Tag Archives: pollution

Smoke + Fog

It was another day of firsts, including my first straight caffee mocha, my first sweet bun (or manto, steamed buns), and a visit to the first KFC in China.

It was also a day of true smog, thick fog plus the smoky grayness that had been growing since the last rain. A true rain clears the sky. The moist air we got from last night to this noon just made things miserable.

For instance, in this photo of Tianamen Square taken lengthwise:

Central Beijing, 2007

The far end is almost completely obscured. Compare that to the embarrasingly idyllic shots from last year:

Central Beijing, 2006

The air today was worse than anything I experienced last year, whether in Beijing or Tianjin. I’m exhausted from the lack of oxygen. My boycott of National Review and further photos will have to wait for a bit, I fear.

Environmentalism and Authoritarianism in China’s Cities

British Firm Designs Chinese Manhattan,” by Dominic O’Connell, The Sunday Times, 28 August 2005 http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2095-1753339_1,00.html.

Dongtan and Greening China,” by Alex Steffen, WorldChanging, 1 My 2006, http://www.worldchanging.com/archives/004378.html.

A lifetime and a half ago (not quite, but far too long definitely) commentator J.R. emailed me some articles and asked my thoughts.

China has accomplished a miracle of economic development, raising hundreds of millions of people out of poverty and forging itself into an industrial powerhouse in just a few decades. But that development has extracted a terrible environmental cost, with China rapidly becoming the most polluted nation on the planet. Indeed, pollution, environmental degradation and resource depletion are so severe in China that a leading government official there warned that unless China can find a more sustainable path, “the miracle will end soon.”

This is true. The need for environmentalism in China is not the sort of pseudo-deep-ecology that is fashionable in schools. The need is not for an aesthetic environmentalism — we want it because it is beautiful — that is behind conversation land and nearly all American environmental pushes. Environmentalism is needed because China is a hellish nightmare of smog and poison.

Are planned cities the solution?

Shanghai, the powerhouse hub of China’s economic miracle, is planning a big expansion with the construction of a new city the size of Manhattan on its doorstep — and it has chosen a British firm to mastermind the design.

Shanghai also claims Dongtan will be the world’s first genuinely eco-friendly city, powered by renewable energy sources and as close to carbon-neutral as possible.

Probably not. If you want to see a planned city in action, check out Brasilia. Or don’t. The capital of Brazil and other Authoritarian High Modernist cites are based on the assumption that one can short circuit the complex adaptive system of human culture. Market-based reforms, such as pollution taxes and evolutionary change, are a surer fix.

SkyFord: City of Pollution

The final segment of my Tianjin Sentiments (perhaps a fitting companion to another blogger’s “Balkan Memories“?) is of the pollution in Tianjin. Tianjin is composed of two characters — Tian meaning Heavenly or Sky, Jin meaning Ford. In a previous post I explained that I would translate Tian as “Heavenly” for beautiful things, and as “Sky” for more prosaic uses. Thus, this post on the pollution in Tianjin discusses contamination in Sky Ford.


The pollution in Skyford is everywhere. Our local guides explained that it was the result of the building boom that builds new offices, malls, and apartments everywhere. Certainly there was a lot of construction in Tianjin, as there was in Beijing.

Some of the power plants in Tianjin clearly gave off a blackish smoke

Moore cooling plants, these as scene from the train (metro)

At the Port of Tianjin I saw more trucks than I have ever seen, in my life.

Riding in a taxi in this is oddly relaxing: as you’ve already forfeited your life, there is nothing to do but wait.

A Chinese wears a mask (as I did) while gazing out at what was once the Pacific Ocean

To the smog-chocked horizon and beyond, industrial salt ponds grew on the reclaimed land. Plants did not.

Industrial machinery helps process the salt

Salt Town

The ocean was brown. The cause of that was, among other things…

… and oil refinery. The refinery is much, much closer than it looks. The deadly smog makes everything look hazy and far away, and this part of Tianjin had the worst smog of anywhere in China I’ve seen.

While the Ocean is dead, the port lives. The amount of shipping containers was Cyclopean, if not Lovecraftian

View of death from the former deathship, the Soviet ACC Kiev.

This was on the LSD-like riverfront of Skyford, near the strawberry house and waterfall. Ugly beyond description.

Tianjin, a tdaxp series.