Tag Archives: pollution

Beijing’s Simple Yet Effective Idea to Get People to Recycle (Video)

China has become notorious in recent years for its high levels of air pollution. This, however, is only one of many issues facing China as the country’s middle class continues to grow.

Beijing, China’s capital city, is home to around 20 million people. As a result, the city produces a lot of trash.

On a number of occasions, academics have attempted to estimate just how much trash Beijing produces. They have all failed, due in large part to the fact that the massive trash collection industry in China is extremely unorganized.

So back in 2012, the government of Beijing came up with an innovative solution to their trash problem: reverse vending machines that reward people who recycle with credits that can be applied to phone cards or public transit costs.

A woman uses one of the new kiosks in a Beijing subway station (Courtesy of CCTV)

The machines are equipped with scanners that can identify what type of bottle you are recycling to determine its value. More valuable bottles get you more credit.

Beijing has contracted Incom, the company building the kiosks, to build 100 of the machines across the city (Incom thinks the number will eventually be in the thousands).

34 kiosks have been built so far. Check out the video below to see one of the machines in action and hear how local people are responding to them:

(h/t Pangea Today, The Guardian)

India’s New Leader Has A Bold Plan: Using Solar Power to Bring Electricity to Every Home By 2019

After 2 moths and more than half a billion votes, India’s marathon of a presidential election ended last Friday, with historic results. The BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party), India’s opposition party for the past 10 years, won a landslide victory.

Not only did the party win a clear majority in the lower house of parliament (the first time a non-Congress party has done so since India won its independence in 1947), but their candidate for prime minister, Norendra Modi, came out on top as well.

New Indian President Narendra Modi (Photo: Forbes)

Before being elected prime minister earlier this month, Modi was the chief minister of the Indian state of Gujarat.

In 2009, Modi pioneered the country’s first large-scale solar power project in Gujarat, including the construction of Asia’s largest solar power plant. India also recently began constructing what will be by far biggest solar power plant in the world.

Asia’s largest solar installation, located in Gujarat

His administration plans to use Modi’s work in Gujarat as a blueprint for expanding solar power across the nation.

“We look upon solar as having the potential to completely transform the way we look at the energy space,”

says Narendra Taneja, an official from the energy division of Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party. The plan is to enable every single Indian home to power at least one light by 2019. As of right now, about 400 million of India’s 1.2 billion residents lack access to electricity.

Modi visiting one of the solar installments in Gujarat

Expanding solar power and the clean energy sector is a major priority for the new government for a number of reasons. Firstly, it will help India avoid some of the pollution problems that China is currently dealing with as the country’s industries develop and modernize. Also, it will create new jobs and supply electricity to millions of scattered Indian households that can’t be connected to the power grid because of their remote locations.

Taneja says that if the project is completely successful, solar power could provide each home with enough energy to run two light bulbs, a solar cooker and a television set.

Check out the original article from Bloomberg here. Read more about India’s recent historic elections from the Asia Foundation here.

According to Scientists, China’s Air Pollution Is Causing A More Erratic Climate in The United States

A team from Texas, California and Washington recently published research which found that pollution from Asia (the bulk of which is from China), is causing more intense tornados and increased precipitation levels in the United States as well as an increase in the amount of warm air in the mid-Pacific.

This air is part of a weather system known as the Pacific storm track- many storms that end up on the United States’ west coast originate in this weather system. The warmer air being fed into the Pacific storm track due to the air pollution increases the potential for storms originating there to be larger and more violent.

A large storm in the Pacific storm track headed for the US west coast (from 2011)

Here’s Ellie Highwood, climate physicist at the University of Reading:

“Mid-latitude storms develop off Asia and they track across the Pacific, coming in to the west coast of the US … The particles in this model are affecting how strong those storms are, how dense the clouds are, and how much rainfall comes out of those storms.”

The pollution problem in China is widespread. Just last moth, their environmental ministry reported that 71 of the 74 cities monitored by the government failed to meet air quality standards.

The city of Shanghai on a smoggy day (Aly Song/Reuters)

The government does seem to finally be taking the issue seriously, however. Just yesterday, Beijing’s leadership announced that very soon, major revisions would be made to the country’s environmental protection laws, including giving environmental protection authorities power to,

“Shut polluting factories, punish officials and restrict industrial development in some areas.”

After years of rhetoric, it will be the first real change to the environmental protection law since 1989.

Read more from the Guardian here.

Revolutionary Step? Bolivia Gives the Earth Comprehensive Legal Rights

The Law of Mother Earth is a bold move by the Bolivian government. At its source is the ancient “Pachamama” traditions of the native Andean people. This worldview is based on the belief that the earth is actually a living being (“Pachamama” translates to Mother Earth).

The Bolivian government says the law is a culmination of efforts to combat climate change, to live in harmony with the Earth and to prioritize “the greater good”.

The legislation gives the Earth the rights to,

“Life and regeneration; biodiversity and freedom from genetic modification; pure water; clean air; naturally balanced systems; restoration from the effects of human activity; and freedom from contamination.”

Bolivians rallying in support of the legislation (Source: http://www.cipamericas.org)

Furthermore, the law decrees that the Bolivian government is now legally bound to,

“Prioritize the well-being of its citizens and the natural world by developing policies that promote sustainability and control industry.”

The economy must operate within the natural limits of the environment, and the government must pursue renewable energy technologies as well as total energy and food sovereignty.

Indigenous Bolivians celebrate the winter solstice (Photo: David Mercado/Reuters)

It also gives citizens the right to sue individuals or groups (including the government and businesses) on behalf of the Earth if they belief Earth’s rights have been violated.

Here’s the full list of rights stated in the law:

  • The right to maintain the integrity of life and natural processes.
  • The right to not have cellular structure modified or genetically altered.
  • The right to continue vital cycles and processes free from human alteration.
  • The right to pure water.
  • The right to clean air.
  • The right to balance, to be at equilibrium.
  • The right to be free of toxic and radioactive pollution.
  • The right to not be affected by mega-infrastructure and development projects that affect the balance of ecosystems and the local inhabitant communities

Read more from CS GLobe here.

China’s Pollution is Crossing the Pacific and Becoming America’s Problem

A new study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has found that pollution from the manufacturing of American-bound products in China is responsible for between 12-24% of daily sulfate concentrations in the western US.

Don Wuebbles, who is a professor of atmospheric science at the University of Illinois, led the study. He said,

Pollution from China is having an effect in the U.S., and we need to recognize how that is affecting both our background ozone levels and also particulates that are reaching the West Coast.”

Strong westerly winds can send pollution from China across the ocean to the American west coast within a matter of days. The picture at the top is of Los Angeles on a particularly smoggy day.

About 21% of export-related pollution in China is from products headed for the US.

Read the full story from CNN here.

China’s Pollution Kills Up to 500,000 People Yearly and is Visible from Space

In a recent interview with the medical research and news website The Lancet, Chen Zhu, who retired from his post as Minister of Health last year, estimated that between 250,000 and 500,000 people die each year from the air pollution in China.

Chen, who is also a professor of medicine and renowned molecular biologist, noted that China, “now produces the largest number of major pollutants in the world”.

In the last 30 years, the rate of lung cancer has increased by 465%, almost doubling between 2002 and 2011.

Until very recently, China kept strict censors on its health information, notably removing a joint report from the World Health Organization and China’s own government that claimed that air pollution caused 350,000-400,000 premature deaths in 2007.

Check out these two satellite photos from NASA.

Read the full story here.

Chinese Government: Our Spy Cams Can’t See Through the Smog

Last month, two of China’s most influential state news agencies published commentaries about how the high levels of smog in China’s cities could actually be beneficial.

Their reasoning? CCTV, China’s official state news, pointed out that all the smog could hinder guided missiles, as their targets would be hazy.

The Global Times, published by the state Communist Party gave five “unforseen rewards”, the most notable being a claim that it could help Chinese people’s sense of humor (don’t ask me how that works).

Workers adjust a surveillance camera in Tiananmen Square

But now the government and state media has reversed their views on the smog, calling it a threat to natural security. Why? Well, government spy cameras in the streets can’t see through the smog!

Kong Zilong, senior project engineer for a major Chinese tech company and an expert in video surveillance, was quoted saying,

According to our experience, as the visibility drops below three metres, even the best camera cannot see beyond a dozen metres.”

Read the full story here.