August 4, 2013

Airpocalypse

I was kind of snarky about how Chinese parents' global scramble for baby formula is affecting local markets in various countries. But holy crap, people. NYT reporter Edward Wong's account of living in Beijing with his wife and 9-mo daughter it positively harrowing:

Every morning, when I roll out of bed, I check an app on my cellphone that tells me the air quality index as measured by the United States Embassy, whose monitoring device is near my home. I want to see whether I need to turn on the purifiers and whether my wife and I can take our daughter outside.

Most days, she ends up housebound. Statistics released Wednesday by the Ministry of Environmental Protection revealed that air quality in Beijing was deemed unsafe for more than 60 percent of the days in the first half of 2013. The national average was also dismal: it failed to meet the safety standard in nearly half the days of the same six-month period. The environment minister, Zhou Shengxian, told People's Daily, the Communist Party mouthpiece, that "China's air quality is grim, and the amount of pollution emissions far exceeds the environment's capacity."

I want my daughter to grow up appreciating the outdoors -- sunsets and birdcalls and the smell of grass or the shape of clouds. That will be impossible if we live for many more years in Beijing.

Some folks call it the airpocalypse. We have friends who just moved to Beijing, with three little kids, so this is not a drill. I'm kind of tearing up right now; must be something in the air.

Life in a Toxic Country [nyt]

2 Comments

Didn't we hear about so much about air quality going into the Beijing Olympics? How you couldn't breathe in the city? How athletes wouldn't be able to perform? That wasn't so long ago yet the Olympics happened and world records were broken and I don't remember any actual complaints. Maybe it was the gag order on the press. Maybe there was a ring of $2/day laborers with fans keeping the dirty air away from Olympic venues. Or maybe the air quality isn't quite as terrible as reported. Or maybe it's not much worse than other major cities around the world.

Beijing imposed driving restrictions, seeded rain, and closed factories in a 100 mile radius for two months in advance of the Olympics:

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/07/sports/olympics/07china.html

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