Thursday, February 9, 2012

Normal Shanghai Air Quality

In my business travels, I've been to Shanghai a dozen or so times.  In the photo to the right, I've been in both of these structures.  In the fore ground is the tallest building in Shanghai, in which a Hyatt hotel is located.  I've been to the top of it.  In the back ground, is the "space needle" radio & observation tower, where tourists are JAMMED in, body-to-body, odor-to-odor, a crush of crowds that would upset even the most laissez-faire fire marshal on the ground, disregarding that these people are crammed in 100s of meters in the filthy, lead laden air. 

The dingy, smog-filled atmosphere in Shanghai, the "New York of China", and this is Pudong, the "Manhattan" of Shanghai, is normal.  In each of my visits, this was the typical air quality I saw not only in Shanghai, but also in Beijing, Chengdu, Shenzhen, Chongqing, and Xian.  In fact, the photo here shows relatively GOOD air quality because you can see both structures, which are less than 1 kilometer away from each other.  This is not rain or fog, this is typical smog in China.

Just beyond the space needle is the Huangpijiang river, that can barely be seen through the snog from the observation level of the space needle. To the left, just out of the picture's frame, is the Pudong Shangri-la hotel, also on the river ("on the Bund") where I usually stayed, all of these structures are within walking distance of each other - a walk through a gray, dusty, heavily-under-construction, trash strewn urban landscape.  Or short cab rides, to zip from door to door, and avoid the trash and spittle and fence-blocked sidewalks.

Contrast the photo above to the photo of Manhattan's Central Park to the left.  Yes, there's a gray and less-than-pleasant Hudson River there, but you can see green trees, building outlines, shadows, detail.  This photo was taken roughly around 30,000 feet, or an altitude about 30 times higher than the Shanghai photo.  One might say "you're comparing apples and oranges!".  Well, not really.   I am comparing a dirty crab apple to a sweet, succulent, polished honey crisp.  Or maybe it's a comparison between industrial grade citrus concentrate to hand picked, organically grown, fresh squeezed orange juice.

So for a better example of what firm, effective, enforced government environmental regulations can do take a look at the two photos of Los Angeles, taken roughly 18 years apart (circa 1994, vs 2012).  While I have visited the LAX airport on an Australian flight stop-over I've never spent any time in LA.  I have heard Bill Maher state over the last 15 years, how the air quality in LA valley has improved to the point where now, in 2011 and 2012, you can "see the mountains again".  Mountains that were previously occluded by the pervasive smog from the 70s, 80s, and 90s.  Take a wild guess which photo below is the 1994 image, and which one is 2012.
Every time I hear Republican primary candidates talk about "job killing environmental regulations", I think about this contrast that I have personally experienced.  I don't want the United States to turn into China with indentured servitude, shortened life spans, a poisoned environment & rampant corruption (though we're already well on the way to the corruption part). LA has been cleaning up their terrible air quality for the last 50 years.  As a nation, do we want to begin a corporately driven march from the clean milestones reached now, towards a smog-filled, Shanghai-like future?  I hope not.  Il faut voir.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.