Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Lets Talk About Pollution

In Ontario, Canada the price of gasoline/fuel can and does fluctuate on a daily basis. As a result of taxes, greed and corporate collusion (that we simply ignore) prices will randomly increase or decrease from .01 cent to .15 cents a litre, usually overnight. Toss in world events, storms and anything else to scare the masses and checking gas prices with your morning coffee becomes a part of your day. The price of gas can literally control your emotions for the day and be the topic of conversation. My personal stress level disappeared when I sold off my truck.

Now, in China, I wake up every morning (thankfully), put on the kettle, turn on my phone and check my weather app. Not so much for temperature but to see what the AQI is, the Air Quality Index. Winter is coming and the air quality is about to deteriorate. Different routine, same results.

My weather app on my mobile phone has an AQI reading below the temperature. If the reading is good there is a little sunshine icon. If the number goes over 75 there is a diamond and if over 100 a skull. Seriously a death skull to announce the air to dangerous to be breathing. The solution of course are masks. They have become a mainstay and at times a bit of a fashion statement with different colours and patterns stylishly displayed on them.  I was told that I would need to buy them for the worst days That should be interesting to say the least.

The main reason there is so much pollution in the winter in the Northern part of China are the coal burning plants that are put into action to provide heat to the masses. They are slowly started up leading up to the colder weather and on November 15th the final 2000 factories are put into action, yes 2000 coal burning factories are started at the same time on the same day. Depending on the temperature November 16th starts the "mask wearing season".

It is estimated that over 1 million people die every year as a direct result of pollution in China. Th long term effects are staggering. Here is a web page with 23 gory pictures that will give you a good idea of the insanity that is happening here. The page has quite a bit of "click bait" and advertising but try and get past it. Otherwise you can put "China pollution" into Google and chose your poison. This list on Wikipedia has the  top 500 polluted cities in the world. Xi'an ranks 87th with an average of 70 PM 2.5 index (particulate matter) so I can not even imagine Zabol Iran with a pm of 217. As a comparative today Toronto's PM 2.5 ranges from 8 - 15. In August 2017 it reached a high of 25 and people were disgusted.

Sadly, this is not only a Chinese problem, it is global. Recently Delhi, India has just surpassed Beijing as having the worst air in the world. It is so bad that it is equated to smoking 44 cigarettes a day. China, India, Iran, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Mongolia all are struggling with pollution and shitty winter air quality.

It is human nature to look at the worst of things, its a survival instinct dating back to our beginnings. China has been a rich and rewarding experience for me. I have really struggled with the debated of staying on for a second year, which could easily turn into a third, fourth and fifth year. I look at my app and the warning today was "close all windows and don't go outside" if you are old or sickly, and we are just starting, the bad days are still ahead of us.

As with the onset of winter in Canada that brings the first snows, they are just a harbinger of what lies ahead. Storms, cold, wind, drifts and sometimes the need to just stay indoors. I do not know why the decision is so difficult except that life here is easy for a Canadian and there is so much more of China to explore. That being said, it is always easy enough to return.

I have decided to make a concerted effort to get a job in Russia with my eyes on Moscow or St. Petersburg. If that does not happen then it is Mongolia, Vietnam or Cambodia. I have 120 days left on my contract then its off to trek in Nepal, India and Sri Lanka for a couple of months with my friend Caitlyn Tran. I have a goal of experiencing 100 countries and I am going to stay the course.

Tomorrows experience will be buying masks to protect me from pollution.

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