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Lumbering Ox

Article on Chinese air pollution.

20 posts in this topic

Hopefully it isn't blocked behind a paywall.

 

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/how-china-is-losing-its-war-onpollution/article34342466/?reqid=70bfa779-1bf0-4afc-999b-5217f0eca701

 

In particular this

 

"Until this winter, a raft of government measures set in place under a Chinese “war on pollution” had yielded annual improvements. Gradually, people were beginning to see more blue skies. But amid a slowing economy, a surge in steel production capacity has been accompanied by waves of thick air that have coated northern China this winter, while southern regions have also suffered unusually bad air.

Air quality worsened in the area around Beijing throughout much of 2016, a trend that has continued this year. Average Beijing air quality in January was among the worst since 2009, the first full year air monitoring statistics are available. The city’s February air, on average, was 35 per cent more polluted this year than last."

 

 

Ye gods. I am thinking if I ever do move as opposed travel to China in say 5+ years, I'd be better off sticking to Taiwan... or Vancouver. I just don't know how people do it.

 

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China is not only Beijing.

 

Deciding between Vancouver and Beijing based on air pollution? ……

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1 hour ago, lips said:

China is not only Beijing.

 

Deciding between Vancouver and Beijing based on air pollution? ……

 

The bit of the article I quoted mentioned that even southern areas are getting hit harder.

 

Not as if Hong Kong or the southern areas are pollution free.

http://www.greenpeace.org/eastasia/news/blog/bad-to-worse-ranking-74-chinese-cities-by-air/blog/48181/

 

 

Also the Vancouver reference is more a joke about how many Chinese go there. As for deciding between Taiwan or Beijing on the basis of oh I donno not wanting to lose your way home or being able to see a car length away because you can't see [At least in the print version I assume it is referenced in the on line version. If you read the article or many other articles on the issue it isn't just a minor irritant. I donno, I like my lungs. I guess I am a huge putz that way.

 

More disturbing is that the article suggests that things are getting worse nationwide.

 

 

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Don't assume Taiwan is all blue skies. I know it's changed a lot since I was there, but one day in the early '90s, a colleague felt nauseous enough to go home, and we were in a big air conditioned office. I walked her to a taxi, and we couldn't see to the tops of the buildings. This was Taipei, of course, conveniently built in the middle of a valley that traps all the smog, lots of factories and two-stroke scooters. I know things have changed, but if you're going to make a big decision like this on the basis of a newspaper article, at least look at two newspaper articles.

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http://aqicn.org/city/kunming/

 

Real-time air quality map.

 

-----------------------------------

 

>>" More disturbing is that the article suggests that things are getting worse nationwide."

 

Agree that's disturbing.

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My view is that central government is serious about dealing with this, and will ultimately succeed - and that determination is filtering down the layers of government. It's an enormous task - auto makers might not want tougher vehicle standards and half the local governments in China have some kind of stake in coal mining / power generation / a random polluting industry. But there are feasible routes to success and I think the will is there, even if it means shaving GDP growth a little more.

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I agree the Chinese government are trying to tackle pollution and have made enormous strides in the last few years, it is a massive challenge. Unfortunately the problem is not only up to them to solve, as this article from Science Magazine shows.

 

With the new US government in denial about climate change and slashing environmental protection budgets for the next 4 years, it looks like Vancouver isn't going to offer shelter for long.

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I worry that China is too decentralised a country, meaning that big issues like pollution or corruption can't be solved by Beijing.

I also worry that I'm a bad person because the fact that the scientist in that report is/was Chinese made me a little sceptical of the conclusions. In my defence, I've been bingeing on a lot of CCTV news at the moment, particularly state visits.

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On centralisation - there's more being done on regional (ie, cross-provincial) action. The big one is the Beijing, Tianjin, Hebei / 京津冀 area - (a fantastically concise term in Chinese but a pain in translation), but also the Yangtze and Pearl Deltas. 

 

A lot of efforts so far have been low-hanging but ineffective fruit - we need to cut steel capacity by 20%? Officially close the plants which were basically idle anyway, job done, minimal impact - and there are supertanker quantities of momentum at work here - how long's it take from drafting a new fuel standard to the cars being on the streets? How many coal-fired power plants are already being built? 

 

The upcoming work will be tougher, and there's going to be a balancing act between those protesting pollution and those protesting the loss of their jobs. Who'd bet against the Chinese government though? There's money to spend and riot police to deploy. 

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It is not only air pollution, look at groundwater pollution, soil quality. 

 

For example, this: 

 

 

“G20期间肺部真菌感染率下降,因为城市建设被暂停,土层没有被掀起,环境干净”--俞云松

 

"The possibility of fungal infection decreased during G20, because city construction was suspended and ecosystems underground were kept complete. Fungus was sealed underground " --Yu Yunsong of Sir Runrun Shaw Hospital.

 

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It's only air pollution in the article, which is what we were discussing. Yes, there are other issues.

 

Your quote is about an entirely different issue - it's actually about *air pollution* arising from something that's natural and harmless in undisturbed soil. Actual soil pollution issues are different and usually associated with, eg, heavy metal pollution from industry or mining, illegal dumping of chemical waste.

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If anyone is planning to move to China, air pollution is only one thing to consider. 

 

Yes, soil QUALITY.  

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7 hours ago, li3wei1 said:

Don't assume Taiwan is all blue skies.

I lived in Taipei for various stretches between 2004 and 2013, and while there was a little pollution, it was never bad. You could see a little on the horizon, but not in the air and you certainly couldn't feel it in your lungs. From people who got to Taipei before me, I heard that things improved massively when the MRT opened. People got off their scooters, out of their cars and into the metro, and the smog lifted. I just checked and the MRT started operations in 1996, so my guess would be that you were there before that.

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Kunming, I thought that was supposed to be a clean area, it's Orange unhealthy and was Red level recently.

 

Taiwan. From what I understand there is that southern city whose name I don't remember which is pretty industrial and bad. I've read about Taipei and I know it is not perfect but it seems at least tolerable among the Chinese world. [Again ignoring Vancouver and Toronto ;)]

I am aware of soil, water and food issues also, however I limited my comment on what that article mentioned.

 

What threw me off about the article was that I had thought they were making some progress on the issue.

 

I think it is kinda sucky how the most standard Mandarin areas tend to be the most polluted. Much like in India in with Hindi. I swear by the many arms of Vishnu, it is sucky.

 

 

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3 hours ago, Lumbering Ox said:

Kunming, I thought that was supposed to be a clean area, it's Orange unhealthy and was Red level recently.

 

We often have yellow (moderate) and orange (unhealthy) here. Seldom red; seldom green. Much of the "common wisdom" about Kunming is based on facts from a decade or more ago. 

 

 

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5 hours ago, abcdefg said:

We often have yellow (moderate) and orange (unhealthy) here. Seldom red; seldom green. Much of the "common wisdom" about Kunming is based on facts from a decade or more ago. 

 

 

What is it like living with such levels.

 

 

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2 hours ago, Lumbering Ox said:

What is it like living with such levels?

Speaking from my own experience (Beijing, no particular existing respiratory issues): Your standards lower. Blue sky above is a good day, never mind the haze on the horizon. An AQI of 100-150 means good air. You learn to estimate the day's AQI by looking at the sky. When you tell your local friends that in your home country 'PM2.5' is just not a concept people even think about, they are surprised. When you tell them back home, if the AQI hits 50 children and old people are advised to stay home, they can hardly believe you and you barely believe it yourself. When it gets really bad and you feel it in your lungs with every breath, it's just depressing, because you know you're poisoning yourself with every breath and yet you can't stop, so there's no escape.

 

And then when you move back home you spend several months being deeply grateful for the air with every breath you take, until of course your standards shift again. And then a few years later you write about it on a forum and you have to look up what that word was again (AQI, PM2.5) because you have forgotten.

 

So it does suck, but on the other hand, unless you have respiratory issues, small children or plans to have small children while there, the air is not a reason not to go to China, in my opinion. It's an amazingly interesting country, very much worth living in, bad air and all.

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You just get on with things. You might adjust a bit - cancel a planned day outdoors, wear a mask - but basically life goes on. I think a lot is down to attitude - if you're a naturally nervous person who worries about their health a lot, it's one more thing to bother you. If you're a bit more devil-may-care, it'll affect you less. The wisdom of those two approaches is another matter.

 

I think for most people it's not a reason to stay away. But it may well be a reason to only stay one year instead of five, or to take a week long holiday when things get bad. 

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2 hours ago, Lumbering Ox said:

What is it like living with such levels.

 

I live in a smaller city and the pollution tends to hang around 100-150 in winter. So, not that bad by China-standards. I've only spent a week or so at a time in Beijing, so not long enough to really 'feel' it.

 

That said, I think of pollution in China is like rain in a tropical area or snow back home in Wisconsin. When it would snow heavily and then drop to below 0 F for weeks at a time I'd cover up and never go outside with more than my eyes exposed to the hard winds coming off the lakes. In China, I do the same. When the pollution goes above 50, I throw on a mask when I'm outside. When I'm at home I run an air filter. If I'm teaching classes, I don't wear a mask and recognize that the pollution is bad for me but just accept it and keep on living.

 

The pollution sucks in a way far different than living in frigid weather, but it does come and go. If I just take it as it is, do what I can about it, and accept my limitations, I tend to be okay with it and it doesn't wear me down too much.

 

Having experienced 300+ PM2.5 days in Beijing I have still decided to move to Beijing for the next year. If the only reason you have to not come to China is pollution, then get out here! Just come with the appropriate gear (3M N95s with the plastic flap that opens when you breathe out to let the moisture out, otherwise it becomes a swamp in the mask, along with an air purifier as advised here) and you'll be fine. 

 

Edit: I just want to echo what Roddy said:

15 minutes ago, roddy said:

I think for most people it's not a reason to stay away. But it may well be a reason to only stay one year instead of five, or to take a week long holiday when things get bad. 

 

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22 hours ago, Lumbering Ox said:

What is it like living with such levels.

 

Agree with the thoughtful answers others have given, above.

 

The air quality isn't something I think much about or monitor here in Kunming. It doesn't influence my daily activities. I do have some preexisting lung trouble, and living in China can't possibly be helpful in the long run. But there are enough positive factors to keep me coming back year after year. 

 

This morning I bought 20 fresh red roses 红玫瑰 for 10 Yuan at the wholesale market. In another stall, picked up some more top notch chrysanthemum tea 菊花茶 since I was running low. After that, stopped off to replenish my supply of lavender essential 薰衣草精油 oil to use in a bedside aromatherapy diffuser at night. Had a nice talk with the shopkeeper, who suggested I try blending it with some grapefruit oil 葡萄由 from time to time, using 3 drops of each.

 

IMG_9342.thumb.JPG.3e45e814a4ebd1540cb96dc7a01db472.JPGIMG_9345.thumb.JPG.22b5a49cc5145c9d2d84fd23c65d41ab.JPG

 

The wholesale flower market is across from a lively food street, and I timed my visit such that I could enjoy some pieces of roast tofu 烤豆腐 from a street vendor who brings up the water from one of the deep Jianshui 建水 wells located next to the West Gate of their Old Town 古城。 That sweet water allegedly makes the best tofu in all of Yunnan.

 

 

Took the roast tofu next door, where I ate it along with a basket of 10 韭菜猪肉 garlic chive pan-fried dumplings 煎饺 and a bowl of plain zhou/rice porridge 稀饭。

 

Rode the bus home for 2 Yuan. Walked the last block because it's blue skies, sunny, and mild (63 F/17C.) Am sipping a glass of premium Yunnan red tea 滇红茶 from hills of Fengqing 风庆县 as I type this. It's not only tasty, but is well known to aid digestion 养胃。

 

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The cleaning lady 家政 is putting the finishing touches now on the windows. When she leaves, I will lie down for a short after-lunch nap 睡个午觉。

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