Most nights in China I couldn’t find the Moon.
I knew it was up there because it was way past sunset and the thick layers of clouds were dimly lit. I felt like the sky was a blanket drawn over my head and there was some flashlight that illuminated it from the other side. I just couldn’t tell which direction the light was coming from. There wasn’t a vague circular spot that was brighter than any other, or any sections of the sky that were absent of those clouds with the weird glow.
Well, my friend, those weren’t clouds. It was smog. A thick layer of suffocating smog that constantly covers the entire cities of Shanghai and Beijing and wide sections of the entire country.
If you live near any big cities in America, you might have noticed that on a clear night, you still can’t see the Big Dipper because of air pollution. Can you imagine that not only the stars, but the whole moon is covered by something so thick and tangible that you can’t even identify where it is anymore? Like the darkest of thunder clouds have amassed themselves to create one opaque block in the sky, except that it’s not raining.
We can quantify air pollution with the Air Quality Index and the amount of PM2.5 in the air, but those numbers didn’t mean anything to me for a long time. How different was 50 and 250 on the AQI scale after all? Numbers were all too intangible. They don’t make air pollution feel like a real thing.
But the effects of air pollution aren’t intangible.
For me, air pollution is seeing people walk down busy shopping streets with face masks on… and then walking into the store to go get one for myself. It’s having days off from school not because there’s too much snow, but because there’s too much air pollution. It’s the realization that too many of my friends have asthma. It’s going out on really sunny days but not feeling the sun on my skin. It’s babysitting little kids who choose the grey-colored crayon to color in the sky in their pictures.
Every person should be able to look up at the night sky and see the moon. That should be some inalienable right up there along with life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
All the best,