There's no longer any surprise in noting that China has grave environmental problems. For the record, I am sticking with my claim that the simultaneous degradation of air quality, water quality, water supply, food safety, soil quality, and other environment-related variables is the main challenge to China's continued development. And of course the global effects of China's rise to wealth -- through atmospheric emissions, pressure on natural resources, acceleration of deforestation and over-fishing, market demand for ivory and other body parts of endangered species -- are urgent issue to be resolved with the rest of the world.
The news to me for the day is a site that pulls together relevant pollution readings for cities all across China. Here, for instance, is the almost unbelievably hellish current reading shown for the city of Tangshan, which is in Hebei province near Beijing and has been best known as the site of a disastrous earthquake in 1976:
How I am judging hellishness: Two days ago in Beijing, the AQI readings were in the 350ish "hazardous" zone. That was considered very bad when we were living in Beijing in 2009 and 2011. It's also the level at which I usually can feel the pollution, in the form of a chronic headache and a layer-of-something in my throat and lungs. Earlier this year, during the "Airpocalypse" in northern China, the readings in Beijing and other cities were previously unimagined 700s or above. At face value this Tangshan chart shows something over 1000.
My main purpose for now is to highlight the AQICN site; if you go here, for the Beijing readings, you'll see links to other provinces and cities, and an explanation of what is being measured. Thanks to @pdxuser and Mark MacKinnon for pointing it out.
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James Fallows is a staff writer for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. He and his wife, Deborah Fallows, are the authors of the new book Our Towns: A 100,000-Mile Journey Into the Heart of America, which has been a New York Times best seller and is the basis of a forthcoming HBO documentary.