Dense Smog Hovers Over Chinese Cities

Photograph of dense smog outside the Forbidden City in Beijing, China. Smog in Beijing was “Beyond Index” recently, forcing even state-run media to run articles about it. Credit:

More than 30 cities, including Beijing, have been covered in dense smog over the past several days.  One of Beijing’s worse round of air pollution kept school children indoors and sent coughing resident to hospitals on January 14, 2013.  The wave of pollution peaked on Saturday with off-the-charts levels that covered Beijing’s skyscrapers in thick gray haze.

Air pollution in Chine is a major problem due to the country’s rapid pace of industrialization, dependence on coal power, explosive growth in vehicle ownership and disregard for environmental laws, with development often taking priority over health.  The pollution typically gets worse in the winter because of an increase in coal burning.

Pollution is more than an annoyance for China’s city residents.  A study released by Greenpeace and Peking University’s School of Public Health found that exposure to ultra fine particulates helped cause 8,572 early death in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Xian in 2012.

The official reading for the most dangerous particulates—known as PM25—has recently soared as high as 993 micrograms per cubic meter in Beijing, the highest level since Chinese environmental officials started releasing measurements a year ago.  The World Health Organization says anything over 25 is unhealthy.

In severe situations like these,  environmental activism comes to the rescue.  We are all aware of the destruction caused by global warming and other human-caused events, that are creating havoc around the world.  In some places, the environment has been polluted to such a degree that living creatures dwelling in these areas, are going completely haywire.

Recently I viewed thirteen video presentations dubbed, “Video & Photo Mojo,” produced by TED Talks, which depicted how the power of images were used by photographers and film producers to arouse consciousness about social problems of our times.  They understood the power of images and the connection to the viewers.  When man loses his moral compass, it is necessary to shake the tree and bring him back to his senses.  Connecting people through images can do that by using today’s technological tools.  I was impressed how movies were intentionally produced to inspire social change (e.g., Ghandi, Lawrence of Arabia, The Hurt Locker, and Charlie Wilson’s War, among others.)

Below is a list of the passionate social activists which participated in the series about the power of images and its use to correct or mitigate social issues around the world:

  1. James Cameron
  2. Deborah Scranton
  3. Ryan Lobo
  4. Beverly & Dereck Joubert
  5. David Griffin
  6. Tayrn Simon
  7. Jonathan Klein
  8. Ed Ubrich
  9. Shakhar Kapur
  10. Jehane Nvujaim
  11. Jarreth Merz
  12. Sharmeen Obaid
  13. Jeff Skoll

If you can squeeze some time to enjoy these videos, it will be time well invested.  I’m sure we can all take part in changing our small corner of the globe by betting on good people doing good things.

It’s highly possible that somebody out there is using powerful images to scale down the smog problem in China, even as we speak.  Good Day.


7 thoughts on “Dense Smog Hovers Over Chinese Cities”

  1. I agree,with a caveat. We also need to inform ourselves about the issues, and judge the images that are placed before us. Some are informing, entertaining, useful and conscience-shaking. Some are pure propaganda. The truth has to play a role, particularly since the power of images is so strong.

  2. I just double-checked something. In fact, much of the coal that’s being mined in this country is being shipped to China. We have a part in creating the horror of that photo.

  3. Hi Linda:

    Coal, excessive vehicles, and unregulated industrialization are all part of the problem. Health should be put first instead of money. I was horrified to see pictures of Chinese cities totally covered with smoke. Mexico City and Santiago in Chile came to my mind.

    They have a great challenge before them or commit collective suicide.



  4. I watched a PBS show on China’s pollution some time ago, they are buying and using coal that can not be used in the USA, soft coal, high sulfur content.

    The US is not forcing China to buy it and the Chinese government is only interested GDP, not public health.

    We send lousy coal, they send back lead-based paint on kids’ toys. What is going on in this world?

    The show I saw featured a young couple who was represented as an example of China’s new emerging middle class. They were environmentally responsible people looking to buy their first car. They paid particular attention to the EPA rating for emissions and discovered that the ratings were based on European levels which are much less restrictive than USA levels.

    China is determined to become the world’s leading economy, even if it means sacrificing its populace. Very bad news for 19% of the world’s population.

  5. Hi Jim and Nena:

    What I’m watching in several Chinese cities are alarming rates of air contamination which will lead to a collective suicide if corrective measures are not taken ASAP.

    Health is more important than money. Indeed, very bad news for 19 percent of the world’s population.



  6. Morning,
    The problem is becoming a popular media event for the attention hounds but it has been a problem for much longer than the short attention span Hollywood types are reporting. Here’s a 2006 article explaining that it is not just China’s problem, it is a global problem.

    The USA still leads in resource consumption but thanks to the EPA restrictions, we have avoided the levels of pollution that China is experiencing.

  7. Morning Jim and Nena:

    Thanks for the link. I was not aware of the Trans-Pacific pollution created in China and affecting Continental United States. In my opinion, the UN or other international body should tackle this problem immediately. China’s problem can take us all into the abyss. The whole planet is choking, and this is no hoax.

    Take Care,


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