Community Organizing for Air Condition Change in China

Last week I watched a video on YouTube, “Under the Dome: Investigating China’s Smog”, which was been widely seen in mainland of China. It is actually a documentary in the form of presentation by a famous reporter Chai Jing focusing on the air pollution in China. Within five days, the video was hit more than 150 millions times on Youku, China’s YouTube equivalent. I also mentioned this video in my midterm presentation on Monday to address how bad air condition in China at this moment.

I grew up in Beijing, which in the capital city of China, but also one of the most polluted cities in the world. A graph in Chai’s video shows the Beijing PM2.5, as in Particulate Matter up to 2.5 micrometers in size, index during January 2013. In just one month, there were 25 days of smog.

It is hard to imagine that living in a city with heavy smog everyday unless you’ve been there for more than three days. My mother coughs very often since 2010. There is no official analytical data and professional medical advice for citizens. Wealthy families in Beijing, Shanghai or Chengdu buy air purifiers to resist the smog in winter. However, for most resident who can not afford a machine over 1,000 dollars to clean the air in their house, they choose to wear cheap masks, even if they know it is no use for PM2.5 at all. The harmful particles are so tiny which cannot stop by the mask. The thing that is really frustrated me is people know this fact but they still wear masks. They deceive themselves that they can continue lives under the protection from cheap masks.

China Pollution


Super heavy smog in Harbin, China

Resource: LATimes

I did not all consent with the point of views raised by Chai. But I do consider the video played a critical role on awaking people. Despite how the government was indifferent on this question, we cannot just sit there and deceive ourselves anymore.

So, what are the solutions for this big issue? I absolutely agree the professor Wang Xuesi from Qinghua University. He said that “There is no way for us to change the nature conditions, we only can change ourselves. And the way to solve this problem is to reduce the emission from the beginning. ” In 2013, we had already burned 3.6 billion tons of coals. It was much more than the rest of world combined. Also in 2014, China burns from 3-4 times more fossil fuel than Europe.

Since we all noticed that two of the main cause of PM2.5 in China is burning coal and using fossil fuels, it is the time to make a choice on the original fuels. I think we should stop burning coals that are not cleaned first of all. That is not a huge plan raised by the government. When you see the abnormal smoke, which is extremely black and choking from your chimney, just stop using that coal. Even this measure is not that easy to implement. The fact is in China we do not have many alternative green fuels as a replacement in the region people burns coals to get warm in winter. Everyone knows cleaned coals are good to the environment but no one buy it due to its exorbitant price. A municipal government report in 2013 from Dalian City (a major city and seaport in the northern east of China) shows that the local price of anthracite (white coal) per ton is 2-3 times of the lignite, which is also known as brown coal that contain a large amount of harmful ingredients such as sulfur and heavy metals. If the government does not force the industry to reduce the cost of central heating system or stream, it will be hard and unrealistic for people to buy anthracite instead of lignite.


Resource: Kentucky Geological Survey

Indeed, using coal is an interrelated issue. Policies, competition in the market, corporate governance, resource distribution and other factors will all affect on solving this problem. However, it is not difficult to drive fewer days in a week for the purpose of saving fossil fuels. In 1955, when Los Angeles dealing with the photochemical smog, the regulators and citizens also paid a lot efforts on automobile exhaustion. If we follow the example of Los Angeles to install a filter on vehicle exhaust pipe, it will take longer time to achieve in China. There is still a gap on industrial level between the United States and us. For ordinary people, travel by public transport is the easiest thing to do. If the destination is within two kilometers, do not drive. If it is the peak hours when you go out, do not drive.

My project aims more on the solutions to the smog that can be accepted by the residence. We need to have a consensus that we all living in a same world and have the responsibility to protect the air we breath.