|The Beijing sky during an earlier visit.|
There’s a story in the New York Times about urban Chinese fleeing to the countryside to escape pollution. I can relate.
I lived in China in 2005 as a Fulbright lecturer at Tsinghua University. I remember the day I had planned to walk to Beijing University and then on to a five-story building of nothing but bookstores. Well, the pollution was so great I stayed inside instead.
I used to wonder if the Chinese knew what they were doing to themselves. That wonderment was dispelled when I visited Dalian to give a few lectures and was shown about by the university’s foreign officer (who got the job because she spoke English). She told me that a week before her grandmother had died at age 95.
Wow, I said, think of the history she saw.
I then said that because of genes she’d probably live a long time. It took us a couple of minutes to work through jeans and genes but when I finally made myself clear, she firmly replied: No. Pollution.
The government was able to clean up Beijing for the Olympics but the city has since gone backwards. That foreign officer in Dalian isn’t the only one who will have a short life.
Many Beijingers will, too.