Students debate the environment

Updated: 2015-02-17 11:12

By Jack Freifelder in New York(China Daily USA)

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Students debate the environment

David Weeks (center, speaking), co-founder of the NHSDLC, introduces the four participants in Monday's debate at the Asia Society headquarters in New York. From left: Xiao Ze'en (Jiangsu, China); Chloe Kekedjian (New Canaan, Connecticut); Eliza Posner (New Canaan); and Liu Jiapei (Tianjin, China), took part in the event. [Photo by Jack Freifelder / China Daily]

The trade-off between the role of civil societies and government in the protection of the environment was the subject of a lively debate Monday between high school students from China and the United States at the Asia Society.

Civil society organizations should take a leading role in environmental protection because they promote social interaction between "voluntary associations" as well as structures that promote networks of public communication, Liu Jiapei, a senior from Tianjin Nankai Senior High School in Tianjin, China, said as part of the pro side of the debate's opening address.

"The whole core of this debate ought to be decided on the ability to develop and maximize the influence of a certain decision," Liu said. "It should not be decided based on willingness or better executive power. Government and polluters rely on each other, which puts obstacles for government to protect the environment."

Xiao Ze'en, a senior from Zhenjiang Maple Leaf International School in Jiangsu, China, said government's executive powers are in fact "crucial to fighting pollution" because a government can impose taxes to "eliminate externalities" like consequences from the ups and downs of general economic activity.

"Government can also impose direct regulations when the environment gets too bad," Xiao said, speaking against a leading role for civil societies. "When the environment gets too bad, government regulation is the most efficient method to cure it in a short time."

Eliza Posner and Chloe Kekedjian, a junior and freshman, respectively, from St. Luke's School in New Canaan, Connecticut, also joined Liu and Xiao for the event at the Asia Society headquarters in Manhattan. War of Words with High Schoolers from China, was hosted in conjunction with the National High School Debate League of China.

"A leading role in environmental protection should not be based on willingness or better executive power," Posner said during the debate. "Civil society organizations are more willing to implement change, and they have more ability to develop and maximize influence because they are directly connected to the community."

Orville Schell, the Arthur Ross Director of the Asia Society's Center on US-China Relations; David Weeks, co-founder of the debate league, and other members of the American and Chinese debate communities shared their thoughts in a question-and-answer session with the audience.