Monday, November 06, 2006

Purple Haze

On most days, smog blankets Hangzhou. It's about a mile to the hills across the Qian Tang river from our apartment, and they usually appear only as dim, hazy outlines when I go for my morning run along the waterfront. It's certainly debatable whether vigorous exercise in this atmosphere does more harm than good. The dust that settles on our furniture and floor is dark, almost black. It could be worse, though. Coal-burning power plants have been relocated farther from the cities, and hydroelectric power lessons the soot in the air. Gasoline-powered scooters are verboten in Hangzhou and some other big cities, so folks ride along on eirily silent electric bicycles instead, cruising at around 20 mph. On the other hand, I heard one time that China doesn't impose emissions standards on auto manufacturers, presumably to keep the vehicles more affordable for the masses. Hopefully China is on a path toward a brighter environmental future, but don't count on blue skies and clear water any time soon.

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