Note to Self

February 7, 2013

If I had a blackboard, I would write the following one hundred times as penance:

I will not tempt fate by making fun of Beijing’s air pollution and anyone suffering from a related upper-respiratory condition.

I somehow angered the Gods of Irony last weekend. I wrote about Beijing’s “Airpocalypse” several times, then thought it would be a good idea to exercise on a day when the air resembled pea soup. By that night, I was experiencing a mild itching in the back of my throat, followed shortly thereafter by various and sundry other symptoms over the ensuing seven days.

This week has not been fun at all. I think I’ve learned a valuable lesson.

7 thoughts on “Note to Self

  1. Bill Rich

    What you should write on your blackboard is “Do not run in pea soup.” It is shorter,targets the offending behavior that causes your current suffering, and is applicable whether you ridiculed someone or not.

  2. Bob Walsh

    I’m in Seoul this week. When I lived here 25 years ago, the pollution was pretty bad, and the Han river was an open sewer. Granted, Seoul does not lay in the same industrial dust bowl as Beijing, but coming to Seoul now is a revelation in what can be done in terms of pollution abatement. The skies are clear, the air is breathable, and the riverside parks on the Han are actually places you’d want to go.

    Back in the day, the Koreans had the same excuse: “We’ll work on the environment/labor rights/national healthcare one of these days, but right now we have to focus on building the economy”. It was actually featured in a question on our military proficiency exam in Korean language.

    The fact is, the Koreans have done it, through unusually (for Koreans) rational public policy and infrastructure development. Some Chinese cities, like Nanjing, and maybe other exemplars are working on it.

    Seoul has a decent metro system, and this took tens of thousands of diesel buses off the road. New cars comply with stringent emissions standards, as all are made to US spec, and regulations force older cars off the roads. A variety of incentives are in place (toll-free driving, low/no registration fees) for smaller cars, and the city has largely been weaned off of coal for heating.

    It can be done, and the contrast of Seoul’s quality-of-life with what it had been is pretty stark.

  3. Marius Van Andel

    ….. and of course industrial pollution remains a British invention of the 19th century when people had no choice but to drink porter as clean water was unavailable.

    I remember when all buildings in London were black. At the time I did not realize the cause of it. That came only in the late sixties (of the 20th century) when they started to wash the exterior walls and it turned out that often the original colour was white.