Thursday, October 18, 2007


The US and China are actually in agreement on this; neither wants to reduce growth. This is unfortunately a typical scene: Landing at Beijing airport in late July, a year before the 2008 Olympic Games, visibility was poor due to smog.

Officials say they are working hard to cut pollution but won't say what's actually in the air and don't in fact regularly monitor two of the most dangerous pollutants: ozone and fine particulate matter. They also like to use averages and indexes rather than talk about specific locations (such as the Olympic village) and they are not very transparent about how and where their monitoring stations are placed. Athletes are worried.

A lot of the pollution comes from outside of Beijing, but it's unclear how hard officials are leaning on the surrounding areas to clean up before the Olympics. Detailed information here. Satellite data has confirmed Beijing is the air pollution capital of the world.

When I first arrived in Beijing in 2005, the view from my apartment window towards Pacific Century Place in Sanlitun, on an ordinary day, often looked like this:

That same view on a bad day looked like this: