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Miscellaneous

Pollution – It’s Grim Out East

One reason for not leaving your own country is the pollution in other countries.

England is largely a sweet and pleasant land again these days. Strict pollution laws have helped, but I guess closing down so many factories and moving production to China has also played a big part.

So really there’s just as much pollution in the world as there ever was, it’s just that it’s moved to a different part of the globe.

Air Pollution

The worst pollution I’ve ever seen was in Guangzhou, Southern China. The manufacturing base of the entire World is also choked with traffic:

Guangzhou's smoggy traffic

Guangzhou’s smoggy traffic – part of the price to pay for soaring economic growth…

To be fair, the extreme humidity plays a factor.

On the other hand…

Whenever I used to go for a walk in Guangzhou I would return home and find my clothes smelt really bad. Often I would have to wash a shirt after wearing it for just two hours. Goodness knows what was in the air to make my clothes smell so bad. I’ve ruled my own body out of the equation, since I can walk around Bangkok all day and my clothes don’t actually smell too bad by the end of the day.

One thing I did notice that my apartment always seemed to be grubby. If I didn’t wash the floor for a few days then I would end up walking black footprints all over the tiled floor:

Sorry mom - I've walked in PM2.5's all over the floor again!

Sorry mom – I’ve walked in PM2.5’s all over the floor again!

Water Pollution

When traveling around Asia, it’s best not to look too closely at the state of the rivers. Here’s a particularly bad one in Guangzhou:

Polluted river in China - my guess is a lack of oxygen has stiffled the river...

Polluted river in China – my guess is a lack of oxygen has choked the river…

For balance, I’d just like to mention that most rivers in Bangkok don’t look too much better:

Venice of the East? Bangkok has plenty of canals, but don't look too closely at what's floating in them...

Venice of the East? Bangkok has plenty of canals, but don’t look too closely at what’s floating in them…

Asia’s Tiger economies have come at a significant cost to the environment, and ultimately its people.

Who Cares?

Sadly a lot of the pollution in China is likely due to Chinese culture. It used to drive me mad when I saw little Chinese kids throwing litter away in the street. It was a common sight, and their parents would do exactly the same.

This stream is full of litter dumped from the neighboring scrap yard. Once I even saw the stream turn red after a load of paint was dumped in it...

This stream in China is full of litter dumped from the neighboring scrap yard. Once I even saw it turn red after a load of paint was dumped in it…

Today’s school kid throwing a sweet wrapper away in the street is tomorrow’s widget factory boss letting drums of benzene leak into the local river. I guess the ray of sunshine is that the Chinese government is pretty good at marshaling its citizens in a cause. Hopefully the environment will be put on the agenda soon, before it’s too late.

And speaking of sunshine, Guangzhou’s the only place I’ve been where I would regularly see a red sun at dusk:

Red sun at night - what the heck does that signify?

Red sun at night – what the heck does that signify?

Weird!

Let’s hope that China gets cleaned up real soon. Because mother nature does exact her revenge.

While I was a biochemistry undergraduate in the early 1990’s, I remember going to the stream and gathering samples to test for pesticides. Sure enough, the mass spectrometer was sensitive enough to detect DDT – a chemical that had been banned since 1984.

During my time in China the University I was studying at also had a problem with a delivery of rice contaminated with Cadmium. Tainted food is a big problem all over China. And it’s something to think about. Do you think that little street restaurant has a biochemistry laboratory to test all its ingredients?

Yikes!

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