When Los Angeles was struck by terrible smog in the 1940s, everyone sprang into action. Scientists studied the causes, lawmakers worked to enact legislation to curb those causes, manufacturers came out with new designs to lessen the gases that led to the problem, and today the smog, while still present, is much less of a disruption on everyday life. This is how America responded to the smog crisis: research, committees, work, and solutions.
Beijing is currently dealing with what is likely even worse smog. Their response has been a little different.
Yes, China is instructing their citizens to deal with it. While their industry booms and continues to place them among the highest of the world powers, the environmental impacts are engulfing one of the largest and most vibrant cities in the world. But the Chinese government is not turning its back on this city. It is helping its citizens combat the health risks the smog brings by releasing a guide with ten tips on what to do to not, you know, die from smog.
Some of those tips are just good ideas in general, such as drinking more water and teas, and eating foods with lots of calcium and Vitamin D. A few more are sensible, such as not walking around during rush hour traffic.
Others, however, show just how bad the problem is. Tip #2 is to wear a mask whenever you go outside, which just admits that the air is too toxic to breathe straight on. Tip #3 suggests that, whenever you get back inside from any activity outside, you wash your face and sinus cavities and any exposed skin. So the air is not just too toxic to breathe, but too toxic to walk around in without washing immediately afterward.
Tip #6 tells residents not to wear contact lenses, because the pollutants in the smog can get underneath the lenses and irritate the eyes.
I have to hand it to the Chinese. They really came up with the superior solution here. Their decision to tell their citizens to live with the horrible conditions they are creating is allowing their economy to surge.
They are ignoring putting regulations into place to improve the environment that would force businesses to spend heavily on making changes to their way of business, and throwing untold dollars (or whatever the Chinese use for currency; rupees?) at making physical alterations to their factories to reduce the pollution. This allows the Chinese corporations to focus their profits into hiring more employees and reinvesting into their company, as well as providing more capital for use as taxes and/or bribes.
It also stimulates their economy in more direct ways. The protective mask industry must be booming. Peddlers of soap and clean water are likely making a killing, so that the air isn’t doing the killing. Eyeglass manufacturers finally found a way to deal with the pesky contact lens threat. People are likely (wisely) investing in oxygen tank providers. The higher number of employees retained means there are more people with money to spend, and the deteriorated environment means there’s more they have to spend their money on.
The Chinese are even recognizing ways to protect their tourism industry. The smog blocks out the sunrise and sunset so often that they have decided to just improve upon God’s designs and broadcast them on giant screens.
It’s even given more people a chance to be caught in a surprise Tiananmen Square recreation, as you could be walking down a street and not notice a tank coming right at you until it’s practically on top of you. It’s an adventure for the whole family!
The downside, I suppose, is that people could get sick and die. But is that even a downside for China? They have been dealing with an overpopulation problem for decades now and enforcing some rather harsh regulations to try to prevent it from getting out of hand. And this pollution problem hits the most densely populated area they have! All things considered, you have to wonder if this smog isn’t viewed as more of a solution than a problem.
I guess that’s why the tenth and final tip for dealing with the smog in Beijing was included; Chinese officials probably have no problem following it.