Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

Making head and tail of eco-problems

By XIN LAIZHE (China Daily) Updated: 2016-03-10 08:41

Making head and tail of eco-problems

Pedestrians cross the road in Zhongguancun, Beijing, during a smoggy day in December.[Photo/China Daily]

Purple haze. For those who grew up in the 1960s and 1970s, the words bring back memories of the electrifying Jimi Hedrix and his more electrifying ways with the guitar. For many living in North China today, they may sound more like one of the stanzas in the song: Purple haze all in my eyes/Don't know if it's day or night/You got me blowin', blowin' my mind/Is it tomorrow, or just the end of time?

We are talking about smog. The smog that prompted the world media to pounce on China, blaming it for all that was wrong with emission control.

When Beijing issued two red alerts for smog in succession in December, foreign media outlets made it out as it was the end of the world. Images of people in different types of masks were splashed across the foreign media, some even highlighting people wearing gas masks. Some Chinese media outlets too joined the fray, either enamored by their overseas counterparts or to genuinely portray the serious state of affairs.

Serious the condition was during those few days. There is no denying of it. Or else, the authorities wouldn't have ordered schools closed, construction halted, traffic restricted and production in seriously polluting industries suspended. But instead of appreciating the prompt action of the Chinese authorities, many media outlets focused on the inconvenience caused to the parents of school-going children and residents in general.

Ironically, had the authorities not imposed the emergency measures, the media would have decried its lackadaisical approach to the serious health hazard. A perfect situation of damned if you do, damned if you don't.

This is not to suggest China doesn't face a smog (and carbon emission) problem, or for that matter environmental challenge. It does. And it admits it. We could differ with the way it intends to solve the problem or overcome the challenge. For example, the continued stress on the urbanization could, to some extent, offset the gains of the environmental protection measures. We could even say the pace of implementing the eco-protection measures is not conducive to meeting the challenge.

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