Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Or, why the smog?

Beijing in 2003
I spent a ton of time over in China in the early 00's.  My passport has two add-on visa packs and a buttload of customs stamps from the Beijing airport.  I think that I have lived there for about a year all told.

So the recent "revelation" that China has an air pollution problem is almost comical to me.  Hell, up top  is a picture that I took out of my hotel window back in 2003.  This was taken on a not so clear day in November.  The buildings that you barely see in the background are less than a quarter mile away.

We, as a country. like sneering at China.  The current round of sneering comes at the expense of the pollution that a newly industrialized country is enduring.  We are so over that here in the US.  Well we should be, the jobs that currently employ Chinese used to be the jobs that caused smogs like this in Los Angeles.

Los Angeles in 1948
We have fresh air because the high-pollution heavy industry isn't located here in the US anymore.  So the smog in Beijing is there because of all the crap that we buy from them.  A major chunk of the pollution is the price China pays for selling us salad shooters.

Another big part is the huge differential between the rich and the poor in this erstwhile "Communist" country.  The rich live in houses that Martha Stewart would approve of.  The poor live in ramshackle, Soviet-era concrete blockhouses or ancient hutongs (though, by the time I left they had been tearing up the hutongs to make way for more skyscrapers) None of which were well heated.   This being said, the poor folk, which constitute around 85% of Chinese use little coal fired heaters burning pressed coal blocks that look like this:

So, the smog produced by actually having a manufacturing policy and wealth distribution that is bad, but might be more equitable than ours, we have pollution.  Stop sneering.

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