A brave mother's video caught the attention of over 150 million Chinese citizens.

This is powerful stuff.

I first heard about the documentary on a Saturday morning in March.

As usual, I was awoken by one of my children crawling into our bed. It was my older daughter, who brought a book and curled up under the covers. Being the digital addict that I am, I groggily turned on my phone, and something strange was happening — a bunch of people were talking about a documentary, "Under the Dome," that had just been released in China.

Within 24 hours of its release, it had over 100 million views online. Over that first weekend in March, it had over 150 million views.


But here's the really crazy thing — it might change the game when it comes to China's relationship with the environment.



Everyone in China, from government officials to concerned parents, was watching it.

I emailed a friend of mine in China. He wrote back: "[I'm] in Beijing now. Woman next to me in Starbucks is watching it. It's huge here."

All images and GIFs via "Under the Dome," unless otherwise noted.

In a country where government censorship shuts down critical voices, how did this former journalist break through to reach over 100 million people?

Chai Jing brought the story home with a message any parent can relate to.

For Jing, the story started in Shanxi, where my paternal grandfather is also from. Growing up in Taiwan, I'd heard a few stories about Shanxi from him, but mostly I just knew of it as a place that was famous for its vinegar. These days, Shanxi is famous for something else: It's considered one of the most polluted places in the world, a result of its massive coal mining operations. But people in China aren't as surprised to hear about the effects of pollution there anymore.

At one point, early in the documentary, Jing plays a clip from an interview she conducted a decade earlier with a toddler in that province:

Absolutely heartbreaking.

But even back then, she never thought her own daughter would suffer the same thing.

When she became pregnant almost a decade later, Jing was happy to learn she was having a little girl — but her joy was threatened by terrible news:

Her unborn daughter already had a tumor.

Before she could even hold her newborn baby, the infant was whisked away for operation. Luckily, the surgery was a success, but it left Jing shaken. And it made her even more determined to truly understand the world she was bringing her daughter into.

Jing's daughter would grow up in a place with some of the most polluted air in the world.

The cleanliness of air is measured by the number of small particles (or "particulate matter") per cubic meter. According to the EPA, "small particles less than 10 micrometers in diameter pose the greatest problems, because they can get deep into your lungs, and some may even get into your bloodstream."

These fine particles, 1/30th as wide as the average human hair (2.5 micrometers), are the main cause of haze and reduced visibility.

They're also dangerous.

"Under the Dome" is real. Many children in China live most of their days stuck indoors to keep them safe from the polluted air.

During the year that Jing was working on the documentary, only 190 days were safe enough for her to take her daughter outside. The other 175 days were too smoggy to go outside.

Many people in China have been told the "haze" is just part of a bad weather pattern, like fog.

To demolish that myth, Jing carried around an air quality "sampling film" for 24 hours to measure the air, and she sent it to Dr. Qiu Xinghua at Peking University for analysis.

They found 14 times the acceptable level of a carcinogen, benzo(a)pyrene, in the sample.

But when it came to looking at particulate matter, even the scientist who analyzed the sample didn't believe his results. He double-checked his math, and the numbers were right.

At one point, Jing tried to go to a lab and subject herself to these levels of toxins so she could test the side effects. And, get this: The lab wouldn't let her do so because it was TOO DANGEROUS. That's right. It was TOO DANGEROUS AND UNETHICAL TO RE-CREATE INSIDE THE LAB the same conditions that millions of people live with every day in China.

Is it hopeless? Jing doesn't think so.

She points out that it wasn't that long ago that places like Pittsburgh and London had similar air pollution problems, and they overcame them.

Image from University of Pittsburgh, Smoke Control Lantern Slide Collection.

In 1952, the combination of coal smoke and a windless weather pattern killed an estimated 12,000 people and injured 100,000 in London.

If these cities can change, it's not too late for China.

It's impossible not to look at this reporter, this fiercely protective mother — who has taken all of her passion and bravely stood up to her government and to business interests — and not respect her bold decision to do her part to make a difference in the world.

This is a riveting and important documentary at a tipping point in China's history. It could have a profound effect on the course that China charts.

And China is listening.

We at Upworthy thought it was so important for English-speaking audiences to understand the power of this groundbreaking documentary, we provided an English language translation of the first and last 10 minutes of the video.

I highly recommend reading along with the beginning and end, and reading along in English by clicking the "transcript" button below the video.

Watch the first part here:

You can watch the last eight minutes here, or for the full documentary experience without having to watch it, you can also read Upworthy's summary of the documentary here.

China's air pollution is getting worse. We need to get the word out.

In early December, the smog was so thick that government authorities in China issued their first ever "red alert." This problem is not going away and we need to promote solutions and awareness.

We can help spread the word about Obama's Clean Power Plan as an example of a comprehensive solution to promote clean energy everywhere. Or you can spread the word on this massive problem. Or both. The solution is up to all of us.

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Brian Olesen never imagined he would end up homeless.

The former U.S. Air Force medic had led a full and active life, complete with a long career in the medical field, a 20-year marriage, and a love of anything aquatic. But after hip surgery and chronic back pain left him disabled in 2013, he lost his ability to work. Due to changes in eligibility requirements, he couldn't qualify for federal veteran housing programs. His back issues were difficult to prove medically, so he didn't qualify for disability. Though he'd worked his whole life, having no income for five years took its toll. He got evicted from a couple of apartments and found himself living on the streets.

But in 2018, two things completely turned Olesen's life around. He was able to both qualify for disability and to move into an affordable housing community in Miami's Goulds neighborhood called Karis Village.

When people think of affordable housing, they don't usually picture a place like Karis Village. The 88-unit development is brand new, and built with an attention to design that is not always expected for developments that serve as home to people on limited incomes. The apartments have tile floors, marble countertops, and all new appliances and furniture, and the grounds are beautiful and well-kept, with a playground and common areas for residents to gather.

Brian Olesen in his kitchen at Karis VillageCapital One

Karis Village isn't just a housing development; it's a home and a community. Half of the units are set aside for veterans who have experienced homelessness, like Olesen. The other half are largely occupied by single-parent families.

"To me, this building was just a gift," says Olesen. "All of the different parties that got together to put this building together… making half the building available to veterans. We've got no place to go."

Addressing veteran homelessness was one of the goals of Karis Village, which was built through a partnership that included Carrfour Supportive Housing — a mission-driven, not-for-profit affordable housing organization in southern Florida — and Capital One's Community Finance team. More than just an affordable place to live, the community has full-time staff on hand to help coordinate services—from addiction recovery programs to transportation options to job search and placement. Also included are peer counselors who provide emotional and psychological support for residents.

Karis Village, an affordable housing community in Miami, Florida.Capital One

Carrfour President and CEO Stephanie Berman says the core function of the services team on site is to build a supportive community.

"Often when you think of folks leaving homelessness and coming into housing, you think of shelters or some kind of traditional housing," she says. "You don't really think about a community, and that's really what we build and what we operate. What we're really striving to create is community. We find that our families thrive when you create a sense of community."

The intention to create a supportive community at Karis Village was a priority from the get go. Fabian Ramirez, a Capital Officer on Capital One's Community Finance team, says the bank did a listening tour in southern Florida to explore community development and affordable housing options in the area and to hear what was most needed. After deciding to partner with Carrfour, the bank provided not only an $8 million construction loan and a $25 million low income housing tax credit (LIHTC) investment to help build Karis Village, but it also kicked in a $250,000 social purpose grant to help fund the social support services that would be put in place for residents.

"It's not just all about providing the brick and mortar," says Ramirez. "It's about being able to contribute to the sustainability of the development and of the lives of the people who move into the building."


Capital One

Olesen says he and his fellow residents benefit greatly from the network of support services offered in the building. He says a counselor comes to meet with him once a month, sometimes right in his apartment. He also gets help maintaining a connection with the Veteran Affairs office. Other services include social workers and counselors for drug addiction and alcoholism.

Olesen loves being around other veterans, and he says hearing the sound of children playing keeps the community lively. He says anywhere else he could afford to live on disability wouldn't be nearly as nice and would likely involve shared kitchens and bathrooms and neighborhoods you wouldn't want to go out in at night.

If it weren't for Karis Village, Olesen says he doesn't know where he would be today: "I had nowhere to go and this is a safe, beautiful place to spend my retirement."

"I don't think they could have done a much better job of putting this place together and supplying us with what we need," he says. "I have so much appreciation for the ability to have a place to live. And then you add to that that it's beautiful and completely furnished and you didn't need to bring anything—I don't know what more you could ask for."

Karis Village and another development for veterans built the same year enabled the neighborhood of Goulds to meet the requirements set forth by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to declare an end to veteran homelessness in the area.

Ending veteran homelessness altogether is a complex task, but communities like Karis Village show how it can be done—and done well. When government agencies, non-profit organizations, and corporate funding programs come together to solve big problems, big solutions can be built and maintained.

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