A Sandstorm in China Revives Memories of Airpocalypses Past

Xi Jinping encouraged Inner Mongolian Communist Party members to keep up their efforts to repair the environment when they met last week.

Aside from money and silver mountains, he said, “clear streams and green mountains” are equally valued.

When it comes to pollution in China, it was a stark reminder of exactly how bad things could get shortly.

This year’s worst dust storm in China’s history caused hundreds of planes to be grounded and schools to be closed across the north of the country. It also brought misery to tens of millions of people.

Storms like this one, which brought back memories of smog-induced “apocalypses,” prompted the government to step up efforts to combat what had become a political and public health issue.

In and around Washington, D.C., these measures have a significant impact on air quality. Following the COVID tragedy, China’s northern desert regions have been impacted by climate change, and a late winter storm has contributed to the oppressive fog that has settled this week.

On Twitter, Greenpeace China policy director Li Shuo said that an ecological calamity was “likely” taking place in Beijing.

In an interview, Li attributed Monday’s storm to “land and ecological deterioration” in Beijing’s northern and western regions. According to him, Beijing’s industrial pollution so far this year has topped the average of the last four years.

Over the weekend, a winter storm swept across Mongolia, causing the dust to rise. At least nine people were killed as the storm toppled the power towers in the neighborhood.

This disaster had a significant impact on most of northern China. Environmental Protection Agency air quality index evaluated particles associated with airborne dust and fine sand over the hazardous level of contamination.” Particulate matter of a size deemed highly hazardous, known as PM2.5, was found to be at dangerously high levels.

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Everyone else was requested to stay indoors unless necessary, except children, the elderly, and those who are ill. There would be a soupy grey haze by the afternoon, and pollution was expected to last until Tuesday morning’s early commute.

Sarcastic wit was a common response in the area.

In the dystopian 2017 science fiction movie “Blade Runner 2049,” a view of the headquarters of China’s official television network was grafted onto an image from the dystopian 2017. Ultraman images marched through Beijing’s shadows in a different direction.

Because of recent improvements in air quality, newcomers to Beijing may have never experienced air like this before.

Wang Wei, a recent college graduate from the central Chinese state of Henan who recently came to Beijing, remarked, “I couldn’t see the building on the other side of the street.” I couldn’t believe how golden the sky was when I saw it.

Still, the Communist Party’s top leaders are particularly interested in environmental issues. There have been numerous calls for a “green revolution” in China’s economy by Xi Jinping, and he said in 2013 that China would scale up its efforts to reduce carbon emissions.

As a result of officials’ insistence on economic expansion, pollution has become a major issue.

Pollution from increasing steel and cement production has been blamed for many days of high pollution while just concluded parliamentary talks were taking place. The lack of more explicit government actions to tackle climate change was therefore a source of dissatisfaction for many environmental organizations following the Beijing sessions.

Despite this, Xi’s appeals for action appear to compel some officials to take action at times. The country’s Ministry of Ecology and Environment issued a warning last week after discovering that four steel factories in Hebei province’s steel-making heartland had failed to lower pollution levels by at least 20%.

In Inner Mongolia, a northern Chinese region whose delegates Xi met in Beijing, the People’s Daily published a piece about ways to combat desertification, which has contributed to the dust storms. The post was published exactly one day before the worst pollution in years struck.

There was a statement in there that said, “Yellow sands recede and green trees grow.”

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