Environmental Activism in China
Lifan (Carol) Xue
China witnesses rapid economic growth after the economic reform in 1978. This economic development brings people great wealth and also a huge cost on the environment. Water and air pollution are among most serious environmental problems, others like soil retrogression and degradation, deforestation, and human health problems coming with these issues are becoming more severe too. In addition, due to China’s biggest population on earth, the impact of these pollutions goes beyond border and becomes a global issue too.
However, there is comfort to know that western developed countries like United States, United Kingdom and Japan have been through serious environmental issues too and are able to reverse them. This method is interpreted as “pollute first, control later” in Chinese context, which means environmental cost is inevitable when developing Chinese economy, and measures would be taken towards this environmental cost later with a more solid economic base than before.
II. From Small Cities to Metropolitans
Now China’s achievements in economic growth are well known to the whole world, as well as a high environmental cost. Tianying, China, a small city that might appear unfamiliar to most native Chinese, is known by environmentalists for its place among the worst cities of lead poisoning. Also in the watch list is Linfen, China, a city always in thick grey or even black fog, is so polluted that would never have a clear day even if the weather reports say, “clear”. Small improvements have been taken to improve the condition, but a lot more needs to be done.
Some may say these are small cities that can be “sacrificed” temporarily, but, even big cities and Chinese metropolitans are facing the same problems, and one of the most serious air pollution seen these years happened in Beijing, the capital of China. Air pollution is measured by particles per cubic meter of air, PM indexes in abbreviation. PM2.5 is one of measures, and it measures particles which diameter is less than 2.5 micrometers. The higher the PM2.5 index, the unhealthier it gets, the more serious this air pollution is. PM2.5 also gives a healthy/unhealthy ranking based on the score. A score of 25 is the safe level designated by World Health Organization. 0-50 is good air; 51-100 is moderate; 101-150 is unhealthy for sensitive groups; 151-200 is unhealthy; 201-300 is very unhealthy; 301-500 is hazardous. Beijing’s average PM2.5 in January is 194, with a peak of 886 recorded on Jan.12, which is even out of the ranking chart on Jan.12.
Ironically, PM2.5 was first publicized by U.S. embassy in Beijing, because such information is filed in “secrete agenda” by Chinese administration and is not open to the public until last year. After Jan.12, government for the first time released an orange level warning, indicating air pollutions cannot be overlooked anymore. Also, the state adopts an emergency response plan for...