Hong Kong / Mitchell / Pollution

Stuck Inside

Pollution levels in Hong Kong hit record highs in the last few days. Schools would not let the children play outside and people were told not to spend long periods outside in these conditions.

Mitchell is an outdoor kinda kid. He loves his regular visits to the playground, but unfortunately, when we looked out the window and saw how terrible the pollution was, we had no choice but to confine him to the house.

The view out this window normally looks something like this:

There was a thin layer of white ‘dust’ on top of all the vehicles that drove past (I ended up at street level to pick Bethany up from the bus) which isn’t normal on the mostly washed-daily cars.

Hong Kong’s pollution is a sight to see. It is a whitish yellow mist that becomes a literal shroud for the city. It normally isn’t quite this bad, and the claims are this spike in the API (Air Pollution Index) was mainly caused by a sandstorm from mainland China. The reading is measured from 0 (great) to 500 (really bad). The pollution today was at 500 – the maximum reading the weather monitors are capable of. The fact is, it was probably far higher, but there was nothing available to measure a reading over 500.

Am I happy about the pollution here? Of course not. I would love to have the clean pristine air I was used to as a child in Auckland. However here is where our life is for now. That means we have to put up with the good, bad and the downright polluted aspects of Hong Kong.

A couple of people told me China should just ‘fix’ the problem. It would be nice if it was that easy. Can you just tell an entire society and its economy to stop using vehicles because of what it is doing to the environment? No. No one complained or forced countries like the UK or the USA to stop when they went on their industrial revolution so it would be naive to think the same logic could be applied to China just because it is a few decades behind. Hong Kong has a fantastic public transport network and people use it. Millions of people a day in fact. They do the right thing not because of the environment, but because it is normally the fastest and easiest way to get around. That doesn’t stop the congestion on the streets. Congestion made up predominantly of buses, trucks and taxi’s.

Of course, vehicles aren’t the only problem. Hong Kong, despite being renown as a financial hub is also a manufacturing hub. Combine that with its close proximity to the Pearl River Delta area of China (the largest manufacturing region in China) and the problem is even more complex. It can’t be fixed overnight, even with lessons learned from other nations.

I’m not saying it can’t be reduced, and I’m certainly not saying I like living with this pollution over my children’s heads every day, but the solution isn’t going to be quick and it certainly won’t be easy.

In the meantime, it has taught me I have to watch more than just the temperature and rainfall in this mega-city… I now check the API index every day too.

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