February 7, 2013

What Do An Entrepreneur, The Chinese Government, And Big Businesses Have In Common?

Right now, I would not want to live in Beijing, China. Since the New Year, China has been in the news specifically for its ridiculously high levels of smog in Beijing. The smog has been so bad that one philanthropist and entrepreneur has canned fresh air and started selling it.

Yep, Chen Guangbiao is the man for this. His pursuit to sell canned air is part money making, part spotlight on a very serious issue. The LA Times reported that Chen said, “I want to tell majors, county chiefs and heads of big companies — don’t just chase GDP growth,” Chen implored passersby. “Don’t chase the biggest profits at the expense of our children and grandchildren and at the cost of sacrificing our ecological environment.”

Chen’s choice to can, market, and sell fresh air is not a bad way to highlight a serious issue. Bringing attention to the fact that for 19 days in one month and five straight days (as of January 30, 2013) Beijing has reached hazardous levels of smog. A redOrbit article explained that the Chinese government advised citizens — particularly the elderly, young, and those with current health problems — to avoid the outdoors. The government recommended its residents stay indoors, close windows, and drink plenty of water.

Even companies in Beijing went out to help their employees. Apple, JP Morgan, and Toyota passed out face masks to employees, offered health safety tips, and added plants to help take in the pollution. So the Chinese government implored its citizens to stay home, and companies provided masks and health tips for those who could not do so. That is teamwork.

The smog is so hazardous that individuals (like Chen), the government, and business (like Apple) all work to educate citizens about the same issue with almost the same advice and information. The consensus about the smog is good, but isn’t it time to actually do something about the smog? I mean, if all three sectors recognize the serious danger the blanket of pollution poses, then together they should act to minimize, if not eliminate, the smog.

No one should have to live under these polluted conditions. I cannot imagine what it is like to have to really consider the health dangers of simply opening a window. Luckily, I live in the USA, where we have pretty strict regulations on pollutants. Even our cars have standards. And if I lived in California, I would have even stricter regulations on clean air. When I read about the hazardous levels of pollution Beijing residents are experiencing, I have a sudden appreciation for regulations on pollutants.

Chinese authorities are definitely acting. Last week, it forced 103 factories to shut down. It even ordered 30 percent of official vehicles off the road. In conjunction with its advisement on staying in and wearing masks, clearly the authorities recognize the dangers.

Now, it is a matter of individuals, the authorities, and the companies working together even closer to find a solution. Smog at those levels is never acceptable, but it is most definitely unacceptable for 19 days a month.

Image Credit: Hung Chung Chih / Shutterstock

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Rayshell E. Clapper is an Associate Professor of English at a rural college in Oklahoma where she teaches Creative Writing, Literature, and Composition classes. She has presented her original fiction and non-fiction at several conferences and events including: Scissortail Creative Writing Festival, Howlers and Yawpers Creativity Symposium, Southwest/Texas Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association Regional Conference, and Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association National Conference. Her publications include Cybersoleil Journal, Sugar Mule Literary Magazine, Red Dirt Anthology, Originals, and Oklahoma English Journal. Beyond her written works, she successfully created a writer's group in rural Oklahoma to support burgeoning writers. The written word is her passion, and all she experiences inspires that passion. She hopes to help inspire others through her words.

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