“你看过真的星星吗？” (Have you ever seen real stars?) “没有” (Never.) “你看过蓝天吗？” (Have you ever seen a blue sky?) “有一点蓝” (Only a little blue.) “你看过白云吗？” (Have you ever seen fluffy white clouds?) “没有” (Never.)
These responses are the heartrendingly earnest ones of a little girl from the countryside in Shanxi Province during an interview with investigative journalist, Chai Jing.
In a presentation that has been described as somewhere between a Ted Talk and Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth, Chai gave an honest and emotional rendering of the findings of her year-long research into the cause of China’s pollution problems. Brush up on your Chinese and watch the video here (there are subtitles, but they are still rough).
In just two days, the video was played over 200 million times online on Youku (China’s biggest video hosting site) and was widely lauded by Chinese state run media such as the People’s Daily and the Global Times despite its deeply critical nature towards a lack of government enforcement of environmental standards. The issue of severely degraded environmental conditions in China was suddenly brought to a head with this emotional video. The rallying cry of many millions on Weibo, the popular Chinese micro-blogging platform, are joining the conversation with the no longer tacit support of the Chinese Government.
Last year, Premier Li Keqiang declared a “War on Pollution“. During this year’s Spring Festival Temple Visits, the number one prayer was for cleaner air, with wealth and well-being coming in a close second. More and more Chinese netizens and local governments are deciding to relinquish their death grip on the ‘GDP over all else’ mentality. Now, there is even a new “Sand Bucket Challenge“, started by employees in Sichuan in response to Chai’s video.
The issue of pollution in China is not groundbreaking; the massive wave of public concern and dialogue is. Pengyous in China and abroad, now is the time to stand together. Take this opportunity to hold open-minded and honest discussions about the challenges that we all face together to make the world a brighter place for everyone. Pollution in China is not an isolated problem; it is one that will ultimately affect us all. We hope this momentum will catalyze the millions of Pengyous across the world to take a stand and be part of the solution.