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12/10/2013

Debilitating smog in Shanghai was good. So says Chinese journalist

China

Residents wearing face masks use their mobile phones on a pedestrian overpass on a hazy day in Shanghai, Dec. 6, 2013. (Reuters photo) 

The past week was bad for Shanghai, China's financial capital: hundreds of flights were cancelled, sporting events were postponed, children and seniors asked to stay indoors. Those who had to venture out wore face masks.  

Because of dense smog.  

It made news across the globe, some called it “airpocalypse,” the smog levels higher than ever seen before, even in China. But one journalist with China’s national broadcaster says the smog wasn’t all that bad. In fact, she says it had many benefits. The write also said it was sobering since it made Chinese reflect on the cost of the country’s economic boom.

The Telegraph reported that the opinion piece, titled “Five unexpected gains the haze had brought” says the dense smog united people across social boundaries by affecting both the rich and the impoverished, and has also spurred citizens to turn to comedy in the face of the health hazard.

“Our knowledge of meteorology, geography, physics, chemistry and history has grown (because of pollution) and the standard of our English has improved too,” the writer argued in the opinion piece.

“Without this haze, would you know what PM2.5 was? Would you know that 60 years ago the haze claimed 12,000 lives in London? Would you even know the words haze and smog?”

Bloggers in China weren’t laughing.

More than 80,000 bloggers commented on the piece within two hours of it being published, The Telegraph reported.

One commenter said: “The first benefit of haze that comes to my mind is saving money on foundation since my boyfriend can't see the defects on my face.”

Raveena Aulakh is the Toronto Star’s environment reporter. She is intrigued by climate change and its impact, now and long-term. Follow her on Twitter @raveenaaulakh

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