Sustainability news often comes out of China at a trickle. This past month, it’s been a deluge
Shanghailanders have enjoyed what, on the surface, appears to be a summer of blue skies. In recent weeks, locals have come to affectionately refer to this as G-20 Blue in light of the upcoming summit in the neighboring city of Hangzhou. News articles have also pointed to an improvement in the country’s air situation as a whole, although Shanghai doesn’t seem to be contributing to this trend. I wanted to find out whether G-20 Blue is just a fleeting dream or something we can hope to look forward to more often.
All signs were pointing to a banner year in air quality for 2015. You had increased awareness, green initiatives, and government measures all in place. Unfortunately, the air quality in Shanghai actually worsened in 2015. We're not talking about just a little bit, either.
The seventh month of the lunar calendar marks the annual Buddhist Ghost Month. This is a time where the spirits of the dead roam the Earth and commune with their living loved ones. Unfortunately, it's also a time where the living create enough pollution to lower their own life expectancies. This begs the question: how much should we modernize tradition?
For all of you in China: what’s one of the first apps you look at in the morning when you wake up? I’m sure you check your e-mail, WeChat, and the weather, but I’d guess the next one you open up is an air quality monitoring app.
Ah, September. It’s that rare time of the year when Shanghai’s weather is not only decent, but quite pristine. Muggy summer heat waves give way to cooler afternoons. The mosquito-ridden August sunsets transform into breezy, crisp evenings. Summer’s cicada serenade becomes the song of chirping birds and bicycle bells, as more and more people take to the streets on two wheels. It really is when the best of Shanghai is on display.
Global warming. The mere mention of these two powerful words can create panic in the minds of many. We are bombarded with news about the Earth’s irreversible trajectory towards oblivion. Overconsumption of fossil fuels and other nonrenewable resources is to blame, with every effort humanly possible put into finding alternatives to their use. Human beings, particularly those from the developed world, are held accountable – socially and sometimes legally – to putting the Earth on a greener path. But are we really hearing the whole story?
Over the past week, thick clouds of pollution have brought the capital city to its knees. Officials have had to implement novel measures to control the escalating problem, some unseen for decades. Police are handing out thousands of fines, public transportation networks are at capacity and tourists are staying indoors. The City of Lights is covered in a dim orange glow, the sun blocked by haze.
As winter slowly gives way to spring, the skies above many Chinese cities return to their normal murky hue. Factories belch out more smoke as production ramps up. Families go on joy rides in their gas-guzzling SUVs and sport cars. On the surface, people go about their daily business seemingly ignorant of the carcinogens filling their lungs.
But as with everything in China, looks can be deceiving.