The government has just issued a red smog alert. It is the highest level of alert and means that schools and factories will be shut down and half of the cars will be prohibited from the road. It is only the second one ever issued. The first was a couple of weeks ago.
On the surface, this is amazing enough. What’s even more amazing, however, is that the sky is as blue as you can imagine. The Air Quality Index (AQI) from the monitoring station nearest to my home in Beijing is 25 – considered excellent – and there is not even a trace of pollution in the air.
The red designation means that factories and schools will be closed, half of the cars will be prohibited from use, and that the government is advising everyone to stay inside. And while I write this on Friday afternoon, the red alert takes effect on Saturday.
And that’s the tipping point. I cannot remember the government ever giving us advanced warning of what was about to happen.
In addition to all of the restrictions they even said, despite the blue skies, that AQI would probably reach 500, the top of the scale, and a level of pollution that the World Health Organization lists as “excessively polluted” or some such thing. It’s not good.
But on the heels of the Paris Climate Meeting, which has been heralded by the government here as a great success, it is a first in my experience. They are advising us of what hasn’t happened yet.
This may seem very, very small to you. But it isn’t. I can now plan my weekend. And protect my wife and my health.
How do I interpret this? The citizenry has been heard. The government knows that pollution is at the top of their concerns.
And they are responding. On the heels of the Paris Climate Talks I believe this is a sign of hope for all of us.
If 1/5 of the world’s population buys into the issue, that can’t hurt.
Right now I am enjoying the blue sky. In a few days I will let you know how it turns out!
Note: The views expressed in this post are strictly those of the writer acting in a personal capacity.
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