“When a lovely flame dies, Smoke gets in your eyes….” ~ The Platters, Smoke Gets in Your Eyes
Okinawa was put under an air quality alert this week as “fluctuating higher levels of pollutant aerosols [were] anticipated…,” the first time I recall this happening in my more than seven years spent on this island paradise. And the source?
Pollution. Made in China.
It’s an amazing coincidence as I just posted a blog discussing the massive pollution problem in China, witnessed firsthand during a trip there last November. See Pollution, Made in China for more.
Now, I’m not anti-China. In fact, it would be relatively easy to fall in love with what China can offer. Jody and I even found ourselves talking about living in Shanghai, it was that, well, “cool.” And then there were all the surprising turns that we didn’t expect. All those expectations and stereotypes that turned out to be patently false. See Everybody was Kung Fu Fighting: Misconceptions about China more just a few of those realizations.
So, walking outside yesterday, I was struck immediately by a slight odor in the air, one that was able to overcome the strong aroma of the steady sea breeze blowing salt and ocean across our entire neighborhood. But it was my limited sight line, my obstructed view-shed from our 5th floor building’s breezeway that stopped me in my tracks. There it was, the oppressive and offensive haze that was so ubiquitous in China, now the most recent but unwelcome import to Okinawa.
As forecasted, pollution from China swept across the East China Sea to affect Okinawa and beyond. While the smaller, most dangerous particulate matter (“PM2.5”) levels didn’t reach critical levels, they were hazardous to those at risk or who had respiratory vulnerabilities. The air quality on Okinawa reached 154 on the 5th of February, a state considered “unhealthy,” while the most dangerous PM2.5 measure hit up into the 60’s, also considered troublesome. By any measure, though, when pollution is thick enough to see and smell, it’s a problem, simply and most basically by being an affront to our senses, and an insult to Mother Nature. At worst, it portends a bleak future for the entire area, if not the globe. All based on pollution…originating from China.
If you think this issue is being overstated, I answer with this: you have not spent any time experiencing the pollution of China firsthand. And if you still think, perhaps, that my sinuses are too sensitive, or that I have an owl’s eyesight and see the pollution differently than everyone else, check out this website where you can view movies of airborne pollutants throughout Asia. In fact, it’s so enlightening, I’ve included a screenshot below.
China is facing its own coming crisis in dealing with their relatively unchecked effluence. That’s all fine and well for them; at some point, the people will rise up and force change. But, unfortunately, for the rest of the world, it’ll be too little, too late. China’s poor stewardship of their environment is certainly trashing the Eastern hemisphere, and it’s not too hard to see a time when what they do – or fail to do – will have immense global consequences.