Beijing banned cars for 2 weeks and the sky turned perfectly blue. Guess what happened the next day?

China marked the 70th anniversary of their victory during World War II in the only way possible: a ginormous parade.

On Sept. 3, 2015, Victory Day kicked off with a massive military parade through Beijing.



Photo by Rolex Dela Pena/Getty Images.

The celebration included 12,000 troops in 50 different military formations along with hundreds of fighter jets. Veterans and soldiers ranging from 20 to 102 years old participated. Parade training was apparently so intense that multiple officers reported losing 10 pounds or more.


Photo by Kevin Frayer/Getty Images.

Blue sky at night? Parade Day delight!

A parade this size takes months, sometimes even years, of preparation.

And in the case of Beijing's Victory Day parade, numerous restrictions were put in place leading up to the festivities. Hundreds of factories were shuttered, and half of the 5 million registered cars in the city were banned from driving in the main urban hub.

Say what you will about spending government resources on a giant party, but in this case, it definitely paid off.


Photo by Jason Lee/Getty Images.

By the day of the parade, the air quality in the city of Beijing had dramatically improved.

An average day in Beijing clocks in on the Air Pollution Index at around 160 (out of 500), which means adverse health effects for absolutely everyone (by comparison, an average day in the worst U.S. cities is said to be around 125). But by parade day, it had dropped to 17.

Photo by Greg Baker/AFP/Getty Images.

Grey sky at morning? Air pollution warning.

The day after the Victory Parade, cars were allowed to return to the roads — and the Air Pollution Index in parts of the city immediately returned to an unhealthy 160 out of 500.


Want to see the difference? Here's how Beijing looked in June:


Photo by Stringer/AFP/Getty Images.

Here's Beijing during the Victory Day parade in September:

Photo by Stringer/AFP/Getty Images.

And here's Beijing less than one week later. Just in case you thought they were having a hazy day or something.


Photo by Greg Baker/AFP/Getty Images.

The sky is back to looking bleak, but the future doesn't have to be. What happened before the Victory Day parade shows that a sunny change is still possible.

Air pollution is bad. Carbon emissions are bad. Cars are bad. We've all heard it before. But what we may not have realized is how much power we have to change things.

What happened in Beijing shows us — yes, how grim the situation is, but also just how easily we can change it.

By cutting back on cars and other emissions for a mere two weeks, Beijing underwent a beautiful and healthy transformation. And yet, all it took was one day of business-as-usual to bring Beijing crashing back into the danger zone.


Photo by Stringer/AFP/Getty Images

It's something to consider the next time you get behind the wheel. We can ensure a future of blue skies if more of us walked to work, rode our bikes, or crammed onto public transportation — even just a few times a week.

Those blue skies sure look nice to me.


Photo by Daniel Schludi on Unsplash
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Meanwhile, outbreaks across South America, Africa, and Asia continued, as the highly contagious virus continued to kill three out of every 10 people who caught it, while leaving many survivors disfigured. It took a renewed commitment of resources from wealthy nations to fulfill the promise made in 1959.

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Photo by ismail mohamed - SoviLe on Unsplash

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"As we enter into our second year of living with COVID-19, it has become painfully clear that the safety of any person depends on the global community's ability to protect every person," says Michelle Nunn, CARE USA's president and CEO. "While wealthy nations have begun inoculating their populations, new devastatingly lethal variants of the virus continue to emerge in countries like India, South Africa and Brazil. If vaccinations don't effectively reach lower-income countries now, the long-term impact of COVID-19 will be catastrophic."

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Photo by Daniel Schludi on Unsplash
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The global eradication of smallpox in 1980 is one of international public health's greatest successes. But in 1966, seven years after the World Health Organization announced a plan to rid the world of the disease, smallpox was still widespread. The culprits? A lack of funds, personnel and vaccine supply.

Meanwhile, outbreaks across South America, Africa, and Asia continued, as the highly contagious virus continued to kill three out of every 10 people who caught it, while leaving many survivors disfigured. It took a renewed commitment of resources from wealthy nations to fulfill the promise made in 1959.

Forty-one years later, although we face a different virus, the potential for vast destruction is just as great, and the challenges of funding, personnel and supply are still with us, along with last-mile distribution. Today, while 30% of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated, with numbers rising every day, there is an overwhelming gap between wealthy countries and the rest of the world. It's becoming evident that the impact on the countries getting left behind will eventually boomerang back to affect us all.

Photo by ismail mohamed - SoviLe on Unsplash

The international nonprofit CARE recently released a policy paper that lays out the case for U.S. investment in a worldwide vaccination campaign. Founded 75 years ago, CARE works in over 100 countries and reaches more than 90 million people around the world through multiple humanitarian aid programs. Of note is the organization's worldwide reputation for its unshakeable commitment to the dignity of people; they're known for working hand-in-hand with communities and hold themselves to a high standard of accountability.

"As we enter into our second year of living with COVID-19, it has become painfully clear that the safety of any person depends on the global community's ability to protect every person," says Michelle Nunn, CARE USA's president and CEO. "While wealthy nations have begun inoculating their populations, new devastatingly lethal variants of the virus continue to emerge in countries like India, South Africa and Brazil. If vaccinations don't effectively reach lower-income countries now, the long-term impact of COVID-19 will be catastrophic."

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