Saturday, October 27, 2012
Li Feifan discusses his 40-minute documentary Future Armageddon, screened on Chinese TV via guardian.co.uk
In the news lately has been the extraordinarily bad conditions of Beijing's air, or as some are calling it, "airpocalypse". The city recently went way, way, way off the charts for air pollution and officials are now looking at how to reign in the causes of such incredible pollution.
The Guardian reports, "One week after that chart-busting Saturday, Beijing proposed new measures to combat pollution, including increased fines for excessive vehicle emissions and factory shutdowns on particularly bad days. But experts say the sheer scale and diversity of the pollution's underlying causes means that Beijing residents may not be able to breathe freely for decades."
One resident, Li Feifan, hopes to bring the issues directly to the public view with a new 40-minute documentary showing the flat-out frightening conditions of air within the city. He is hoping a visual presentation of the damage being done will spur residents to change their ways.
A baby is given nebuliser therapy at Beijing Children's Hospital as the capital is hit by record-breaking air pollution. Photograph: Li Wen/Xinhua Press/Corbis via guardian.co.uk
Record-breaking pollution in Beijing and other environmental problems in China are the result of unchecked government power, one of the country's former top environment officials has said.
On 12 January, Beijing's pollution hit a nauseating 755 on a US Environmental Protection Agency-designed 0-500 scale. Below 25 is considered the safe daily level by the World Health Organisation. Stores sold out of anti-pollution face masks, flights were delayed and hospital respiratory wards were overrun with coughing patients. Internet users called it the "airpocalypse".
"I have to admit that governments have done far from enough to rein in the wild pursuit of economic growth, and failed to avoid some of the worst pollution scenarios we, as policymakers, had predicted," Qu Geping, a top environmental protection administrator from 1987 to 1993, told the South China Morning Post.
Qu said that Chinese authorities could have pre-empted the crisis by adhering to a 1983 policy "stipulating that economic and urban construction should synchronise with environmental protection". Yet they haven't, and the country's air, water and soil continue to deteriorate. "Why was the strategy never properly implemented?" he said. "I think it is because there was no supervision of governments. It is because the power is still above the law."
One week after that chart-busting Saturday, Beijing proposed new measures to combat pollution, including increased fines for excessive vehicle emissions and factory shutdowns on particularly bad days. But experts say the sheer scale and diversity of the pollution's underlying causes means that Beijing residents may not be able to breathe freely for decades.
Deborah Seligsohn, an expert on China's environment at the University of California, San Diego, said that there is no silver bullet for the country's air pollution. The underlying causes are dynamic and diverse: power plants, small factories, automobile emissions, rampant construction, farmers burning coal for heat. "One of the things about the air quality in Beijing is that it varies a lot more than it used to," she said.
Beijing's air quality fluctuates with the weather – a strong wind from the north can blow the smog to sea, she said, while south-eastern winds trap the air against a nearby mountain range, drowning the city in a pea-soup haze.
The Guardian writes, "Li Feifan discusses his 40-minute documentary Future Armageddon, screened on Chinese TV this week. It features multiple images of the same city skyline submerged in different levels of smog. Li spent two months filming in the city, including earlier this month when pollution levels were 30 to 45 times above the recommended safety levels."
Air pollution isn't only bad in Beijing. A NASA chart revealing poor air quality across the middle east and Asia.