Month: January 2015

UPDATE: Our air was worse than Beijing’s today. See it to believe it. 

Today marks the first time in our Hong Kong life that our handy air quality index has been MAXED OUT by the pollution. It’s called the Air Quality Health Index, and it’s on a 0-10 scale, which is quite vague to begin with, if you ask me.

Today it’s a 10+, and it looks like this. (That would be a big fat #nofilter, but it still doesn’t even come close to the ugly in real life.)



When the pollution hits a level 6, which is usually three days a week, I know my contact lenses will start to itch by lunchtime. Anything above that, a prickly little headache rears up. Lots of people cough. And schools cancel recess on days like today. All day long. The whole family generally feels like crap by bedtime, and we’re not imagining it.

The pollution in Hong Kong isn’t just from factories in China. Some of it is, that’s true. (But guys, they are making stuff that WE are also buying.) A lot is the fault of a painfully lax model of regulation for public transit. A lot comes from the cargo ships that race through the harbor, full of Gap t-shirts and Despicable Me stocking stuffers. A lot comes from burning coal. Ahem.

(Related: Did I ever tell you about how much of the bountiful seafood here is full of bad stuff, so we can’t really eat it in peace?)

There are local groups like the Clean Air Network, which are working hard to clean up the mess that we’re in. So we obviously love them. But it is a HUGE mess and will take years to clean up.

All of this pollution comes from a lack of foresight and probably mostly greed, as far as I can tell. Not just the fault of Hong Kong and China, but of shortcut lovers everywhere.

I hear Americans complaining about the government’s environmental regulations. How much work it is to bring along those shopping bags to the grocery store. Why we’d rather not be under anybody’s thumb when it comes to sorting the garbage. Why this is probably just a scheme between the NSA and Michelle Obama and some people in Berkley to ruin our lives.

American complainers, I know it’s a royal pain. It’s annoying and inconvenient and costly, and it’s also hard to remember it’s even a problem sometimes, because there’s not really any nasty brown sky in America (besides you, LA). It’s just out of sight, easy to believe there’s no harm done. Except…

We need to start thinking about HOW (and why) we will fill our lives with STUFF, and also HOW we create energy and use it. We Americans are going to live in a smogstorm that tastes like dirty tires. This is gross, man! And it’s not that far off.

I’m breathing from experience.

(Here are some ideas for how to get started doing the right thing.)


Three-Year-Old Boy: Mom, I want you to shoot these guns [neon Tinkertoys] with me.

Me: I don’t really like to play guns. They aren’t my thing.


Me: Hmm. Remember how I said we definitely don’t shoot people?

TYOB: I just want you to shoot those books over there.

Me: POWPOWPOWPOW! I shot those books full of sparkles and candy.

TYOB: Mom, that is not how guns work.

We have entered a phase of parenting known as “Eat Your Words.”