Working in an office in and of itself usually wouldn’t expose one to hazardous conditions. The city in which one lives could have its fair share of dangers though. Crime is a given; all big cities have their fair share of crime, but it’s usually isolated in certain neighborhoods. The truly awful smog in Beijing the past few days has made me to give a little more thought to the silent killer that is pollution.
If you haven’t seen the pictures yet, check out this link from Bloomberg Businessweek. Also swing on over to the U.S. Embassy’s Twitter feed that gives hourly air quality updates. On the air quality index 50 is considered “Moderate”, 200 is considered “Very Unhealthy”, and the scale maxes out at 500 (“Hazardous”). On January 12 at 8pm local time, the air quality measurement was 755.
Most of the time when people talk about lifestyle in a particular city, it’s something along the lines of “how many hours do I have to work?” or “if/when I do have free time, where can I go to relax and have fun?” Clean air, drinkable tap water, and relatively garbage-free streets are generally taken for granted in the developed world.
When choosing to move over here, I knew the pollution was just something that came with the territory. Every once in a blue moon there is a day, or if we’re really lucky, a series of days where there are blue skies. At first it was kind of depressing not being able to see the sun, but after a while I got used to it. It’s exciting now to wake up in the morning and see blue skies; I’ve definitely developed a deeper appreciation for them.
This isn’t meant to be a rag on China; there are plenty of other cities in other countries with their own pollution problems. For various reasons, Beijing just usually has it worse than most.
My question is this: when thinking about whether or not you would live in a particular city, does the environment play a factor? Would you ever choose live in a city knowing that doing so might take years off your life because of the pollution? Do you think you could cope long-term with living in a cloud of haze?