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The true cost of pollution
November 6, 2013 7:32 AM   Subscribe

According to an article in the South China Morning Post, "fog" in Northern China is so bad that the government is finding it interferes with surveillance cameras. (via Quartz.com and mefi's own @ftrain)
posted by maryr (33 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
heavy smog in cities such as Jilin is creating serious security concerns for authorities

Glad to see they have their priorities right.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:41 AM on November 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


Huh, if they actually manage to re-configure their cameras to see through smog, they could weaponize it pretty easily after that. You could create a literal fog of war (smog of war?) that only people equipped with properly-configured cameras would be able to see through.
posted by griphus at 7:47 AM on November 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


Meh, Zhuge Liang was creating fog with his motherfucking mind powers in the 3rd century already.
posted by kmz at 7:52 AM on November 6, 2013 [6 favorites]


So are there any studies which take the impact of this pollution on chinese population and its productivity in coming years?

Is the pollution problem big enough to affect the fertility rate?
posted by TheLittlePrince at 7:59 AM on November 6, 2013


This is actually pretty interesting, but I loved this part:

The National Natural Science Foundation of China funded two teams, one civilian and one military, to study the issue and has told the scientists involved to find solutions within four years.

How 'bout I save you guys some time and money? Here's your findings: Either pass legislation to curb emissions and air polutions, stop relying so heavily on visual surveillance, or do your part to take care of the corruption in your government that these "terrorists" keep trying to subvert.

But that's not the aim of the study is it? What you're really trying to figure out is "how can we continue to put tons of money in the hands of these massive surveillance technology companies, continue to spy on our citizens who are growing angry over the amount of money that goes to surveillance rather than services for said citizens, and let the industrialists spit pollution into our skies all willy-nilly while we pocket the kickbacks from letting them do so? Surely, there's a fourth option here..."

China: So American sometimes, it's painful to watch.
posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 8:00 AM on November 6, 2013 [14 favorites]


They are trying to find a technological solution to a problem caused by regulatory and political inefficiencies.

Either they will have a huge technological breakthrough or waste a lot of money. Guess which one to bet on.
posted by TheLittlePrince at 8:06 AM on November 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


The one where they invent cameras that can see through smog that "[blocks] light almost as effectively as a brick wall," right?
posted by griphus at 8:10 AM on November 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


The only hopeful reading I can give this is that the only possibility I can see of China making serious strides on environmental issues is if the government decides that environmental damage is actually a national security issue. If the cameras can't see, and the army can't get clean food for the troops, and the aquifers dry up so the munitions factory has to shut down, then maybe it will carry weight that civilian mortality/morbidity and ecosystem decay does not.
posted by Dip Flash at 8:11 AM on November 6, 2013


On the flip side, we might get those x-ray glasses and the superman sight.
posted by TheLittlePrince at 8:14 AM on November 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yet everyone laughs at my portable fog machine. Everyone but the NSA! HA!
posted by orme at 8:28 AM on November 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've probably told this little anecdote before on Mefi, but-

I spent four months in Beijing in 2010, and, as Beijing is on the edge of a desert, it didn't rain until I had been there for two months. The morning after that rain, I went to the 17th floor of my school building as usual, looked out the window as usual, and saw something shocking: mountains! The entire horizon was completely covered in mountains! Which I'd had no idea were there.

The smog, you see, was normally so bad that the horizon was completely obscured in an orange haze. The rain dissipated it... for a few hours, anyway. That day was the one and only time I saw them, except when we drove through them.
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:32 AM on November 6, 2013 [13 favorites]


Big brother is watching you.

The cameras everywhere trope is prevalent from Orwell's 1984 all through science fiction books and movies to the present day. In Silicon Valley where I live, there are cameras on every traffic light, in banks, and almost every government building/office. The cutting edge seems to be various agencies culling and storing every form of communication to add to the watch list.

Interesting to see countries around the world using the same "because...OMG, teh terrorists!" justification.

It appears to be the dystopic is becoming ubiquitous world-wide. Cookie, beacon, or tracker anyone?
posted by CrowGoat at 8:42 AM on November 6, 2013


No, orme, we laughed because your portable fog machine didn't make every gathering the spooky dance party that you wanted it to be.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:07 AM on November 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


Hah. English fog met its match in 1943... although, admittedly, this may not be widely applicable these days. Best not tell the Chinese, just in case.

But it remains true that weather and smog remain powerful barriers to the surveillance state. A decent wind will sort out your Watching Drones quite nicely, and a bit of rain can mush out even the clever terahertz radars.

In the future, the freest countries will be those with the worst weather. Britain will rise again!
posted by Devonian at 9:19 AM on November 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


You Laugh At Me Because I'm Different
I Laugh At You Because This Portable Fog Machine Is Fucking Rad As Hell
posted by griphus at 9:29 AM on November 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think that was Panic At The Disco's original name.
posted by maryr at 9:34 AM on November 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


What you're really trying to figure out is "how can we continue to put tons of money in the hands of these massive surveillance technology companies, continue to spy on our citizens who are growing angry over the amount of money that goes to surveillance rather than services for said citizens, and let the industrialists spit pollution into our skies all willy-nilly while we pocket the kickbacks from letting them do so? Surely, there's a fourth option here..."

In all fairness, China's "clean technology" sector is the biggest in the world, and the government is being very aggressive about cleaning things up. It is hard to square with the fact they have also become the largest producer of steel in the world, or that many people still rely on coal for household heating and cooking.

Fifty years ago the West was in much of the same state.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:41 AM on November 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


It also interferes with 8-year-olds not getting cancer.
posted by gern at 9:43 AM on November 6, 2013


In China, cars are rationed on quotas:
China’s capital Beijing has announced it will impose restrictions on new car purchases next year in an effort to reduce air pollution. Beijing's car sales quota for 2014 would be slashed by almost 40% under plans to cut vehicle emissions and hazardous levels of pollution, the Chinese capital's official website announced Tuesday.
posted by stbalbach at 9:53 AM on November 6, 2013


China’s capital Beijing has announced it will impose restrictions on new car purchases next year in an effort to reduce air pollution. Beijing's car sales quota for 2014 would be slashed by almost 40%

And the owners of old beaters rejoiced, and their eyes lit up with dollar signs...

(My two trips to Beijing were separated by ~8 years, and it was amazing to see the drastic reduction in the number of bicycles and the vast increase in traffic over that time. Oh, and we never saw any blue sky in the week of meetings.)
posted by RedOrGreen at 10:04 AM on November 6, 2013


China: So American sometimes, it's painful to watch.

I know we like to play Every Day Is Slag On America Day, but sometimes other countries are crappy on their own merits.
posted by psoas at 10:15 AM on November 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


I went to the 17th floor of my school building as usual, looked out the window as usual, and saw something shocking: mountains! The entire horizon was completely covered in mountains! Which I'd had no idea were there.

I'm just guessing that you are too young to have lived in Los Angeles during the 1970s.
posted by JackFlash at 10:20 AM on November 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Went through Beijing airport twice during October- Every landing and takeoff there is instrument only. You couldn't see a plane (or the terminal. Or the GROUND) a couple of hundred feet away.

At our hotel in Hunan for over a week, we were near many small ponds, streams, rice paddy and wooded hill sides. It had not been cold enough yet to kill insects there- the climate is about like Atlanta, GA.

The large front doors of the hotel were left open day and night, with lights blazing. NO BUGS WERE TO BE SEEN. No moths fluttered by the lights at night. No gnats, mosquitos or any other night flying insects. I did see a few flies in markets around bad vegetables being discarded- But not many. At night, I stood in an open farm field areas by ponds and swamps for several fireworks product demonstrations in different areas, over several warm nights... No mosquitos.

No small wild birds either. And no bats. I've never seen anything like the total lack of ANYTHING but people and domestic animals in the USA.

If it's killed all the insects, the mammals will not be far behind.
posted by bert2368 at 10:29 AM on November 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


except, psoas, this is a very real effect of the shift away from american manufacturing with china becoming an industrial powerhouse. we've effectively offshored, not only jobs, but pollution. that doesn't mean our measures didn't have an effect, or that they can't implement measures that have an effect, but rather at least some of the dissipation of pollution (visible, at least) is due to the shift in global capitalist production.

eep - i realized your reply was to a differen commenter/issue.
posted by symbioid at 10:31 AM on November 6, 2013


That day was the one and only time I saw them, except when we drove through them.

Yes, same exact experience re: local scenery in 2007-2009. Also I had my first asthma attack in 10 years on the plane descending into Beijing and had no idea what was happening to me until the stewardess said "yes, this happens often, you are having an asthma attack."
posted by elizardbits at 10:58 AM on November 6, 2013


The funny thing is that we talk about having made significant progress with pollution here in the US, but at least until a couple of years ago one could still see a visible black stain on the sky below when approaching LA in an airplane. Of course, you can see through it, which I understand was not the case in the 70s, but still.
posted by wierdo at 11:33 AM on November 6, 2013


The Silicon Valley has cleaned up pretty well over the last twenty years. Definitely a ways to go yet, but we've managed to turn around a smog situation that was beginning to resemble LA.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 8:37 PM on November 6, 2013


29% of San Francisco's air pollution (as measured by a lead isotope marker) comes from China.
posted by eye of newt at 10:54 PM on November 6, 2013


29% of San Francisco's air pollution comes from China

Where they make all that stuff for Apple.
posted by Mister Bijou at 12:15 AM on November 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I'd be pleased to see precisely what percentage of the People's Republic's air pollution producing product production has come from San Francisco.
posted by tychotesla at 12:17 AM on November 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


How to Block a Surveillance Camera: A DIY Art Tutorial from Ai Weiwei
posted by homunculus at 5:48 PM on November 7, 2013


Re: pollution killing bugs

I live in China and, while we're no Harbin or Beijing, we make it to hazardous pollution levels much more frequently than I am comfortable with. We have plenty of bugs and more bats than I've ever seen. /anecdote
posted by MsDaniB at 3:50 AM on November 11, 2013


Smog? There's an app for that
posted by homunculus at 10:20 AM on November 17, 2013


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