How to be an environmentalist at home, the land of plastic dragons #1 【Starting with a “bang”】
Today is the unofficial last day of the lunar new year celebration. The fireworks have been deafening.
You’d think people would think twice before lighting up a whole bunch of fire crackers when the AQI (air quality index) is indicating hazardous air quality.
Here is the air quality of the whole country at 6pm on the last day of Year of the Monkey. The darker the colour, the worse the pollution, people who are elderly or ill are advised to reduce outdoor activities when AQI approaches the orange level. Go figure what dark scarlet means…
After billions of dollars of fireworks and firecrackers…
Here is the air quality at 2pm on the first day of Year of the Chicken.
Correlation rarely gets clearer or scarier than that.
Cities like SH that had restricted fireworks saw a drastic reduction of PM2.5 during this time of the year. As high as 90% reduction of PM2.5 from before the ban. On the contrary, BJ is one of the cities that hadn’t put a ban on it（even though restricting measures were taken at some degree, i.e. limit firecracker sales to a 10 day period) and the PM 2.5 concentration went up 800% on New Year’s eve.
To be fair, it could be worse.
As I was told by a local, it was much worse in the past years. To the extent that you couldn’t tell the sound of exploding fireworks apart. It just sounded like waves of thunderstorms due to the sheer amount of explosives bursting out of their red paper packaging into SOx, NOx and PM2.5.
Why are people so keen on letting things explode at the dawn of new year?
Interesting folklore: Vicious monsters called “nian” (same word as “year”) would come to the villages and do all sorts of violent things on new year’s eves. The loud noise from firecrackers supposedly possesses the power to scare them away.
Hence the tradition to let off at least a whole bundle of firecrackers.
Fascinating custom no? Not less justifiable than chopping down nice big trees to put presents under for Christmas.
It only becomes a problem when factoring in the magnitude.
CN’s eternal struggle when it comes to environmental issues.
It’s sad to let the traditions go.
I empathise with those who had to suffer through “Chunyun” (Spring Festival travel rush) just to get home for a traditional holiday.
Even worse when the absent of festive celebrations only brings a few days of less-than-catastrophic air.
It does seem so trivial in the face of an entire winter season of smothering smog.
The silver lining is, I do see flickering signs of improvement.
More on that later.
How PM2.5 could make you die early
Due to the ever harsher cen& sor* ship at home, I’m learning from past mistakes and avoiding as many sensitive words as I can manage. This includes country (especially mine) and city names, and basically anything with direct political implications…