Smog – just “breathe” the word!

You have probably already seen the recent pictures from Beijing – what to say? The picture shows how we “meet the need of the present…” what about the latter part of the UN-report “…without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”? When I think of it – it doesn’t meet the need of the present especially well either.

beijing smog

The pollution in a city is usually measured by weight of small particles present in the air per cubic meter. These small particles are often referred to as PM2.5 particles or the particles small enough to deeply penetrate the lungs. World Health Organization (WHO) specifies 25 micrograms of PM2.5 particles per cubic meter as the safe limit.

Residents of China’s capital city Beijing are facing one of the worst air pollution these days with 993 micrograms of PM2.5 particles present in one cubic meter of air. This figure works out to be 40 times the safe limit specified by WHO.

More than 5 million cars in Beijing

I remember a moment, in 2005, when I was stuck in heavy traffic for 35 minutes at Arc de Triomphe in Paris, together with a Chinese colleague. Referring to the traffic I asked him “Is this, what you want for your country?” He sat silent for a while and then he said “You are looking at it the wrong way. The real question is; are you refusing me this?”

At that time I had never been to China, I had little knowledge that the traffic in many cities there already was chaotic. I experienced that a couple of years later.
Now, 7 years later, I can answer his question – Yes, if I in any way could have affected his and Chinas transition to become the number one car-country in the world – I would have tried.

Beijing is starting to become more known for its “Beijing-Cough” than for its “Beijing-Duck”

It is going to be interesting to see how the municipality in Beijing is going to react on this. I read somewhere that they already had ordered some air-polluting companies in the area to shut down. (Permanently?) I suppose that, when people’s health is at stake, especially with the whole world watching, also China will react and take action on how the on-going growth and development can be tweaked in a somewhat different direction.
To some extent China still have a great opportunity to adjust their evolution and focus even more on a “better solution” such as renewable energy – and they are!

Just check out where most of the solar panels are produced, and the number of wind generators being installed and the infrastructure for high-speed trains and so on.

“If they are a developing country, then what are we?”

The advantage of being a developing country is that, with the right leadership, you can more easily adapt and decide your way forward based on the prevailing conditions.

Old-Dog

What about us, are we tied down by the old saying “You can’t learn an old dog new tricks” or are we willing to adapt and change our “comfortable” way of life?

With a fully developed infrastructure based on what we knew “at that time”, of course it is a huge challenge. That is also the reason we need to start now – it is going to take time!

Of course we can do it; we just need some more “front-runners” to show us the way.

I participated in an interesting discussion some time back. It was in a cross-functional group of people from many professions. One of the questions was:

“What is the future office going to look like?”

The real-estate people started to talk about how important the location, location, location was, how environmental classification had started to affect them, how much people valued large windows, that rent-level was “king” and so on.
At the same time a couple of young “social-behaviour” students commented that their research showed that more and more people where developing stress-illnesses due to all the demands they have to meet every day and all the obstacles the city planning cause by putting offices in one place, schools and kindergartens in another place, shops in a third place and housing somewhere else.
A person responsible for rental premises at a large company commented that it was getting more common with “hot-desks” shared by two or more employees – since they do more and more work on the move, or from home, this of course bringing the need for office space down…

“The only way to know where the boundaries are –  is to break them!”

One of these days someone will make something smart and “cross functional” of all this, maybe even work close together and move away from “silo-thinking” – and I am pretty sure that they probably will earn a penny or two as well.

It could be you?