China has been addressing their environmental crisis head on, with environmental business taxes, factory shutdowns with tighter regulations, and heavy renewable energy investment.
Air quality however has been an ongoing crisis causing 1.1 million reported pre-mature deaths in 2015. A study published recently suspected smog to kill 1/3 people based in 74 of China’s cities; making smog just as dangerous as smoking in the country.
Hearing about these hard facts can often lead western article publishers to almost romanticize Chinas environmental situation; using dark and menacing headlines and descriptions. As I read more and more articles about China, I came across many western news outlets doing this, including Popular Science writing, “Earlier this week, a thick layer of smog rolled into China’s capital city, turning skyscrapers into shadows and clear air into a yellow fog…the smog rolls in like a dust storm in a desert, billowing into the streets of Beijing.” While this statement is true, I feel that it’s wrong to write in a way that would probably be different than someone actually experiencing the event; all the while your goal is to simply impress and captivate readers with strong imagery that terrifies.
Even though it isn’t much of a big deal at all that writers do this, it still feels wrong to use imagery in such a way where the objective is to mystify and scare about something none of us have even come into contact with.
Our imagination can take us away from the realities of living in such a dangerous condition. Would the people experiencing this event write a news headline by using grandiose words that make it seem like they are living in a nightmare? I’m not sure. The wellbeing of themselves, family, and neighbors has been impacted in a way that many of us don’t understand.
Images of a dystopian society, ruled by the upper class, set in a foreign country sounds like George Orwell’s “1984.” This leads people to rationale their fear in a way that dramatizes, reflecting Hollywood architypes from movies like Blade Runner. I think this echoes western societies deepest fears of a society gone awry, where exists a complete disregard for public health and safety. This isn’t good outlook for any reader to be left with.
Maybe China does resemble some of these characteristics, but it doesn’t help the reader make sense of the situation when they are forced into thinking about negative problematic emotions. I think having anecdotes of civilians affected tell their own perspective will express a reality that makes the reader feel a sense of compassion and understanding of the dangers that smog has on their lives. This may invoke more inquiry to personal emotions of the citizens and put a human element to what is happening on such a large scale.
The good news is that the Chinese government has also recently set goal of reaching normal air quality standards by 2035. There are policies being made and considered to address smog. The rate of foreign investment into green technologies is also expected to increase as time moves forward. I can’t wait to see the new green technologies that China is going to produce and what we may adapt to here in the west.