The smog in Beijing and its negative effects

by Ye DaSen on October 5, 2017 - 12:45pm

In the article “Beijing's smog: A tale of two cities”, the authors Joshua Berlinger, Steve George and Serenitie Wang demonstrate the negative effects of smog on the heath of people in Beijing and the Chinese society. By doing so, they want to help people to better understand the catastrophic effects that the air-pollution has. If people can know more facts about this issue, then they can also potentially improve the situation. The authors start the article by describing the equipments that a high-income Chinese family uses to purify and filter the polluted-air in their home. Those equipments can indeed improve the air quality in a particular zone, but they are also very expensive. This becomes a major social issue in China or even in the entire world, since the air-pollution not only causes the health problems but also increases the inequalities between rich and poor people. Rich people are capable to protect themselves from smog by purchasing highly-expensive air-purification devices, which are unavailable for poor people. The article also states that even though the Chinese government tries to improve the air quality very hard by developing clean energy and signing Paris climate accords, the effects are still very limited. Finally, the article ends by referring to “Kuznets curve”, which optimistically predicts that as the per-capital income of people increases, the environment degradation decreases and therefore, the smog in Beijing may disappear one day.

Analysis/discussion:
The problem of smog cannot be solved completely by any simple and ordinary ways, such as emphasizing the use of public transportations, and planting more trees. The problem of smog is an inevitable yet necessary result of any industrializing country. Countries like U.S., Britain and Japan, they all suffered the problem of smog during the process of industrialization. This can be explained by environmental determinism since the smog is a result of using fossil energy, which is essential as a motor of economics. To solve the problem of smog, the governments must perform several reforms such as supply-side structural reform, and emphasizing the innovation of technology in order to transform the style of economics. Once the transformation is done, the national economics will be mainly based on tertiary sector instead of secondary sector, which is the main creator of smog due to massive production.

Link of article:
http://www.cnn.com/2017/01/15/health/china-beijing-smog-tale-of-two-citi...

Comments

At Word Press Photo in Montreal a couple of years age, I saw a picture of a factory in China. The city was so polluted that most of the fauna and flora died. As a result, the government chose to put statues of sheep in front of the factory to simulate wildlife. Your summary reminded me of that shocking picture and that is why I chose it. Moreover, I like your discussion, because you offer a realistic approach to the problem that includes an analysis of the economy of China. You mention that the issue cannot be solved by one solution, but with a combination of measures. Finally, you reference an important concept learnt in class: environmental determinism. It is always interesting to discover new examples of this reasoning other than in Greece and Italy.

I like that the issue discussed in your article is directly linked to many other topics, such as social inequalities, pubic health and economic growth. We can clearly see that pollution is an immensely complex problem, and therefore, requires a complex solution to be solved. Additionally, the majority agree that it is a highly important subject, because it concerns the very survival of our planet Earth and involves everyone.

I will support your statement in which you say that the Chinese government tries very hard to improve the air quality. Indeed, China is set to become the world’s leader on climate change. As such, it has developed a five-year plan to reconfigure its economy towards sustainable development. For instance, the government is ‘’designing better cities, investing in new public transport and improving energy efficiency’’ (Stern 2017). The country is now home to five of the top six solar panel manufacturers and five of the top 10 wind turbine makers. Similarly to Quebec’s carbon tax, China will implement an emission trading system, in which companies can buy their right to pollute.

Source: Stern, N. (2017). China is shaping up to be a world leader on climate change. FT.Com, Retrieved from https://proquest crc.proxy.ccsr.qc.ca/docview/1869824643?accountid=44391

Almost every year I go to China to visit my grandparents. When I was a child, I didn't pay attention to the sky when I landed at Beijing's airport, until 2011. It was during winter, when the energy consumption were very high due to home heating. My mom and I were in a taxi on the way to the airport for a flight to Hunan. The taxi drivers said something that I still remember, because it is very unusual in Canada: "The roads are unclear. Look at the grey fog. If the smog was darker, schools could be closed in the city." I was surprised, because in Quebec we only miss school due to snowstorms. Since that time, I started to pay attention to the sky every time I visit China. Two years after, in 2013, my father was reading the news and told me that Beijing promised to stop using coal in large power-plants to supply electricity. During the summers in 2014 and in 2016, I returned to Beijing and realized that the sky turned blue. Even my mother said that it had been a long time since she last saw a blue sky in Beijing. As you explained in your article summary, China is trying to improve the air quality, and that is the reason why the sky in Beijing turned blue. In 2015, Beijing closed the majority of its coal-fired power plants and this year, on March 18, Beijing suspended its last coal power-plants in order to improve the air quality (Vaughan 2017). By what I saw in 2011 to 2016, I agree with you that the pollution in China is a big problem and fortunately the Chinese government is making real improvements.

Source: Vaughan, A. (2017). Coal in 'freefall' as new power plants dive by two-thirds, Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/mar/22/coal-power-plants-gr...

I chose to comment on your article, because it demonstrates how something so simple as air quality can create massive gaps between the rich and the poor. Admissibility to clean air is seen as a given in and around a city like Montreal. Since pollution knows no borders, high high density smog could easily impact our city in the coming years, which is why the air quality in the north capital is sort of a reflection of the probable future for our city. The mountainous terrain which prevents the diffusion of haze can in part explain this phenomena. However, what cannot be excused by simple landscape is the gap between what we considered to be extremely hazardous air quality and what the Chinese consider as the norm (Wang, 2017). This is, indeed, an issue that is very abstract for westerners that is hard to truly grasp. If China is whats to continue to make necessary changes, it will need their wealthy upper class to stop look down from their towers at the smog below and contribute to legislation and the involvement of others over seas. I believe that the case of air pollution in China is a typical demonstration of inequalities in cities brought on by environmental conditions that require safety infrastructure. However, more importantly, the case of air pollution in China is perfect demonstration of how the main issues surrounding cities differ greatly, even though the cities themselves are very interconnected.

source:Wang, L. (n.d.). Peering into China’s thick haze of air pollution. Retrieved October 15, 2017, from https://cen.acs.org/articles/95/i4/Peering-Chinas-thick-haze-air.html

I truly find it ridiculous that people need to buy special equipment to purify the air they breathe. It is something that the most of us take for granted and do not even bother to think about. Also, it is unbelievable that the activities of factories and power plants (emission of greenhouse gases) can cause such harmful and direct impacts on the population. It even forces the state to close down schools at times (Ferris, 2015) Moreover, like many others, I take the matter of pollution and the preservation of our planet to heart as it affects everyone. I strongly agree on the matter of government’s role in solving the problem of smog. For instance, they should depend less on fossil fuel like coal and find other alternatives.

Source: Ferris, R. (2015, December 8). Beijing’s smog problem is even worse than you think. Retrieved from https://www.cnbc.com/2015/12/08/beijings-smog-problem-is-even-worse-than...

When scanning across the class’s article summaries, yours particularly interested me because pollution and environment is a subject that I find important, more than ever, these days in many countries around the world. I also find that your summary and analysis are very well written and clear to follow. I also learned a lot by reading this: I had not thought before that air pollution in China and in other countries could increase the gap of inequalities between rich and poor people. I only knew about the enormous health risks for citizens.

I find it absolutely horrifying that some people in Beijing even have to buy extremely expensive air purification systems in their homes! In our case, we are lucky because we have good air quality. But we shouldn’t take it for granted. When seeing other countries’ situation, it is clear that there is a big problem with fog buildup and health and economical struggles caused by this phenomenon. As we know, China is making great efforts trying to diminish air pollution and has set many measures to achieve this goal. For example, I read in an article that the Chinese government has installed many laws about company pollution and is distributing big fines to people who do not respect these measures, tightening its environmental policy. “The city’s environmental protection bureau handed out fines totalling 183m yuan (£21.5m) for pollution law violations in 2015, according to state media” (Fullerton 2017).

Reference: Fullerton, J. (2017). Beijing hit by dirty smog but observers say air is getting better. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2017/mar/31/china-beiji....

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