- If we've ever learned something from history, it's that it repeats itself in due time. Man has proven many times he's unable to limit a mistake to only happening once. I guess our memory of the disasters we cause upon ourselves is so short, every few years, we're eager to cause another one, just to remind ourselves the "What's" and "Why's".
- The winter of '52nd was quite dreadful for Londoners. A thick layer of smog formed under the influence of the situated anticyclone above the city and the increase consumption of hard fuels to battle the chills of the British weather. Ignorant to the effects, Londoners continued their lives in similar fashion. The fog lifted four days later and everything went back to normal, except for four thousand men, who went straight to the grave as a consequence to the fog.
- Today, air pollution is still one of the most critical on-going problems in the world. From domestic, stale air, causing migraines to cities covered in the same smog London was once victim to.
Right now, the world has it's eyes turned to China. The country is known for it's careless attitude to the quality of air in the cities, but a few months ago, things went from ugly to grotesque. Mid-January Beijing and 30 other cities in northern and eastern China woke up to a thick toxic smog.
- A smog typically is nothing more than a nuance to the drivers, but this one is something different. There is dense concentration of PM2.5 particles within the air. Those are particle smaller than 2.5 micrometres and can easily be inhaled. Their size allows them to lodge inside the lungs and cause immense damage. Levels of the pollutant increased over 500 micrograms per cubic meter, while the World Health Organization suggests to avoid daily exposure to concentration of 25 or more.
I'll leave the simple maths out, but you can easily see the situation is beyond any border or classification. The video bellow was shot on the seventh day of the smog by a Telegraph reporter.
- This is all very serious and very real. Bellow you can see actual citizen talk about how the pollution is affecting their health and what they plan to do to save themselves.
- Naturally, the media, most likely government driven, claimed the current situation as the result of the winter weather conditions. However, I'm not sure if there is even one man ready to accept this statement as truth. In reality, the winter climate of the country might have had some role in the event, but all the toxicity and polluted air comes straight from human action. Careless usage of cars, fuels and the overly-industrialised eastern coast of the country are surely the source of this disaster.
In the Beijing and the surrounding area, the main source of PM2.5 is coal powered production. Electricity, steel, cement and brick industries are responsible for as much as 58% of the dangerous particles released in the air, according to Gavekal Dragonomics - a Beijing based research centre. China is a colossus in production. When you realise the country is producing half of the world's steel and around two-thirds of it's cement, it's not much of a surprise these numbers are as high. Furthermore all of this happens around the coastal lines of the country where the industry is based for easier transport.
The pollution is not a surprise, as on many factors China has been dubbed the most polluted country in the entire world. Cities like Linfen and Guiyu have been overblown with media attention over the years, but the facts still remain the same.
- The smog was perceived to dissipate over the next week, but two months after it's still there, not budging a big. Just today there was a flow of tweets and articles indicating the smog is still there, reaching levels of 300 - considerably less than what they were a month ago, but still so dreadfully high, the Chinese officials have issued an emergency. The people are advised to take thorough precautions when going outside. Children and elderly people are even recommended to stay indoors, if possible.
- Scientists are certain that if this situation persists, China will suffer immense damages, which will spread in every social and industrial sector.
The economic toll is already pounding away, as the country is grounding flights and closing highways due to the low visibility within the boundaries of the smog.
Tourists are keeping their distance as well. Even though ever man or woman probably waits for the chance to visit, there is not much people willing to do it at their health's risk. The visits to Beijing's Forbidden City - one of the must see places in the country's capital were measured to 25% of their usual numbers. This is ostentatiously to the tourism downfall due to the air pollution.
- The Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences released a new study, according to which, Beijing is "uninhabitable for human beings". From the 40 major cities in the world, covered by the research, the Chinese capital ranked second the worst in terms of environment factors. Moscow is only ranked last because of it's naturally harsh environment (e.g. extremely low temperatures for extended amounts of time).
- The agriculture sector is also one taking a great beating. He Dongxian, an associate professor at China Agricultural University's College of Water Resources and Civil Engineering made a drastic comparison between the Beijing smog and nuclear winter conditions. According to her research, the air pollutants cut off 50% of the sun light making it's way to the plant, degrading photosynthesis - the process we rely on to keep the world as we know it. To prove the severity of this case, professor Dongxian tested the development of chilli and tomato seed in two different conditions - artificial lab light and a Beijing greenhouse.
While those sown, under the lab light sprouted in around 20 days, the ones in the greenhouse took more than 60 days and He is unsure if they will ever make it through. With this information before us, her original suggestion that prolonged exposure to the pollution will resemble the one to nuclear winter doesn't sound wrong at all.
- With the on-going problem, the population is growing very unpleased with the inability of the government officials to take decisive measures and deal with the problem for two months. A man has even began a trial against the local environmental protection bureau. Li Guixin saw the system is failing and filed a lawsuit asking the stated bureau to "perform its duty to control air pollution according to the law".
The man explained he not only suffered from health hazards, pretty much like everybody else, but he also suffered economical damages from trying to protect himself. The sum asked is a mere thousand pounds, but it's the first ever case of a resident suing the government for air pollution. Should this trial prevail, it might cause a serious chain reaction pressuring the officials to take measures.
- Although political protests are banned in China, people like Li have found a way to express their unhappiness and protest against the current situation legally.
Many artists incorporate the smog and other pollution issues in their work and use it to make a stand. It's dubbed the "Smog Art Movement" by many and aims to protest the frustrations of the people through art and creativity.