et al. 2005). This means that East Asia is not moving toward a
sustainable society and that the environment will not sustain the current rate of economic development for
very long. Some of the prominent environmental impacts of industrialization observed in this region are
as follows.

      Transboundary Air Pollution
      The most noteworthy transboundary air pollution problems observed in this region are the “yellow
dust” storms in Northeast Asia and Indonesian forest fire smoke in Southeast Asia.
       Yellow dust from the deserts of China and Mongolia is observed in most East Asian countries, but
due to the westerly winds prevailing in the region, areas to the east of those deserts -- eastern China,
South and North Korea, and Japan -- are the most affected. The rapid desertification of northern China,
mainly due to overgrazing in recent years, is aggravating the problem: the frequency and intensity of the
dust storms are getting worse each year. The PM-10 level in South Korea reached 2770 μg/m3 due to dust
storms in 2002 and again in 2006 compared with the 24-hr average standard of 150μg/m3. An
environmental emergency was declared and schools were closed on those occasions. Such storms are a
life or death struggle to people living in areas near their sources.
       As China develops into the world’s manufacturing center, air quality in this region is also
deteriorating rapidly. The amount of air pollutants generated in the region is the world’s largest. The
burning of low-quality coal that contains high levels of fluorides and heavy metals is the main source of
air pollution in China. Such coal is widely burned to dry agricultural products, which absorb the fluorides
and other pollutants emitted. A study reported that the IQs of children aged 8-13 in villages with high
occurrences of fluorosis from burning this coal were about ten points lower than those in other areas (Li
et al. 1995). It is reported that more than 40 million Chinese people suffer from symptoms of fluorosis
caused by burning coal, making it the most widespread epidemic in China (Lee 2005). As the air pollution
becomes regionalized, the soils and waters of the entire Northeast Asian region will also be affected (Kim
1993). Japan even claims that more than half of the acid deposits in Japan come from China.
      Since 1977, Indonesian forest fire smoke has become a regular environmental event in Southeast
Asian countries like Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei and Thailand. In recent years Malaysia has
declared a state of emergency in coastal areas heavily affected by this smoke. Public facilities like airports
and schools have been closed. The main cause of the forest fires is the commercial burning of forests to
expand palm oil plantations or plantation forests in Kalimantan and Sumatra (Japan Environmental
Council 2005).1) Burning is the cheapest way to create new farms. Since many of the companies involved
are multinational, tensions have risen between Asian neighbors over the question of which countries and

1) Formerly, indigenous farmers who practice shifting agriculture used to be falsely blamed for these fires. These
farmers depend on the forest for a living themselves, and are not about to destroy their source of livelihood. They
require only small patches of farmland and know exactly when and how to burn vegetation for their farming needs.

which companies are responsible for the fires (International Herald Tribune 2004). The smoke gets worse
in dry weather, especially when coupled with the El Nino phenomenon.
      Air pollution in the major cities of East Asia ranks among the worst in the world and is claimed to
be responsible for the deaths of about 500,000 people each year, according to WHO (Mason 2005).
      The tropical forests of Southeast Asia are disappearing rapidly. During the ten-year period from
1990 to 2000, Indonesia’s forest decreased by 1.2% (from 118.1 million to 105 million ha), Malaysia’s by
1.2% (from 21.7 to 19.3 million ha), Myanmar’s by 1.5% (from 39.6 to 34.4 million ha), the Philippines’
by 1.5% (from 6.7 to 5.8 million ha) and Thailand’s by 0.7% (from 15.9 to 14.8 million ha), which are
losses much higher than the world average of 0.2% during the same period (Japan Environmental Council
2005). The Philippines and Thailand, once timber exporters, now have become importers. The main
causes are the development of commercial plantations for oil farms and coffee, forest fires associated
with this development, commercial logging, both legal and illegal, and urban development.
      Deforestation is advancing rapidly in Northeast Asia as well. The deforestation in northern China
and Mongolia is mainly due to overgrazing, which is aggravating the yellow dust storm phenomenon,
while deforestation in Siberia is due to commercial logging.

      Destruction of Marine Environment
       The Yellow Sea, surrounded by China and the Korean Peninsula, is highly vulnerable to pollution.
It is shallow, only 44 meters deep, semi-closed, and relatively stagnant, so that its carrying capacity for
pollution is very limited. The major sources of pollution of the Yellow Sea are the Han River carrying
wastes from Seoul City, the Yellow River and Yangtze River carrying enormous amounts of suspended
solids and other pollutants, coastal cities like Tianjin, Dalian, and Chengdu, and oil spills from oil
exploration operations and shipwrecks. Both South Korea and China are busy reclaiming tidal flats,
which had provided excellent habitats for marine life, to develop coastal areas of the Yellow Sea.
Removing the tidal flats also reduces the pollution assimilation capacity of the sea. The tidal flats are
known as an excellent natural waste treatment plant. When freshwater is discharged into the coastal water,
the pollutants readily settle down into sediments by the mechanism of coagulation. Organic sediments are
readily assimilated by tidal organisms. Inorganic and toxic pollutants such as heavy metals settle as
inorganic complexes which are relatively less toxic than in freshwater and are embedded under the
      If China’s per-capita discharge reaches the level of Korea, the Yellow Sea will be just like
sewage. 2) The accumulation of non-degradable pollutants such as heavy metals and toxic organic
chemicals will be a serious threat. The Bohai Bay, which receives wastes from Beijing, Tianjin, and
Dalian, already is heavily polluted and its color has turned black.
       The coastal marine environment in the Southeast Asian region stretching from India to the
Philippines is being disturbed by the development of fish farms, especially shrimp and eel farms, a large
portion of which are built on mangrove forests. Asia produces about 80% of the world’s farmed shrimp
and 90% of the eel (Japan Environmental Council 2005). The coastal wetlands, especially the mangroves,
are the spawning and nursery ground for marine organisms and hence a very important base for the
marine ecosystem. The over-supply of nutrients and chemicals such as antibiotics is a threat to the coastal
ecosystem. It also makes the coastal areas vulnerable to tsunami, as evidenced by the South Asian
tsunami disaster in 2004. All heavily developed areas such as beach resorts and fish farms were hard hit
by the tsunami, while well-preserved areas such as the Maldives, only 60 cm above sea level, were hardly
affected. Bangladesh was also not hit hard by the tsunami because of its well-preserved mangroves.
      Destruction of coastal wetlands throughout East Asia is also jeopardizing the migratory shorebirds.
Their flyways stretch from Australia to Siberia (University of East Anglia and Kyunghee University

2) At present, South Korea is discharging about 460,000 tons of BOD per year into the Yellow Sea. If we assume that
China will discharge 30 times more BOD into the sea in the future based on the fact of its population being 30 times
that of South Korea, then the total BOD discharge would amount to 14 million tons per year. This is equivalent to 800
grams of BOD loaded to 1 m3 sea water in a year, which is an enormous pollution load. The Shihwa Lake was
seriously polluted with a load of 50 g BOD/m3-yr.

1988). Inter-tidal organisms in the tidal flats are their main food source during migration; in the spring
and fall, the birds stop at these wetlands and acquire the energy for further migration. The removal of
tidal wetlands is a serious threat to these birds.

      Water Shortages and Drinking Water Contamination
       Recent studies show that more than 100 million people in Bangladesh, West Bengal (India),
Vietnam, China and other South Asian countries drink and cook with arsenic-contaminated water, which
can cause skin lesions, internal cancers, respiratory illnesses, cardiovascular diseases, and neurological
problems (Cheng 2005). In Bangladesh, about one third of the wells among nearly five million tested are
considered unsafe (van Geen 2005). This is due to the excessive use of tube wells as safe surface waters
become scarce. When the tube wells pump ground water through geological layers rich with arsenic, the
toxic metal is leached and accumulates in the wells, especially when the infiltrated waters become
polluted. These contaminated wells should be shut down immediately and safer wells should be provided.
It is known that the quality of well water differs from spot to spot even within a single village, so that
relatively safer wells can be found near the contaminated wells (Cheng 2005). Technologies should also
be provided to the villagers to filter out the pollutants.
      With rapid economic development, water use increases rapidly and many countries are facing water
shortages. For example, water demand in northern China is very rapidly outpacing the supply (World
Resources Institute 1992). The groundwater table in Beijing is sinking at the alarming rate of 1 meter
each year. More than 50% of the river waters in northern China, including the Yellow River, are already
so heavily exploited that it is almost impossible to draw more water from them. The Chinese government
has therefore developed a very ambitious plan to divert water from the south to the north, which will have
a tremendous environmental impact on the sea as well as on terrestrial ecosystems throughout the territory
of China (Yu 2005).

      Accumulating Pollutive Industries
       During the process of industrialization, the import of technology and capital from industrialized
countries is inevitable. Newly developing countries are apt to accumulate more pollutive industries
because of loose environmental standards. In this respect many countries in the East Asian region are very
likely to accumulate pollutive industries as rich countries filter out such industries and transfer them to
newly developing countries (Kim 1990).
      Lawrence Summers, former U.S. Secretary of the Treasury, once circulated a memorandum to his
colleagues while he was a chief economist at the World Bank. He insisted that pollution should be
exported to developing countries, and listed three reasons. First, the cost of health-impairing pollution is
lower because labor costs are cheaper in developing countries. Second, the impacts of pollution are less
pronounced in developing countries because they are under-polluted. And third, the demand for a clean
environment is lower, because life expectancy is shorter in developing countries and pollution-related
diseases like cancers are therefore less likely to occur in people before they die of other causes (Foster
       Such an approach is clearly reflected in the following example. A rayon (a synthetic fabric) plant
infamous for a toxic gas called CS2 used to operate in the United States, injuring many employees. When
the compensation for these injuries became expensive, the plant was exported to Japan. The plant was
later exported to Korea and finally to China, leaving behind serious health damage, including mortality, to
employees and neighbors of the plants in each of these countries.
       Without strict environmental control, it is very likely that East Asia will accumulate the worst
pollution in the world.

III. Policy Recommendations for Sustainability
       East Asia is emerging as the most environmentally vulnerable region in the world, a trend that
seriously jeopardizes the well-being of people in this populous region. But the imminent environmental
threat is not limited to East Asia alone; it is a global issue. As the global economy continues its rapid

growth, it is becoming evident that the earth cannot sustain such economic growth for very long. The
world economy grew 50-fold during the last century (World Commission on Environment and
Development 1987). Industrialization has been advancing especially fast since World War II: in just a
half century the global economy grew 15-fold (World Bank 1993), fossil fuel use 25-fold (Brown et al.
1994), and industrial production 40-fold (Curran 2000). It is obvious that the earth does not have the
resources to support such growth for long. Petroleum production is estimated to peak sometime around
2010 and be depleted by the 2050s, and coal by the 2100s (Kim et al. 1997). The known reserves of
mineral resources are just as limited. Global warming, stratospheric ozone depletion, desertification,
destruction of habitats, extinction of species and accumulation of pollution are all warning signs about the
current pace of economic development. The global economy cannot grow forever when the planet itself is
not growing. The only thing that grows incessantly in this world is cancer, and the result of cancer is

      Principles of Sustainable Development
      Since the fundamental causes of environmental threats are clearly understood, the necessity of
sustainable development is equally manifest. The principles of sustainable development may be
summarized as follows.
       First, what is the solution if energy resources such as oil, coal and uranium are so limited? The
solution is in renewable energy. Second, other resources are also extremely limited. Even water, which
used to be regarded as unlimited, is becoming scarce. What is the solution? Limited resources should be
recycled. Third, this planet cannot carry the present environmental burden indefinitely. What is the
solution? Environmental pressure must be contained within the planet’s carrying capacity.
       Since present-day development policies, which demand a continuous supply of resources and the
sacrifice of the environment, are destined to fail, we must look for new ways of development. The
traditional culture of East Asia used to be sustainable, so we can learn much from our traditions. This
does not mean that we must go back to our past, but that we can learn from the philosophy of our
traditions and formulate new ideas for sustainable development.

      Strategies toward Sustainable Development
        The unbridled land development that has accompanied rapid industrialization in East Asia may
cause irreversible damage to the environment, jeopardizing the subsistence of people in the region. Land
use should be planned from an ecological point of view so as to best preserve the land’s productivity and
stability. In that sense, there should be definite goals as to where and how much to preserve the three
important ecological bases, namely, forests, coastal wetlands and agricultural farms.
       The forest is the base for the terrestrial ecosystem, including flood control, water resources, and
climate. Many natural disasters observed in East Asia, including the ever-worsening yellow dust storms,
shrinking lakes and rivers, floods, draughts, and avalanches, have resulted from uncontrolled
       The coastal wetland is the base for the marine ecosystem. Marine productivity is decreasing rapidly
in East Asia, due mainly to the removal of coastal wetlands. Japan has already removed over 80% of its
coastal wetlands and South Korea over 50%. In order to maintain marine productivity, it is essential to
preserve these wetlands.
       Food production should never be neglected for the sake of industrialization. Preserving farmlands
is essential to feed the enormous population of East Asia. However, the globalized economy is ruining the
agricultural industries of this region. In some countries like Japan and Korea, the food self-sufficiency
rate has fallen below 30%. In such circumstances, an economic crisis can seriously jeopardize the survival
of people in this region, as evidenced by North Korea’s situation in recent years. North Koreans are
starving to death as a result of the country’s economic failure following the collapse of the communist
bloc, including the former Soviet Union. Securing farmlands sufficient to feed its population is essential if
a country is to survive in times of economic failure or oil crisis.
        Within the established goals, limits should be set on how much land can be utilized for such
activities as urban development, manufacturing, and recreation. Moreover, limits on the pollution load

resulting from such activities should be set so as not to irreversibly damage the environment. Economic
development should be planned to allow the minimum use of energy and resources only after satisfying
these constraints.
       Local communities should be developed in conformity with ecological principles. Cities like Los
Angeles used to be viewed as ideal models to follow. Spider web-like networks of highways and roads
are built in such cities to facilitate the flow of people, energy and resources throughout the area, which
eventually encourages the wasteful use of energy and resources and the dumping of wastes on poorer
neighbors. Local communities should be built so as to minimize the use of energy and resources and to
maximize the recycling of materials, as in natural ecosystems, which will naturally lead to minimizing the
impact on the environment. Ecological land-use planning is far more efficient than the technological
control of pollution in improving the environment. Each local community should be conceived as an
efficient ecological unit.
       The centralized energy systems adopted by most East Asian countries are inefficient. The energy
efficiency of large power plants located in remote areas can reach only a bit over 30% because the heat
they generate cannot be utilized. If loss during distribution is included, the energy efficiency of such
plants falls far below 30%. If the electricity is used for heating, overall efficiency is below 15%. If small-
scale energy plants are located near demand sites (as in a distributed energy system), efficiency can be
elevated to over 80% (Lovins 2005). Moreover, in order to achieve energy security, we need to depend
less on oil and nuclear power, which are governed by the superpowers of the world. Global political
instability seriously jeopardizes energy security. This is another reason why renewable energy should be
       Automobile-oriented transportation systems cannot solve the traffic problems of East Asian
metropolises like Bangkok and Seoul. Trains should be the primary means of intercity transportation as
well as of intracity mass transit. Parking spaces in city centers need to be reduced and parking fees raised
to solve the problem of heavy urban traffic.
      Until the end of the 19th century in East Asia, each local community is believed to have functioned
as a sustainable ecological unit: energy was supplied from nearby forests without creating irreversible
damage, and wastes from urban areas were returned to farms without polluting the water systems. In a
healthy ecosystem, renewable energy is used to make the system function, and materials are completely
recycled. Human settlements should be restructured so as to maximize their efficiency of energy and
material use, and to minimize their environmental impact.
      The industrial structure should be reformed so as to be environmentally friendly. Those countries in
East Asia that have undergone rapid economic growth in recent years have generally developed energy-
intensive and polluting industries that developed countries now shun. Greater efforts should be made to
minimize energy use and pollution, as there are in fact many energy-efficient, environmentally friendly
technologies available for those industries.
       A case study of South Korea shows that improving energy efficiency in the industrial,
transportation, residential, commercial and electricity generating sectors using technologies currently
available on the world market could reduce energy use by 32.5% and greenhouse gas by 37.4% by 2020,
and still meet the economic growth targets set by the government (Kim JW 2003). Only economically
feasible technologies, with payback periods of less than five years and energy savings greater than capital
costs, were considered in the study. The efficiency measures used in the analysis were based on the U.S.
Department of Energy’s technology assessments (U.S. Energy Information Administration 1998). If we
factor in future technology innovations and system approaches, including improvements in land use,
urban structure, transportation systems and energy systems, the potential for energy savings and pollution
reduction will be even higher. Western European countries such as Great Britain, Germany and Denmark
plan to reduce their energy use by more than half by the mid-21st century. The same targets are applicable
to East Asian countries.
      Substances never disappear but only change their form and move from one environmental medium
to another. Therefore, environmental problems should be solved using a “holistic” approach. Damage to
the ecosystem, air pollution, water pollution, solid wastes, soil pollution and other environmental
problems should not be seen as independent issues. They are all interrelated. Every human activity
involves certain environmental disturbances, but precautions should be taken so as to confine the
problems to as minimal a time span and space as possible. Priorities should be set among sectors of the

environment. High priority should be given to protecting environmental systems that are impossible or
difficult to restore. In that sense, the first priority should be protection of the terrestrial and marine
ecosystems because they are so difficult and take so long to restore. The next priority should be protection
of the atmosphere because it is impossible to treat once pollutants are emitted into it, although the
disruption does not last long. Soil and water environments should be given the next priority because
disruptions are confined to a much smaller space. Solid wastes are the most condensed form of waste. If
incinerated, such materials are often transformed into more activated forms, emitted into the atmosphere
and eventually dispersed throughout the environment so that it becomes impossible to collect and treat
them anymore. And all environmental policies should be in conformity with regional or national
environmental planning to protect the fragile ecosystem.
       Japan mostly burns its solid wastes and thus has become the largest dioxin emitter in the world.
Once dispersed, these dioxins are untreatable. Such practices result from the neglect of environmental
priorities in regional or national policymaking. Some Asian countries are eager to develop nuclear energy
as a clean, economical energy source, but its wastes must be managed for almost a million years.3) An
environmental threat that requires such long-term management cannot be regarded as sustainable.

IV. Conclusion
       The East Asian economy is growing fast and promises to become the world’s greatest economic
center in the near future. Because of the rapid economic development and high economic density of East
Asia, environmental stresses have built up quickly in recent years, threatening the well-being of people in
this densely populated region. East Asia has not been moving toward a sustainable society. For decades, it
has indulged in developing a growth- and supply-oriented economy while paying little attention to the
environment. Such development will work for a time, but it is not economically efficient in the end and,
rather, poses a dangerous threat to the land and people. According to statistics, each year 60 million
people die from drinking polluted water or from malnutrition, and 500 thousand from breathing polluted
air (World Commission on Environment and Development 1987). If we continue to indulge in reckless
development that ignores the environment, we may face far worse environmental disasters. The ultimate
goal of development should be sustainability, in which respect our ancestors set a good example.
Economic activities should not exceed the earth’s carrying capacity.


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