Most of the World has grown too familiar with the images of cities in China under a thick haze. We all have seen pictures of ordinary people walking around with masks over their nose and mouth. For many of us, we were ignorant to think this was to avoid pandemics, like SARS. I know that’s what I thought for a while. Now, I know better. Citizens of China are being exposed to massive amounts of air pollution on a daily basis. To make matters worse, it is all in the name of “economic development.”
There is a HUGE misconception that environmental protections will hinder economic development. That is entirely FALSE! Chai Jing is a Chinese investigative reporter and a mother. She takes us on her journey to disprove this incorrect theory. I wanted to share these important findings with you because if one person could learn something new from it, it could benefit the entire planet. I found her review of Under the Dome – Investigating China’s Smog, through an article on TakePart.com.
I got really tired of seeing useless headlines on the home page of my web browser so, I simply changed it. Now, I actually see articles about matters I feel are important; the environment, food safety, etc. I feel so much more connected to my Country when I can take action by signing petitions and sending letters to my representatives through their website. I highly encourage everyone to change your homepage so that you may see real news everyday! I am in no way affiliated with TakePart.com nor am I paid to endorse them.
Anyways, back to Chai Jing. China has a huge problem with deadly smog, yet media and weather outlets are simply referring to it as “fog.” Some cities in China face an unbearable 200 days out of each year filled with a haze so thick, the blue sky is not even visible. Lung disease and lung cancer are growing rampant. Many parents face a real concern for their children’s health and safety. There was an interview where a little girl states that she has never seen the stars or white clouds before.
Coal is one major contributor to China’s smog problem. Brown coal, in particular is the dirtier, cheaper version of coal. Brown coal is being burned in large quantities but only half of it actually gives off energy. The other half just fills the air with ash. Other developed countries use brown coal, but they are required to wash it first. If China refuses to lower their consumption of coal, at the very least they should be mandating the washing of it!
In the video, China’s smog problem looks to the London 1952 Great Smog Disaster for inspiration. I was completely unaware of this event that lead to the deaths of 12,000 people. If you are also unfamiliar, check out this short article from The Washington Post about it. This disaster was caused by massive consumption of coal and it helped ignite the movement that lead to The British Clean Air Act of 1956. Although it took about 30-40 years to entirely lower their emissions, in the first ten years they saw an 80% reduction! Quite a feat, indeed.
Although China get’s 70% of it’s energy from coal burning, coal is not the only problem. As discussed in this video, steel production is obtaining huge government subsidies, despite recorded loses. Why is something that is not profitable and highly polluting being given so much money? Budgets need to be re-evaluated, to say the least. The truth is there is actually a huge issue of over-production within these businesses. Steel is sitting around rusting.
Cars, trucks, ships and planes are also contributing to the smog problem in China. There are laws requiring trucks to have government ratings in regards to their emissions. It has been discovered that many of these vehicles that obtain proof of meeting these requirements are NOT up to those standards. “Fake” trucks they are called. Many of the companies producing these fake trucks continue to do so because they simply can get away with it. It seems as if China’s real issue is that these laws (and agencies required to enforce them) are being neglected. The video shows how no one really knows who is supposed to be regulating these things. Even when they do, there are not harsh enough consequences to force the industries to really change. It seems as if greed is winning.
Speaking of greed, gas quality standards in China are not set by Environmental Agencies, but rather by the Gas Industries themselves. As odd as it may seem, industry officials make up the majority of the boards put in place to regulate those very industries. I cannot say that I am shocked because the United Stated has a tremendous issue with biased people leading regulatory agencies as well. Also, gas stations in China are not capturing the gas vapors being spilled out each time someone uses a pump. Such a waste!
I like the fact that people in China can call 12369 to report instances where they have witnessed violations. If anyone knows what the equivalent would be here in the United States, please comment below to share with the rest of us. There is also an App to help citizens become whistle-blowers of pollution offenders. It’s great that the people are being empowered to make a difference. However small that difference may feel, many small changes can add up to big positive changes.
Jing did a marvelous and thorough job investigating China’s smog problem and calling out those responsible or those that have the duty to regulate them and are not. My only criticism of Chai Jing’s review : Under the Dome – Investigating China’s Smog, is the lack of focus on renewable energy sources. She talks about Natural Gas being the solution to China’s Smog problems without mentioning that it too, has serious effects on water quality and air quality. I think she should have mentioned solar power and wind turbines as methods of clean energy production. They were never even mentioned once. I found that relatively funny considering there was an image of a tar sands protest sign about climate change in there.
Apparently, the Chinese Government feels very threatened by Chai’s documentary. Under the Dome has been banned after going viral in China. It has been pulled off video sites and environmental protesters are being arrested. Censorship is in full effect, and that is very scary considering smog is a real threat to everyone living in China. Read the article on Takepart.com. I have not seen the full documentary, this article is about her in-depth review of the documentary.
I highly recommend watching Chai Jing’s review. I will put a link to the translated version with English subtitles below. If you know any climate change deniers, perhaps you could share this with them as a separate topic. They will think they are learning about something totally unrelated, but the two are undeniably connected.
Please take small steps toward reducing your own carbon footprint. I know it can be hard, especially living in sprawling areas like Los Angeles, but it is possible. You can make a difference. I am very seriously considering selling my car and moving to a walkable city with accessible public transportation like Portland. I no longer buy paper towels, paper napkins, disposable items such as paper or Styrofoam plates, cups and plastic cutlery. Join me in boycotting beauty products, soaps, cleaning products and detergents that are laden with chemicals and sold in plastic containers. It is so easy to make things at home with responsible, sustainable and safe ingredients. Buy glass jars that can be washed and reused a million times. Walk to the grocery store or better yet, a local farmers market. Unplug appliances when they are not in use. Turn off the lights when you leave a room. LIVE CONSCIOUSLY.
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