Smog Town

If you think your job sucks, trying being an environmental protection official in China.

In some industrial centres, the smog is so thick you practically need a knife to cut through it. A spork at least. Serious harm is being done to the environment, not to mention to people’s health, but that’s not the main concern of an environmental protection officer. I mean, I’m sure that’s in the official job description, but unofficially, though very seriously, the officer’s job is to make sure their region’s numbers are not among the worst in the country. Beijing keeps a very careful watch on each city’s pollution levels, pitting each regional environmental protection office against the others, and the price of failure is shame. Which, in China at least, is a pretty steep price.

Director Meng Han hangs out with us in Langfang, one of China’s most polluted cities. The officials are fighting an uphill battle, an upmountain battle really, with both hands tied behind their backs, and no shoes, and walking pneumonia. Because the environmental protection office must somehow reduce their numbers significantly without being allowed to touch any of the biggest polluters. Instead, the officials play cat and mouse with small time operations run out of people’s driveways and carports. Their emissions are negligible compared to large industries pumping out noxious fumes and degrading the land and sulllying the water, but this is the only kind of change the regional offices are actually allowed to pursue.

Meng Han’s documentary is really a Trojan horse; on the outside it looks like it’s about environmental protection, but once you crack its shell, you’ll find it’s really a commentary on the futility of the job, the hypocrisy of bureaucracy, and the sham lip service our governments pay to our faces about concern for the environment while always valuing profit and efficiency over everything else.

Given these restrictions, these laughable micro targets, our fight against climate change is destined to be a losing one.

This and other titles are screening as part of the Planet In Focus Film Festival – check out their lineup and buy your tickets (and watch at home!) here.

4 thoughts on “Smog Town

  1. Sever

    I hear the smog concentrations are enormous over there in China and is one of the worst in the world. It is truly an upsetting situation in which human kind is consistently applying upon our planet.

    Don’t our society realize that the conservation of our planets health is not that hard to accomplish and still have all the modern and loved accommodations, that the causes of this pollution, in other ways.

    We only need to apply other ways to accomplish he things we love that are more efficient as for the lowering of greenhouse gases.

    For example, instead of the usage of crude oil for transportation, use electricity, this is much cleaner of a solution.

    The entropy of our planet is speeding out of control due to the burning of fuel of all sorts and will ultimately spin out of control beyond reversal if we do not begin to take care of our Mother Earth.

    I also talk much about these type of thing such as nuclear energy and weapons and how it is easily mishandles and loss control of.

    In turn poisoning our planet in every corner of the Earth and because of the almighty dollar other ways of safer and cleaner energy is swept under the rug.

    I love your work.

    Like

    Reply
  2. Liz A.

    Scary. Until the rich realize they can’t eat money, they’ll continue to defend their pollution and continue to do it as much as they can.

    Like

    Reply

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