Airing China


December 12, 2011 by David Gillaspie

by David Gillaspie

Every era has it’s star destination.

London got the smart money people once.

New York had its turn.

Now it is Bejing.

What do all three have in common? Bad air.

Imagine coal fueled London with a nose full of soot.

Or an auto-choked Manhattan with waves of exhaust.

China comes in today with their version of the yellow haze.

PM2.5, or particulate matter so small it infiltrates everything, is 1/30th the average width of human hair. It is the fog, the smoke, the smog that hangs in the air. It’s what we breath.

China gets the most attention for PM2.5, but it’s not the only place to find it. The attention is based on the Made In China label.

Why is China famous as a manufacturing dynamo? Because it kicks out the goods at the right price for the rest of the world. Price is king. Don’t wonder how they build factories, manufacture things, and ship them at the prices you see in Home Depot.

There is a kickback in China for all of it’s devolopment. They get orders for steel products and get it done the way Carnegie Steel used to do it in Homestead, Pennsylvania.

The hard way. The dirty way.

In London of the 1800s, and Homestead in the 1900s, people died of old age, not industrial pollution, though it may have been the same thing.

The difference in Bejing is modern times. Even the Chinese people know pollution when they see it. When a building a few blocks away disappears in the yellow haze, they know something’s up.

When the local news calls that day a ‘light day’ of pollution, they know different.

Portland, Oregon gets summer days with a temperature inversion, a weather system that traps pollution close to the ground. The news reports it with recommendations to stay inside if you are old, young, or have breathing problems.

What about the rest of us? We suck it up.

The winner of the 1984 Olympic Marathon in Los Angeles was Carlos Lopes from Portugal. The favorite, Robert Francois de Castella of Australia, stopped for drink of water and the others surged past.

The air in LA was so thick that each contestant in the marathon sucked in the equivalent of two packs of cigarettes. 

It’s as hard to think of marathoners as smokers as it is to think of industialized nations as non-smokers.

Is China industrialized? Look at the number of Made In China labels and decide for yourself. Do the Chinese people have a right to complain?

This is the tricky part.

China wants everyone in China to play on Team China. If you complain about the air, you might be a bad team member. You might be a subversive.

What happens to subversives in China? 

Remember the image of the man standing in front of the tank in Tiananmen Square? Tank Man? Out of a billion people, one guy stands up.

It’s a start.

China will take its rightful place in world affairs, a place reserved for the hardest working countries, when they begin applying real solutions to known problems.

Pollution so thick you can’t see across the street needs a better description than ‘light.’ What does Pittsburgh does call it? Or Bakersfield?

Citizens trying to monitor the air are not giving up state secrets deserving of jail time. Even Julius and Ethel Rosenberg thinks that’s too harsh.

For China to assume the economic and cultural leadership role they’ve earned over the centuries, they need to cultivate the trust of their citizens.

The world is watching, don’t let us down. Feel good that you’re not on the list of most polluted places on earth.

No need to hide that.


4 thoughts on “Airing China

  1. markmmullins says:

    So, that was us less than 30 years ago. Wow, two packs of cigarettes, huh? I wonder if those were Camel straights, popular brand in 1984. How long before China, with five or six times our population, realizes they just might be wiping out their consumers, U.S. and Chinese, . . . hell the whole world? Good read Dave.

    • deegeesbb says:

      I’m thinking we need the Occupy Wall Street forces to start camping on our pollution sites to teach them a lesson. But what would that lesson be?

      About the two pack marathon in LA? Probably Virginia Slims for style points. More than a few miles of my Seaside Marathon ran along idling cars stopped for the race on Hwy 101. Following good planning, no doubt. So much for that fresh ocean air.

  2. GarryJ says:

    Very well done Dave!!! glad to have a reminder of what things were like not to long ago.

    • deegeesbb says:

      Thanks for taking a moment, Garry. It’s important to remember a few things going forward, but how can anyone remember what they never knew? Sometimes that Men In Black feeling, the scene where memories get zapped, jumps out.

      The idea of dying of ‘old age’ at thirty nine? Yikes.

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