Thursday, December 22, 2016

China Crisis: Imagine Having To Flee Your City Because The Smog Is So Bad

For some reason, these Chinese students were forced
to take exams outdoors in a thick, toxic smog.  
The only thing obscuring the skies over my house in relatively clean Vermont today is pure white snowflakes.

Which makes me doubly glad I don't live in northern and central China, where the smog has gotten so bad people are fleeing the pollution-choked cities.

According to the Guardian newspaper:

"Tens of thousands of 'smog refugees" have reportedly fled China's pollution-stricken morth after the country was hit by the latest 'airpocalyse, forcing almost half a billion people to live under a blanket of toxic fumes.

Hugh swaths of north and central China have been living under a pollution 'red alert' since last Friday when a dangerous cocktail of pollutants transformed the skies into a yellow and charcoal-tinted haze"

These winter time smog attacks in China have been creating health hazards for years now. In the winter, temperature inversions often form, with warm air overlying cold air near the surface.

That warm air forms a lid, trapping pollutants in the cold air instead of letting it escape. Sunshine often breaks up inversions, allowing the pollution to drift away. But the weak winter sun is often incapable of breaking inversions like the stronger spring and summer sun can.

The Guardian said Ctrip, China's leading online travel agent, said it expected 150,000 travelers from China to head to places like Australia, Indonesia, Japan and the Maldives to escape the killer smog.

More from the Guardian:

"Yang Xinglin, who also fled to Chongli (a mountain resort away from the pollution) said she requested time off from her job at a state-owned real estate firm so she did not have to inhale the smog.

'You ask me why I left Beijing? It's because I want to live,' Yang, 27, told the Guardian."

Some who wanted to flee the smog couldn't because the poor visibility associated with the pollution was grounding hundreds of flights.

One particular source of outcry over the pollution came when a school headmaster in Henan province forced eighth grade students to take exams outdoors all day in the thick smog, despite the obvious health risks.

As you can see by the photo in this post, you can barely make out the students in the smog.

Chinese government authorities had ordered schools closed because of the smog, but the principal of the school decided to go ahead with the exams anyway since they'd already been organized, said the Straights Times. 

It's unclear why the school made the students take exams outside in the heavily polluted air instead of indoors, where it might have been a little safer.

The principal of the school has since been suspended.

The air is even worse than usual in China this winter because the government is pumping stimulus into polluting industries to prop up the economy. Greenpeace said poorly regulated steel producers are adding to the smog even more than in past winters.

Greenpeace says there is hope in China that things could get better in future winters because use of coal is expected to decrease and the government is investing in cleaner industry and environmental regulations.

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