The Current

'Under the Dome' confronts China's dire air pollution crisis

Two years ago, the smog levels in some Chinese cities were so problematic headlines dubbed it 'Airpocalypse'. Today, the sight of a blue sky is a big deal. It is against that hazy backdrop that the documentary film 'Under the Dome', has captured the fury of millions of Chinese.
A man and his dog, both wearing masks, walk along a small alley on a hazy day in Beijing. China's capital raised its four-tiered alert system to "orange" for the first time on February 20, 2015. (REUTERS/Legal Evening/Liu Chang)

Talk about wide release for a documentary film. Since the weekend, at least 200 million citizens of China took to their computers to watch "Under the Dome" — a film that deals with a very sensitive, and serious, issue in China... Namely, the country's ongoing crisis of air pollution. Because in China, the air can be so smoggy that some children would hardly even recognize a normal sky.

"Under the Dome" was made by Chai Jing, a former reporter with China's state broadcaster. She was inspired to make the film when she was pregnant and doctors detected a tumour on the fetus. That got her thinking about China's chronic smog and the impact she believed the environment was having on her daughter's health, her own health and the health of the billion or so other people living under Chinese skies today.

Since her film went online, more than 280 million comments have been logged about it on social media sites... so it's safe to say that "Under the Dome" has done a lot to spark a national conversation about the air China breathes.

Andrew Lee is the China correspondent for CBC News. He joined us from Beijing. 

So will the millions of mentions on social media translate into real action on pollution by the Chinese state?

Jennifer Turner is director of the China Environment Forum at the Wilson Center, a think tank-based in Washington, DC. 

This segment was produced by The Current's Sujata Berry, Sonya Buyting and Ines Colabrese. 

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      ♦ Phenomenal success for new film that criticises China's environmental policy - The Guardian

      ♦ China's Surprise Viral Hit: An Environmental Documentary -  The Atlantic

      ♦ China's Environmental Crisis - Council on Foreign Relations

      ♦ Designing (smog-free, sustainable, safe and intuitive) cities of the future - Design Indaba