Can’t drink the water, can’t breathe the air

Credit Reuters/Stringer
Rush hour in Daqing, China, October 21st.
Credit Reuters/Stringer

An unusually toxic smog descended on cities in the far northeast of China, near the border with Russia. Harbin, a city of about 11 million people, was virtually shut down, as were smaller cities in the region like Daqing and Shenyang.

Such destructive air pollution events are common in industrial China, and there are no wide-scale efforts to combat them. In late 1952, a killer smog in London caused thousands of deaths and led to radical environmental legislation.

Smog in Harbin, China. October 21st
Smog in Harbin, China. October 21st

It seems sensible that if China is to become the cultural and economic center of the world, it must address these environmental concerns. At some point, economic growth is hindered by the damage done to the land and the people who live on it. Also grand landmarks like the San Sophia church pictured will always have fewer tourists if the backdrop is so grim.

Industry (part I)

When with one last gasp, feudalism

Died on the steps of a grim factory

Its body was ignored as the clock chimed and

The serfs of old trod upon it

It was a revolution they say, and with it

The walls rose up, bigger, thicker than before

And the pebbled soil beneath

Covered with squares of dull stone

And paced adamantly by grim-faced foremen

At the gate each man was stripped of all

History and talent he had accumulated

All luxuries

For all that was needed was a sixty-degree turn, counterclockwise

Every nine seconds- truly

A revolution of the highest order

The bright eyes dimmed, and the clamor became a

de facto moment of silence that nobody sought to end-

What was there to cry for in jubilation, when

Their peril and suffering was taken from them

And turned in short order into

A tailored suit for the man who watched above

A new era inaugurated, but age old struggles

Would come again, as in all eras that lay

Long forgotten and built over

On the same rotten foundation