Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Beijing Air Quality: What Was All the Fuss About?

When the 2008 Summer Olympics were set to open, air quality was all the buzz. Pictures of a hazy, smoggy Beijing were plastered across TV screens, the Internet, and newspapers across the globe. The first few sporting events, we all waited with bated breath to see if our athletes would collapse due to the inferior air quality. Now, with the Games coming to a close, athletes continue to break Olympic and world records with relative ease, and we wonder, what was all the air quality fuss really about?

But hold on, now. Let’s have a look at just some of the emittion-cutting measures that Beijing has taken to improve its air quality. Polluting industries have been closed, cleaner production methods initiated, half of Beijing’s 3.3 million cars removed, public transportation infrastructures built, man-made forests grown, battery-powered cars driven, solar panels installed, and among other environmentally-friendly measures, reports indicate a whopping $17 billion has been invested in cleaning up Beijing’s air.

Is all this work just for show? Perhaps. But one thing’s for sure, we’ve learned something important from the efforts made in Beijing: measures to improve air quality work!

In fact, the air quality in Beijing so far this month has been the best for any summer period over the last 10 years.

Who knows if Beijing will keep up its pledge to improve air quality once the international eye is no longer watching, but really, who are we to say? They’ve researched, indeed initiated, what we here in Canada and the United States are only still talking about.

We’ve had our chance to shake our finger at China, tssk-ing in all our glory, but I think as the Games come to a close, we should open up our own air quality discussion.

As a country, what measures are we going to take to improve our own air quality? As a government, what restrictions are we going to impose on our citizens and corporations?

As citizens, what steps can we take to protect ourselves, our families, until we stop tssk-ing, and start tasking?

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