Grey skies made in China

I stood out my door atop a hill yesterday and watched the blazing sun shine itself to sleep beyond the Adirondack Mountains.

 It was a clear day, a good day and a normal day, in this wedge of the world.

I saw Burlington in its entirety while sparkling rays dyed Lake Champlain. 

Then, my mind drifted out of this town. I was reminded of a place where, right now, you cannot see much farther than half of a block, down this very hill. 

The sun appears in the sky as a muddled light, hazing down on a city that forgot it. The moon no longer comes out in its whole magnanimity, in a place where pollution is rife.

I think of the city of Beijing, capitol of China.

 Recently, air quality levels rose 40 times above health and safety recommendations. The smog beat out the oxygen in the air, caking the atmosphere with carbon and nitrogen oxides. 

City-dwellers continued their daily commutes, with their gadgets and accessories, phones and respirator masks. Then, the super-plumes, smog storms washed down the valley and “smog days” replaced snow days.

The schools closed, the offices closed and the city was asleep, paralyzed by its country’s pollution.

A safe level of air contaminants, judged by the World Health Organization (WHO), is 25 parts per million (ppm) of small air particles. 

The Chinese embassy has a legacy of publishing improper air quality readings. 

On Jan 12, of this year, Beijing reported that the air contained pollution of 400 ppm, while the US reported 800 ppm. On Oct 21, a few stations had a reading above 600 ppm; however, most stations had readings over 1,000 ppm. The recording devices could not give readings above 1,000 ppm

We humans seek more than just sustenance; we seek that which gives life meaning. “I thought it was snowing,” housewife and mother Wu Kai said. “Then I realized it wasn’t snow. I have not seen the sun for a long time.” 

I stood and thought about the beauty of the sunset, here on top of the hill. I think of all the romance of this valley, of the earth. I think of what we lose when we shut it out because we desire our cars and plastic toys. 

The tragedy here is the loss of beauty, not just the severe problems on health.