From Space, China's Air

FF China got nervous a couple of years ago when their astronaut, Yang Liwei, landed on the Moon and noticed that you actually couldn't see the Great Wall from there, despite what people had assumed since 1938. In general, according to astronauts "the only thing you can see from the Moon is a beautiful sphere, mostly white, some blue and patches of yellow, and every once in a while some green vegetation".

But then astronaut Leroy Chiao used 80mm and 400mm lenses and managed to capture some images. In this photo, NASA adds helpful red arrows which will guide viewers hoping to discern the location of the wall amidst the white and patches of blue. The photo shoots were well received, according to NASA's 2005 account:

"the photos by Chiao, commander and NASA ISS science officer of the 10th Station crew, were greeted with relief and rejoicing by the Chinese. One was displayed prominently in the nation's newspapers. Chiao himself said he didn't see the wall, and wasn't sure if the picture showed it...

In a different set of NASA photos, certain man made features are more well-defined. FF In these, the east coast of the nation is blanketed in a thick layer of brown pollution. The testament to China's rapid economic progress is quite visible and needs no visual aids to pinpoint.

China has 4 cities that rank in the top 10 cities in the world with the highest air pollution. China's not the only nation whose development efforts are overtaking the environment. India also has four cities in the top 10, and Cairo and Jakarta rank nn the World Bank's top 10 list. However China is hosting the Olympics and therefore is receiving extra pressure from the International Olympic Committee (IOC), in addition to general concerns about its ability to institute environmental measures.

Earlier this year, the China reportedly convinced the World Bank to excise from their report some statistics on the potential ill effects of the high levels of pollution on the health of the population.

"China's State Environmental Protection Agency engineered the removal of the statistics, the Financial Times reported, because the government feared the figures could trigger social unrest."

The New York Times wrote this weekend about China's relentless growth and colossal pollution problem. Although Europe and the United States could pursue development goals for years before bringing their pollution under control, the Times noted that "China is more like a teenage smoker with emphysema."

Last week, for four days, the country imposed alternate odd/even license plate bans on driving in Beijing in order to try to reduce the city's pollution in preparation for the Olympics. The IOC has been wary of the effects of the air pollution on the health of athletes, especially in endurance events like cycling. The four day ban kept levels of particulate at level 2 on China's 5 step scale, which the government declared a success, reasoning that without the ban the air would have been worse.

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