Saturday, June 21, 2008

Beijing and Dust

I am disturbed by the New York Times article about Beijing’s dust problem. It is true that Beijing used to "blow sand" in the springtime, but this spring I was there in April and May and didn't witness any “sand” as mentioned in one of my other blog postings.

When I saw the photo with this article, my first reaction was who would dare to come to Beijing if they saw this photo? However, this photo didn’t mention the date it was taken, which makes me wonder if it was from previous years when the weather was worse. In the past, Beijing has had this kind of weather for just a few days a year--never more than 10--and it happens only in spring, never in summer! This weather doesn't appear in summertime, so the Olympics should be safe from sand storms!

The author also said dust “seeps and creeps and glides and slides across the floor, under the door and all around the walls” in his apartment and that “it’s like living in a beach house.” I wonder why he lives there if the dust problem is unbearable. Beijing does have dust, but not so much it merits the critique of a “beach house.” If Beijing is so dusty and unpleasant to live in, how can 15 million people live there, including more than 100,000 westerners? Some of my American friends have lived in Beijing for more than 20 years; how could they possibly survive if their living rooms are “sandy beaches?” When I left Beijing for the US this past April, I ran into an American high school principal at the airport who had just visited China with his family. He and his wife told me what a wonderful time they had and how much they love China and Beijing in particular. I've met many school administrators across the United States who, upon their return from Beijing, have told everyone they love Beijing and want to go back. If the air in Beijing is so bad, why would they want to do that?

To be fair, in Beijing, I do have to wipe my tables once a day and mop the floors every 2 or 3 days; otherwise, you see dust everywhere. Here are two pictures I took in Beijing, one during spring and the other during summer 2007. Are these like the ones you see with the New York Times article?

Is all this dust coming from factories around Beijing and the increasing number of cars on the street? Read this blog to understand where all this dust actually comes from. I really hope someone can offer better solutions than closing down factories, banning trucks from the city, or driving cars only on even or odd days in July and August in Beijing!

In short, I hope you don't pass up a fabulous time in Beijing because of what you saw in this New York Times article. It is dusty there, but it is not as described!