Blue Sky Days In Beijing But For How Long?

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tower2 For people who don’t live in Beijing, the preoccupation with the quality of the city’s air that plagues some residents must seem occasionally to veer into monomania. Last year, I had to consciously stop myself from posting on the issue and putting up endless photos of just how awful the view out my window was. It’s worth coming back to the subject if only to say that the city has had what for Beijing is an extraordinary run since the Olympics, with average pollution each month under the 100 mark on the Air Pollution Index. Admittedly, December was 99.something but that was because of a few horrible days that skewed the average. and the rest of the months have been in the 60s and 70s. (For those interested in a day to day record out of one resident’s window along with matching API information, see the Asia Society’s excellent “room with a view” series here) It’s got so that I feel it’s my right to have glorious blue skies every morning out of my east facing window (above) and a view of the Western Hills from the other side (below). hills   As ever, climate has a good deal to do with it, strong winds being a feature of winter in the capital. But then this period is also particularly bad because of the millions of coal fired heaters. There are of course the complicated car restriction rules still in place (Austin’s explanation here) though and it’s hard no to credit them with a good deal of the improvement at least. The Atlantic magazine’s man in Beijing James Fallows has an interesting insight (and a handy satellite map from Nasa) into just how much difference those changes really made during the Olympics. Protests and demonstrations are breaking out all over China these days from the parents of the kids affected by melamine poisoning to the Charter 08 signatories. You have to wonder whether Beijingers will meekly go back to living in a cloud of toxic muck again should the current blue skies vanish.