Chasing Mirages

Tag: air pollution

When air is not free

by on Feb.21, 2013, under Posts

One of the biggest headlines out of China in recent weeks has been Beijing’s “airpocalypse“.   It’s heartbreaking when people can’t even take clean air for granted.  Here’s a sensationalistic report about a correlation between childhood air quality and intelligence.  Will Beijingers (and much of China) soon be plagued with a generation of even greater idiocy?

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Beijing’s Toxic Pea Soup

by on Nov.18, 2010, under Quickies

Here’s an update on this story: U.S. Embassy Creates New Air Quality Description for Beijing: Crazy Bad

According to the U.S. Embassy’s air quality monitor in Beijing, Beijing’s Air Quality Index as of 1:00AM on November 18, 2010 is 464.


This is the worst AQI I’ve seen.   Ironically, I was having lunch with a friend yesterday and we were both pretty happy about how good the air in Beijing had been the last few weeks, clear enough to see quite a few stars at night.  I’m in Hong Kong now, glad to be out of the toxic air and the cold weather.

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Blue Skies in Taipei

by on Oct.03, 2010, under Posts

I don’t want to take up a lot of space defending my reasons for including a post about Taiwan in a blog discussing “Environmentalism in China.”  Let’s just leave it at a fact that nobody can deny:  Taiwan is the operational base of a political entity called ROC, aka the Republic of China.

I spent a bit of time in Taipei when I was a kid in the 80s and early 90s.  I have vivid memories of how dirty t he place was, at least compared to where I grew up in the U.S.  I remember being shocked when I came back to Taiwan as an adult in 2002, about eleven years after my previous visit.  The skies were blue, the rivers and creeks were clear, the streets were free of dog poo (we used to call it 黄金 (huang jin, meaning yellow gold), and that distinctive Taipei smell (those of you who visited Taiwan in the 80s and 90s know exactly what I’m talking about – a mix of rotting plant matter and sewage) had all but disappeared.

Here’s a picture I took near one of my favorite bookstores in the world, the Eslite (誠品書店,Chengpin shudian) in Xinyi district, Taipei.  Visible in the picture is the Taipei 101 tower, the tallest skyscraper in the world for a few months before the Burj Khalifa in Dubai overtook it in 2004.

I marveled out loud at how blue the sky was, and my cousin and his friends, Taipei locals, told me that the air quality was not as good as usual because many people were making burnt offerings for 中原普渡, a festival that’s celebrated in the seventh month of the lunar calendar to pay homage to wandering ghosts.  I asked them if they remembered when the sky was always grey and looks of bewilderment shaded their faces.  “No, the sky is always blue on sunny days, and usually even bluer than today!”

I turned to my cousin and asked him if he remembered when we were kids and, after playing outside all day, we would run our fingernails along our arms and scrape off a layer of black, like ink under our nails?  Or how our boogers would always be black from the air pollution (kind of like what happens in Beijing now)?  <Warning – the next picture is not for the faint of heart> (continue reading…)

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Bluebird day in Beijing

by on Aug.07, 2010, under Quickies


This is the first time I’ve seen a “Good” rating for Beijing’s AQI in awhile – maybe since June.   Please refer to this earlier post for more information about AQI and Beijing’s air quality.

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Not my kind of death wish

by on Jul.29, 2010, under Posts

Note:  Please take all of my “calculations” below with a huge grain of salt.  I’m not a statistician, a mathematician,  an air quality expert, or a public health expert (the truth comes out – I’m not much of anything).   As always, comments are welcome!

I’m back!  It’s been a hectic few months, but now I’m newly unemployed and back in the driver’s seat.  So let’s go.

As you may have heard, the air quality in Beijing is just shy of phenomenal.   In March 2009,  ECA International, a global human resources service company, ranked Beijing as the city with the second worst air pollution in the world, behind only New Delhi.

Back in 2000, I spent a summer in Beijing and almost forgot that they sky is supposed to be blue.  This summer, I’ve seen blue skies twice so far.   Despite this anecdotal evidence of improvement, the air quality here is still dismal, a fact that even the mayor of Beijing acknowledged earlier this year.  Here’s a picture I took this afternoon:

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