In addition to an alarming number of respiratory ailments in children and a mad rush on air filter masks, Beijing’s terrible air pollution these past few days (quite possibly the worst on record according to Greenpeace) has unleashed a torrent of online commentary.
Beijing’s most popular English health blogger and BeijingKids health columnist Dr Richard is featured in a video interview with Chris Buckley, owner of Torana Clean Air Center, talking about how best to help your kids deal with air pollution.
Meanwhile Forbes has a rather smug commentary about how Beijing’s pollution problem makes Shanghai look all the more superior (my head may be swimming and my lungs filled with soot, but having spent some incredibly boring stretches of time in our southern rival, I beg to differ).
Unfortunately it’s hard to make a strong case for Beijing when looking at this map, posted by Twitter user @Tualatrix showing just how bad Beijing’s AQI has been in comparison with other Chinese cities (note the "714" next to our "北京"):
Tealeafnation has a roundup of sark-y tweets and weibo posts that prove there is much black humor to be found in the dankness:
@老头子陳先森 tweets on Sina Weibo, China’s Twitter, “I am so glad that my ex-girlfriend lives in Beijing.”
Chinahearsay also pokes some fun at the typically clumsy official pronouncements from the higher-ups concerning the ongoing air pollution problem:
Some foreign critics of the BS Index have openly questioned the assumptions of Zone 1 recommendations. They suggest that very low PM readings are, in fact, very positive outcomes that should be encouraged and certainly not labeled “not optimal.” Professor Hao Hao, head of the Smog Department of the China Academy of Astrology, Elixirs and Feng Shui (AEF) strongly disagrees:
‘These critics simply do not understand China, and their challenging of our historical traditions is deeply offensive. Moreover, everyone knows that carbon dioxide is a natural substance necessary to sustain life on the planet. To quote U.S. Senator James Inhofe, “CO2 is plant food!” If the PM level drops too low, there could be catastrophic consequences.’
If you’re a number-cruncher then Beijing-based American clean energy expert and engineer Vance Wagner’s livefrombeijing blog (VPN needed) should appeal with posts like "Proof of Linear Extrapolation of embassy pm2.5-aqi relationship above 500" and "Demystifying air quality numbers" – not necessarily light reading if you’re numerically challenged (like me) but insightful all the same.
Meanwhile The Wall Street Journal’s China Real Time Report has a slideshow of photos showing just how ugly it’s been out there and BeijingCream points us to a Bloomberg piece (VPN needed) citing an alarming increase in the number of cardiac arrest patients in Beijing emergency rooms since last Friday.
Finally, and most importantly, if you’re waiting with baited breath to exhale (and inhale), keep your fingers crossed that the winds will pick up and blow this gunk away on Wednesday.