In this article I would like to use my own travel experiences to underline a problem that has been discussed by the world’s leaders in Lima for the last few weeks.
At the UN- Climate Change Conference the world gathered together to set up concrete climate protection plans to be adopted at the next conference in Paris in 2020.
What was even only supposed to be a preparation for the real action and implementation of climate protection ended up as a vague accumulation of compromises. For me what is incomprehensible the most, is that countries like China defended themselves against a monitoring of their climate protection aims.
From 2012 on I lived in Beijing for a year and besides all the great and amazing things I saw and got to know during that time I also learned that smog hurts. It hurts badly. And no one I’ve ever talked to in the city was happy with their health- related quality of life.
Of course the concentration of the smog varies day- to- day. Sometimes the sky is just as blue as it could be also in Beijing, but the pictures of people walking through the gray fog with their breathing masks on don’t lie either.
Especially in winter, when the wind pushes the smog up against the mountains north and west of the city the color of the sky doesn’t change at all for weeks.
You wake up in the morning to find yourself surrounded by dust and when you go to bed at night everything looks just the same.What I missed the most were the colors of a sunset, which you almost never see in Beijing, so that
the whole city stands still to take a picture if some red lines appear at the horizon ones.
What makes the air pollution especially bad also is the knowledge about what the smog does to you. You may miss the sunset and the beautiful look of some clouds crossing the sky, but what’s even worse is that you breath in the gray poison every day and you just can’t do anything about it.
The mental effect of knowing about that maybe is even worse than the actual physical impact, which especially for children and elderly persons is very unhealthy up to deathly.
Still, I feel a bit more optimistic about the situation than I did before, when only seeing the pictures of the smog on TV and newspapers. The citizens of Beijing feel the same way that I do about the pollution and there is some kind of public resistance against the unbearable amount of smog today. The government can’t cheat on Beijing’s citizens with fake promises and excuses anymore.People have realized that things have to change and I for me that this is the first step to make a real change in China’s handling of the environment.
Conferences, where other countries try to make China’s government accept any restrictions won’t make the government act as long as China’s people themselves haven’t put up any pressure on the government at all. And that is happening right now. In the last few years environmental protection associations have gained a lot of strength also in China and the government can’t ignore the importance of decrease the amount of air pollution anymore. Now it’s time to take the step from the short- time reactions to a forward- looking climate protection plan, which can’t be realized on a national, but only on an international level, because we all live on the same planet.
By : Carolin Grüning