In the 21st century, "show me the bodies" seems like a cruel and outdated foundation for public policy. Yet history is littered with examples -- like tobacco and asbestos -- where only after the death toll mounts is the price of inaction finally understood to exceed that of action.
If China seizes the opportunity to learn from the ports on the other side of their most valuable trade route, they can boost their economy, improve public health and help to solve the world's most pressing environmental issues all at once.
Certainly air, like water, must be free and available to everyone to breathe and drink freely, breath by breath, swallow by swallow, day by day, in the name of individual and world health and security. But that is not the case.
For decades, the Chinese leadership sacrificed the environment in order to achieve breakneck economic growth. Now, it will need to sacrifice its coal industry for the sake of both its people, and the very planet that we live on.