Friday, 16 December 2011

Pollution drops when people prosper. A provocative move by the US embassy helps nudge China down the path Canada has taken.

From the roof of the US embassy in Beijing , hourly pollution readings are posted on @Beijing Air.  Over 12,000 people follow this feed and the information finds a way into the Chinese Weibo “twitter” network. China’s foreign ministry demanded this stop because the readings were “confusing” and “insulting” and could have “social consequences.  The embassy refused.

Take a look at the skies of Beijing on four consecutive days:
Green Beagle volunteer
 China monitors particles to ten microns in size and makes the pollution spikes disappear by averaging over 24 hours, before publishing the information. Although they have started monitoring the sub-2.5 micron particles which can have serious health effects on the lungs, the information is considered too controversial to post. A citizen group, the “Green Beagle” is making it’s own observations around the city, taking inspiration from the US embassy’s support, and is posting the results.  There’s a movement for change, overdue, and the government is inching in the right direction while suppressing the call for action.
"While the pollution choking China is testament to the country's explosive growth over the last 20 years, so is the current call for greater government transparency — and cleaner air. A new middle class that is increasingly well-traveled and wired to the Internet is turning its attention to quality of life and demanding official accountability. "Firstly, people on low incomes care about food and clothing. Once food and clothing is no longer a problem, they start to care about the environment and health. Especially the air," said Wang, 23, the Green Beagle activist.". A sign of progress: The word "smog" has been allowed into newspapers.

    "The U.S. Embassy air quality readings are often bleaker than the official measure. From noon Sunday to noon Monday — during which hundreds of flights were canceled because of poor visibility at Beijing's airport — embassy readings went from "hazardous" to "beyond index" as pollution exceeded the scale used by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Beijing's Environmental Protection Bureau said pollution was light.
"The government is making major moves to control" the kind of pollution that was typical of London and Los Angeles in the 1950s and 1960s, said Seligsohn, who lives in Beijing. "It's a long process."

Take note, Greens.  The skies were clear when humans used flaked stone tools. Skies clear again when people prosper and ask for better air.  In between there’s a smoky patch with lots of hydrocarbons.     The same pattern is promoted in the Bible which opens with unspoiled wilderness and ends in a wealthy and beautiful city with quite a bit of trouble in between.

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