Is the Smog Blinding You From the Greater Issue?

by Julia G. on January 29, 2017 - 12:46pm

           The Guardian has been providing factual newspaper articles since 1821. One of the correspondents for this newspaper is Tom Phillips who is stationed in Beijing and continues to provide readers with articles addressing international matters. Out of the many works that are written by Mr. Phillips, the one piece in particular that intrigued me the most was: "Beijing Smog: Pollution Red Alert Declared in China Capital and 21 Other Cities" which was published to The Guardian on December 17, 2016.

            In the city of Beijing, populated by 21 million people, a red alert was set in place to protect the citizens from the toxic smog that corrupted their metropolis. The smog, which is a form of air pollution, was so severe that it prompted a citywide lock down confining residents to their homes for five days. Those who had no choice but to go outside were urged to use protective masks. The safety of the population's health was one of the city's main concerns during this crisis. For instance, schools were forced to close in order to protect the children. In addition, in order to prevent pollution induced activities, the citizens were prohibited from using vehicles that were not fuel-efficient. Furthermore, road construction was suspended until the smog was lifted, and factories responsible for producing a lot of pollution were instructed either to reduce their production or to shut down their activity all together. The city officials were very strict in terms of this pollution-induced disaster. Those who used their barbeques or started a fire outside were reprimanded, as the officials believed that those types of activities are responsible for the smog. However, an advocate of the Greenpeace environmental group claims that barbeques are not the cause but coal-fired power stations are responsible for the heavy pollution. There were toxic particles such as PM2.5 in the smog that derive from coal which threaten the lives of the population as it causes respiratory diseases such as lung cancer, as well as heart diseases. Although citizens stopped using their high-emission vehicles, and high polluting factories' production was stopped, it only lasted for five days. The red alert was only a temporary fix in the problem China faces against pollution. The greater solution in this case is to decrease coal consumption, as it is the most used fossil fuel in the world. Indeed, China is the country that consumes the largest amount of coal. Therefore, this nation should strongly consider finding alternative sources of energy. Citizens from all over the world should not let the smog hinder their ability to see the greater issue at hand.  

            Environmental issues are quite important seeing as though there are over seven billion human beings living on Earth. Every year there are between 300, 000 to one million deaths caused by air pollution. Not only is the environment being harmed, but the lives of the global population. Whether the problem is happening 20 kilometers or 10 000 kilometers away from you, it is affecting the future of the world we live in and that our kids will live in. Regardless of where our nation falls on the political spectrum, there is always something an individual can do to help fight environmental issues. Every vote; every bottle we choose to recycle; or every dollar donated to an environmental organization will count. Collectively, if every country commits itself to the multiple international treaties regarding the environment, the possibility for change, and the effects such acts would have, would be nothing short of miraculous.

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This really does a good job of summarizing the article you chose, its highlights a lot of the key points in the news piece and you remain impartial while retelling the information. I do wish however, that the article itself had gone more in depth when reporting the details surrounding the widespread coal-fuelled pollution all across china, as well as the initiatives put in place by the government to solve this problem.
In that regard, I think this article, link below, does a really good job of outlining what strides the government has taken to resolve the smog crisis, but it also sheds light on the issues that are still keeping China from a uniform transition to green energy. The author, Wade Shepard, notes that while China has the most Wind, Solar and Hydro Energy capacity in the world, it still consumes as much coal as the rest of the world; a startling paradox. Part of this contradiction, Shepard elaborates, is because while the federal government has its sights on green and renewable energy, the provincial levels of government, who still hold a good amount of power, disagree, and would rather focus on coal, since it has a lot of positive economic effects.
For anyone interested, I highly suggest reading further through the article.


Your article gives out the essential information of the issue from the article which is great! The statistics in the second paragraph and the words of persuasion that you wrote there makes the readers more concerned about the environment since the statistics gives out a clearer idea of the consequences of not doing anything for the environment. It would have been interesting if you added some commentary from the people living there from different cities and added more information on the actions that the Chinese government will do to reduce their coal consumption.

I leave this link to another article discussing the same issue that China faces with more information and with the opinion of the people living in China. Link:

About the author

I am a Criminology student from Montreal. I love animals, music, and reading...especially when it involves sitting on the beach.