In December, China saw some of the worst smog ever. That’s because the smog was pretty much the only thing you could see. It was so bad that hundreds of flights across the country were delayed or canceled. In Chengdu, a group of activists held a protest and did this:
The local authorities had a good laugh. Followed by a long cough. And then they sent in the riot police. That last part’s not a joke. Although in this case, it’s not entirely the riot police’s fault. Apparently they thought the statues were those street artists who cover themselves in spray paint and haunt tourist sites around the world.
Luckily, there was no such confusion in Xi’an, where pollution masks appeared on stone lions – 800 of them.
Well, at least statues can protest pollution.
Fortunately, China’s Meteorological Administration eventually solved the problem. They notified local bureaus to immediately stop issuing smog alerts, and start calling it, “fog.” They’ve also punished windows for spreading false rumors about pollution.
Smog—or “fog”—is not by any means a new problem in China. The country routinely has crippling outbreaks. And the worst kind of smog is PM 2.5 particles. These are the tiny particles that get into your lungs and can cause cancer. China measures this type of pollution on a scale of zero to 500. In 2013, in the northeastern city of Harbin, it reached 1,000. The World Health Organization’s recommended safe standard is 25.
Fortunately, the great and glorious Communist Party is taking steps to ensure these red alert pollution situations don’t keep happening—by raising the threshold for what constitutes a red alert. And also ordering air quality monitoring apps to not display readings past the official government cutoff point. I mean, Chinese citizens don’t really want to know what they’re breathing, right?
And now, Beijing’s latest move: Creating a new environmental police force! Yes, Chinese police: Not just for beating up dissidents anymore!
So amidst all this smoggy mist, wealthy Chinese citizens—and the companies that want to sell stuff to them—have come up with a brilliant idea: “lung cleansing trips.” Yes, this is really a thing. And they’re even traveling as far as Antarctica.
But seriously, Antarctica makes sense as a Chinese tourist destination. Ok, there’s no Gucci, yet, but it’s one of the least-polluted places on earth. At least until the Communist Party decides to claim it for themselves so they can tap its pristine oil and coal reserves.
According to a report called “Smog Escape Travel Ranking,” Chinese travel service, Ctrip, says online searches in China for “smog escape,” “lung cleansing” and “forests” have tripled during the latest pollution nightmare. But for many Chinese, this is a matter of life and death. A recent study found that more than 4,000 people die every day in China because of air pollution. But hey, a little “fog” never hurt anyone.
So what do you think? And where would you travel for your next lung cleansing vacation? Leave your comments below.