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03:56
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Through the year before the Olympics, while we were living in Beijing, I used to do daily views-out-the-window as a guide to the challenge the air-cleanup-people faced. For instance, the photo above is a downtown area a few weeks before the opening ceremony.

Therefore I am sobered by news reports, official warnings, and messages from friends in Beijing, Xi’an, and elsewhere saying that the air pollution there is worse than it has ever been before. Here’s a gauge: the picture above was taken back when the level of dangerous “PM 2.5” small-particulate pollution, as reported by the rogue @BeijingAir monitoring site on the roof of the US Embassy in Beijing, was in the low-300s “hazardous” range. The readings in the past few days have been in the previously unimaginable 700s-and-above range, reported as “beyond index” by @BeijingAir. The worst I have personally seen in Beijing was in the high 400s, and that day I did not understand how life could proceed any further in such circumstances. The conditions this weekend have been much worse:

As a place-holder and set of reading tips, here are a few points for now:

This is yet another reminder of a fact impossible to forget when you’re inside China but that often gets glossed over in credulous accounts of the New Chinese Century. Namely, that economic growth has come at the cost of environmental disaster, which is in turn (according to me) the most urgent and important of several limits and dangers the Chinese system faces. Every country as it develops has gone through its hellish-despoliation era, and of course the world as a whole is still at this stage. But the scale and speed of China’s transformation make its case unique. …

Via The Latest Chinese Pollution Crisis - James Fallows - The Atlantic

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