9 Chinese Cities Exceeded Beijing's Abysmal 2013 Air Pollution Levels
By Christine Ottery
Residents in twenty-nine Chinese cities experienced more than a month of "emergency" air pollution levels last year, according to an analysis of newly published data by Energydesk and Greenpeace East Asia.
The collated real-time government data suggests nine large cities in China actually experienced more days of emergency smog levels than the capital Beijing.
This analysis came after a winter of soaring air pollution levels in China’s cities and as the country's leaders “declared war on air pollution,” comparing the issue to poverty and capping or cutting coal use in many regions.
China's capital declares an air pollution emergency when levels of fine particulates (PM2.5) breach the emergency level of 150 micrograms per cubic meter or more in a day. The emergency threshold of PM2.5 correlates closely to the "very unhealthy" band of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Air Quality Index.
When Beijing's emergency threshold has been passed, alerts are issued on the radio and TV. Then action is taken depending on the severity of the air pollution—such as reducing numbers of cars on the road, restricting "vulnerable" groups such as the elderly and children indoors, and instructing power plants to cut emissions. Measures such as these were taken this winter during particularly bad episodes.
PM 2.5 is small enough to penetrate the lungs, which is why long-term exposure can lead to heart disease, strokes and lung disease, including cancer, according to the World Health Organization. In the short-term, it can also trigger asthma attacks.
|City||Days of 'very unhealthy' or above|
Xingtai, a city in the heavily-industrial Hebei province to the southwest of Beijing, suffered more than double the amount of days above the emergency level than Beijing.
Xingtai’s 7.1 million citizens experienced 129 days of emergency level air pollution—more than a third of a year blanketed in pollution—whereas Beijing’s 11 million residents experienced 60 days. Shijiazhuang, at number two, is the capital of Hebei. In fact, seven of the top ten cities are in Hebei province.
Harbin, a city to the northeast of Beijing, was covered in the international media for some off-the charts daily highs of PM2.5 at 756 micrograms per cubic meter at its peak. But Harbin was exposed to less emergency level days than Beijing—at 50—and made number 16 in the league table.
In the map, the size of the bubbles represent the number of days China’s cities were at air pollution emergency levels. It shows there are concentrations of exposure to dangerous levels of air pollution in two main areas: south of Beijing in the industrialized provinces of Hebei, Shandong and Henan; and to the west and northwest of Shanghai, in another industrial heartland.
These are densely populated cities that are highly affected by air pollution—in the top ten alone, more than 30 million people live with these episodes of very unhealthy (or worse) air pollution, and around 90 million people live in the 29 cities that have suffered a month or more of emergency level air pollution.
At first glance, you wouldn't think avocados and almonds could harm bees; but a closer look at how these popular crops are produced reveals their potentially detrimental effect on pollinators.
Migratory beekeeping involves trucking millions of bees across the U.S. to pollinate different crops, including avocados and almonds. Timothy Paule II / Pexels / CC0<p>According to <a href="https://www.fromthegrapevine.com/israeli-kitchen/beekeeping-how-to-keep-bees" target="_blank">From the Grapevine</a>, American avocados also fully depend on bees' pollination to produce fruit, so farmers have turned to migratory beekeeping as well to fill the void left by wild populations.</p><p>U.S. farmers have become reliant upon the practice, but migratory beekeeping has been called exploitative and harmful to bees. <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2019/05/10/health/avocado-almond-vegan-partner/index.html" target="_blank">CNN</a> reported that commercial beekeeping may injure or kill bees and that transporting them to pollinate crops appears to negatively affect their health and lifespan. Because the honeybees are forced to gather pollen and nectar from a single, monoculture crop — the one they've been brought in to pollinate — they are deprived of their normal diet, which is more diverse and nourishing as it's comprised of a variety of pollens and nectars, Scientific American reported.</p><p>Scientific American added how getting shuttled from crop to crop and field to field across the country boomerangs the bees between feast and famine, especially once the blooms they were brought in to fertilize end.</p><p>Plus, the artificial mass influx of bees guarantees spreading viruses, mites and fungi between the insects as they collide in midair and crawl over each other in their hives, Scientific American reported. According to CNN, some researchers argue that this explains why so many bees die each winter, and even why entire hives suddenly die off in a phenomenon called colony collapse disorder.</p>
Avocado and almond crops depend on bees for proper pollination. FRANK MERIÑO / Pexels / CC0<p>Salazar and other Columbian beekeepers described "scooping up piles of dead bees" year after year since the avocado and citrus booms began, according to Phys.org. Many have opted to salvage what partial colonies survive and move away from agricultural areas.</p><p>The future of pollinators and the crops they help create is uncertain. According to the United Nations, nearly half of insect pollinators, particularly bees and butterflies, risk global extinction, Phys.org reported. Their decline already has cascading consequences for the economy and beyond. Roughly 1.4 billion jobs and three-quarters of all crops around the world depend on bees and other pollinators for free fertilization services worth billions of dollars, Phys.org noted. Losing wild and native bees could <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/wild-bees-crop-shortage-2646849232.html" target="_self">trigger food security issues</a>.</p><p>Salazar, the beekeeper, warned Phys.org, "The bee is a bioindicator. If bees are dying, what other insects beneficial to the environment... are dying?"</p>
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