Pollution: China's Lethal Ghost
Under the Dome of China's Environmental Policies
Since 1970, China's population and its global trade reach caused a massive industrialization that overlooked increased soil, air and water pollution. It's difficult to imagine this once pristine country aglow with busy people, bright city lights and a center for tourism would fall to the level of being the world's No. 1 Polluter.
China, unlike most countries of the world focuses less on the link between massive, largely unregulated manufacturing to pollution. Their general focus for nearly four decades has been to stabilize the economy in order to feed the country with the largest population in the world. A glut of manufacturing and industrialization created jobs and increased the overall standard of living throughout China.
The price paid for mass industrialization is a level of pollution that has become a serious danger to the health of Chinese people. It was inevitable that thick layers of pollutants freely emitted into the air would create an increase in lung ailments and other diseases.
Soon, people in China, particularly those in the scientific and education sectors realized the link between pollution and the lack of industry regulations. The end result was a film by Chai Jing, "Under the Dome," which exposed the underlying factors in China's continuous increase in pollution.
"Under the Dome" - The First of Its Kind Attack on China's Pollution
"Under the Dome" was originally intended to expose China's visible smog and its effect on human lungs. Using scientific data to support these premises, the film also exposed the effect on human growth and potential for pollutant absorption into major organs of the body.
The style of the film by Chai Jing is in lecture format. It contains visuals aids, as well as charts that support the basis of the dangers of pollution in China.
The film, "Under the Dome," made history by being aired online and viewed by 175 million Chinese and millions of people living outside of China, concerned about China's lack of initiative to reduce pollution. The film was later censored by the government of China in an attempt to play down the seriousness of China's massive pollution problems. Censorship was particularly important at the time the Olympic Games Committee was considering China as a location for the 2022 Winter Games. "Under the Dome" represented "bad press" the Chinese government was quick to avoid.
Why is "Under the Dome" So Controversial?
China still allows burning of coal as a source of energy. Coal ash is dumped into rivers and contaminates soil. During rain events, contaminated soil containing coal ash leachate is found in outflows and underground plumes. Coal ash contains mercury, lead, arsenic, and a dozen other toxic heavy metals. China also allows burning of petroleum and unregulated amounts of chemical emissions into air streams. There are other sources of pollution in China. These include:
. Electronic waste
According to the China's State Environmental Protection Administration "more than 150,000 million miles of cultivated land" is polluted annually. The agency also reports that "12 million tons of grains are contaminated by these heavy metals in cultivated soil.
Waste of grain is just one aspect ignored by China's government. The impact of grain waste costs China nearly $2.7 billion (USD) every year. Electronic waste in China accounts for another 2.3 million tons that are causing pollution. Recycling programs are not a major environmental initiative in China.
What Specifically Did Filmmakers Seek to Expose?
Chai Jing's film, "Under the Dome" sought to bring to light the dangers of the thick smog that blankets much of China's most industrialized cities and towns. She spent $160,000 to produce the film in the hopes it would strengthen her country's resolve to regulate polluters. Ironically, the film was so well received that Chai Jing’s collection of data was soundly rejected by the government and industrials supporters.
What is "The Dome?"
The "Dome" in the movie title refers to the dome of dense smog that hangs over their heads every day. It isn't unusual to see city dwellers and business people wearing surgical masks as protection from polluted air.
To some degree information about climate change and other environmental issues are "filtered" by governments who protect “proprietary” process information, before it reaches the people. Europeans and Scandinavians have ready access to environmental data. In the US EPA and state regulatory agencies provide annual surveys of sources of pollution available to the public.
The international community has met several times since the 1990s to reduce pollution that is liked to global warming and climate change. Members attending G8 Summit meetings have discussed global warming and reduction of greenhouse gases at length. Only China and the US have fallen short of their goals.
Each individual is responsible for their health and safety; however, this is predicated upon a concerted, united effort to limit carbon footprints at home and in business. Individuals can initiate change by analyzing specifically their own lifestyles and reduce and limit their use of fossil fuels and contaminating products. This will also encourage change in goods and services produced by businesses as a result of changes in supply and demand.
Chai Jing’s Experience
Chai Jing had been aware of the dome of pollution in China’s towns and cities. Her experience as a journalist and author, as well as a media host propelled her interest in the Hunan province’s environmental problems. Yet, it wasn’t until she became pregnant that her concerns for her fetus grew. Her initial fears became real when her daughter was born with a benign tumor. After her daughter’s birth, she spent a whole year and nearly $167,000 to produce the film “Under the Dome.”
Realizing the potential for governmental and industry criticism, Chai Jing offered the film for free in March 2015. Her autobiography, published by Hainan House in 2001 is entitled, “Use My Lifetime to Forget.”
As an outspoken environmentalist, Chai Jing sought to bring to public attention the facts of China’s indifference to air, water and soil pollution problems. Her film, “Under the Dome” has been compared to that of Al Gore’s 2006 documentary film, “An Inconvenient Truth,” which won two Academy Awards for Best Documentary Feature and Best Song.
As may be expected by anti-environmentalists, detractors have attempted to smear Chai Jing’s reputation by claiming in 2010, she was being investigated by the Chinese Government. As a plucky, persistent young woman, she provided a concise, factual denial and her detractor, Wu Zhibo, recanted and publicly apologized.
It’s believed that Chai Jing has taken residence in the US. Since 2003, she has received several journalism and environmental awards. These include:
. Annual Green Characters Moving China
. The CCTV award for Top Ten Journalists
. The Capital Association of Female Reporters Speech Contest award
She’s been called a hypocrite and a traitor by fellow journalists and Chinese government sympathizers for her criticism of China’s environmental policies.