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Purifier needed to clean our souls

By Zhu Yuan | China Daily | Updated: 2014-02-26 07:15

Whether to buy an air purifier or not to buy one that is the question.

A friend told me that the latest air purifiers are able to not only effectively remove PM2.5 pollutants, they also effectively filter "micro-dust" pollutants with even smaller particle diameters. So he encouraged me to get one for my home to ensure the air within is clean.

A while ago, a friend of mine bought me a mask from Seven-Eleven, which has a detachable filter inside it to prevent the floating particles larger than PM 2.5 from entering one's lungs while one breathes.

Both purifiers and masks are selling well, thanks to the growing number of days with increasingly heavy smog in many parts of the country, along with water purifiers that clean tap water by filtering it.

For the producers of these products, the country's pollution means a bonanza.

For them, the heavier the pollution is, the more people will buy air purifiers, masks and water filters, thus the more profits for them.

Economically, not only have the industries that have discharged the pollutants contributed to the country's gross domestic product they have also given birth to another sector of industry, which makes its own contribution to GDP growth.

Despite the aversion the majority of residents have to the polluting industries, their double contributions to the GDP, both direct and indirect, is an undeniable fact. Unfortunately, the direct contribution results in the pollution they discharged.

So if economic growth is judged only by how many jobs it has created and to what degree it has expanded consumption, the polluting industries can be said to have greatly promoted the growth of the economy. And this conclusion can be supported by the rising sales of both products as well as the increasing number of jobs the manufacturing of air purifiers and face masks create.

Yet, this is not the logic economic development has followed since the Industrial Revolution in the middle of the 19th century in Europe. The pollution produced since then would have destroyed human beings had repeated inventions and technological revolutions not tried to overcome or offset the bad side-effects of previous technologies.

Our future would be unimaginably horrible if our economic development follows the way of how offensive and defensive weapons develop.

Looking at the defensive gadgets we have equipped ourselves with-masks to prevent us from inhaling PM2.5 or even smaller floating particles, air purifiers to clean the air we breathe in our homes, water purifiers to clean the water we drink, and maybe something to detect whether the clothes we wear are contaminated by toxic chemicals. I really feel as if our economic development has indeed followed a vicious cycle, which has provided us with greater convenience but at the same time made our life increasingly fraught with peril.

It makes me wonder why efforts are made to manufacture air purifiers while not enough efforts are made to produce and install purifiers that can help clean up polluting emissions before they are discharged. Is it because the former can help manufacturers make money while the latter will only increase the costs for manufacturers?

That is why the government must play its role as a regulator, in order to find a way out from the vicious cycle, which has already devastated the country's environment to such a degree that almost all our rivers are polluted and almost all big cities are plagued by air pollution and other urban problems.

It will not be a big problem for the government to create a way out, if it is only businessmen that care only for money (although that too is a big problem when it leads to violating environmental rules). But it will be a big problem if pursuing money is a priority for local governments.

To usher in the day when we do not have to equip ourselves with defensive devices against pollution of all kinds, the government must change its way of governance so it becomes a good regulator and watchdog for the well-being of citizens and the sustainability of the country's economic growth and social progress.

Our society needs a purifier to clean our souls.

The author is a senior writer with China Daily.

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