How do you know when air pollution is a serious problem?
Maybe it's when there's so much smog, you can't see the skyscrapers. Or when people are rocking face masks just to go for a walk.
Or how about this: in Beijing, a Chinese entrepreneur is selling fresh air. In cans.
The Brisbane Times reports that Chen Guangbiao, a businessman worth an estimated $740 million, sells cans of air for five yuan (about 81 cents) each. That picture at the top of the page shows one of the cans.
The air comes in different "flavours," including pristine Tibet, post-industrial Taiwan, and revolutionary Yan'an, the area where the Communist Party got its start.
Although the cans are for sale, Chen says he created the product to make a point.
"If we don't start caring for the environment then after 20 or 30 years our children and grandchildren might be wearing gas masks and carry oxygen tanks," he says.
The problem of air pollution in North China is serious. Yesterday morning, for the second time in a month, the concentration of airborne PM 2.5 particulates, considered the smallest and most deadly airborne pollutants, went "off the charts" at the American Embassy in Beijing.
Basically, the Air Quality Index goes up to a maximum of 500, or 20 times the World Health Organization's air quality standard. Beijing's air jumped over that maximum.
And areas of North China are now invisible from space. NASA satellite photos show a thick grey haze over the heavily populated plains in the region.
As for China's official line on air pollution, the government's flagship English-language paper China Daily said in a story published today that the public needs to play a role in tackling the smog problem.
The story cites research findings that "vehicle emissions have replaced industrial pollution as the biggest contributor to airborne pollution in major Chinese cities," and calls for a "joint effort" to clear the air.
But the article also includes a quote from Greenpeace project manager Zhou Rong, who disagrees. Zhou says "the major problem is still in the structure of the economy and energy consumption, which cannot be changed by ordinary people."
As for the canned air seller, this isn't the first time Chen has created a publicity stunt to gain attention for a cause. He recently took out a full page ad in the New York Times that suggested Japan's claim to the Senkaku Islands (known as Diaoyu in China) was like Japan claiming Hawaii.
He's also given away 5000 bicycles in the last two weeks to encourage people to ride instead of driving.
Via ABC News