Under the Dome

Apartment buildings in Shenzhen, China (January 2014)

A Growing Consciousness of Air Pollution

During the time we lived in Delhi we became conscious of Air Pollution. It wasn’t measured then in the way it is in China or Singapore, and daily statistics on the Air Quality Levels were not available. But we bought an Air Purifier, and we could see the pollution with it.

It has a colour indicator to show how hard it is working. Blue means that the air quality is good, and it slows down or even stops the fan from working. Pink means there is a problem with the Air Quality, and Red is an alert – it is working hard to make the air clean.

We watched it hover between Pink and Red for most of the day, especially in Winter and during the Summer dust storms. Only during monsoon did it stay blue for long periods of time. We cleaned the front barrier filter of black soot every month. We bought a second one, and ran them night and day in the lounge and our bedrooms.

It was only after we left that Delhi’s pollution levels started to be compared with Beijing.

A difference in Air Quality

And then we moved to Singapore. We put our two Air Purifiers into our bedrooms. And after a year the indicator finally came up for us to clean the filter.

But still we were glad to have them in “Clean Singapore“. The colour indicator regularly changes over to pink, and sometimes even red. The black soot that it had sucked up from the Sumatran fires was sticky and hard to remove from the filter. We were glad it had taken that away from our lungs. We thought consciously about shutting the doors next time the smog comes.

Having an Air Purifier in our house made us conscious of the Air Quality and the pollution in it, even in Singapore.

Chai Jing’s Under the Dome

When Chai Jing’s Under the Dome started making news I had to watch it, and the scene where they film an operation on a woman’s lungs has stayed with me ever since. She is a non-smoker, but the doctors think she is a smoker. She has lived in Beijing all her life, and her lungs are filled with black soot. Living in this pollution is not better than being a smoker, as the patient’s lung cancer shows.

This pollution is not just a China Problem

The reality though is that this pollution might be worse in China, but it is not just a China problem. Throughout the film examples are shown of London, Japan, and Los Angeles. You could add Moscow or Dubai to the list so easily.

We are not conscious of what the pollution levels are like in most of our cities because we don’t have an Air Purifier that indicates to us when we need to be concerned, and we don’t see a daily measurement. We consider that if the sky looks clear, then it must be OK. Even in Delhi, on clear blue days, we thought it was OK.

The reality is also that pollution levels are rising world wide, and our leaders are not making substantive agreements to change direction. We at home are not making substantive changes either.

So what can we do?

Start by watching the film – the link is below. It is really eye opening. 

Look at your own house and see what you can change. If you live near a main road, consider getting an Air Purifier – research shows that pollution is worst near major roads in any city. Think about what else you could do – could you stop using your fire for warming the house in winter? Reduce your use of plastics? Use your car less?

I like it that she asks businesses in her neighbourhood to also make an effort – to install a filter on their ovens, and cover the pile of building supplies that is open to the wind.

We can also take a look at our governments and their track records in tackling pollution. Ask them to change direction. Ask them to start measuring pollution levels.

A greater awareness means more questions

Recently I had a call about a job in China, and despite having wanted to shift to there for the last 10 years, I turned it down. I decided to choose my health, over a dream move to China. I decided not to become a smoker.

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