Last November, a colleague from our Shanghai office came to San Francisco and took dozens of pictures of the sky. She said over and over again “your sky is so blue” and I thought “of course it is, blue is the color of the sky.”
I recently returned from my first visit to the red country, touring through Shenzhen factories on the China mainland. The trip was eye-opening in many ways (FB/twitter/gmail didn’t work, lo mein and corn on the cob are served for breakfast and there aren’t toilet seats), but the thing that shocked me most was the color of the sky, which wasn’t blue.
Being in China, I realized what my Shanghai colleague meant - the sky isn’t blue everywhere anymore. In China, on a sunny day, in Shenzhen which has much less smog than Beijing or Shanghai, the sky is gray.
On really bad days, residents living in Northern cities, such as Harbin, can’t see across the street and planes are delayed regularly due to issues landing in the smog. Beijing officials are looking at trying to wash away air pollution with artificial rain or suck it up with large vacuums (seriously), and Shanghai cops have to wear mini-filters in their noses.
This article gives you a good sense of what the air quality in Beijing looks like. Beijing air pollution levels have been recorded at over 400 PM2.5 (the number of harmful particulates larger than 2.5 microns per cubic meter of air). The World Health Organization describes 25 PM2.5 as healthy air and found that air pollution contributed to 7 million deaths worldwide in 2012, 40% of which were in Asia.
I love energy. I love the energy allowing me to write this blog post right now and the energy that allows me to fly home and see my family. But we have a choice. We can continue to rely on fossil fuels as our main source of energy or we can keep pushing for renewable, clean burning options. If we stick with fossil fuels, our skies will not be blue for long.
I’m going to keep biking to work and promoting renewable energy where I can because a blue sky is important to me. I hope you make the same choice.
or like this (photo credit: Alexander F. Yuan/AP):