Heroes

Chinese citizens are responding to the smog problem in a pretty funny way.

Despite Internet censorship, Beijing residents are taking to social media to poke fun at the smog problem in their city.

Remember when you were a kid, and you would wake up early on a school day, scamper over to the window, and see it snowing outside?

Remember the excitement you felt as you realized that school inevitably would be cancelled and you could spend the whole day sledding, having snowball fights, and making snowmen?

Well, imagine you’re a kid in China and school has been cancelled not because of powdery white snow but because of air pollution so bad that you can’t go outside without a major health risk.


The Beijing skyline is disappearing into the smog. Image by Kevin Frayer/Getty Images.

That’s what citizens of Beijing experienced Dec. 8, 2015, when much of the city was closed due to overwhelming smog.

Traffic was restricted in the city in an effort to reduce air pollution levels. Image by AFP/STR/Getty Images.

According to the U.S. embassy there, the air quality index stood at 250 — 10 times higher than the World Health Organization's recommended levels.

The red alert in China is the first since the country started using the color-coded warning system two years ago. With it comes massive school closures, traffic restrictions, and a complete halt in outdoor construction sites, all of which lasted until midday Dec. 10.

Meanwhile, the people of Beijing have taken to social media in massive numbers to express outrage and sadness.

The social network Sina Weibo, a Twitter-like service popular in China, was blowing up this week with thousands of messages containing tags like "Air pollution red warning" and "The haze is back again again again again."

Some messages are outright angry, expressing a sense of hopelessness that this problem may never be fixed. Others, though, have chosen to laugh at how egregious the problem is, using humor to draw international attention to it.

They’re even doing it despite China’s strict Internet censorship laws and history of trying to cover up media related to the pollution problem.

One resident mocked up this picture of an ominous monster looming in between the buildings shrouded in smog:

I would go see "The Smog Monster" movie. Just saying. Image via Weibo.

And another illustrated a crude outline of where the buildings in the Beijing skyline would be … if you could see them:

Beijing! Come for the view. Leave because there's no view. Image via Weibo.

During all of this, of course, leaders from China and all over the world are convening in Paris to discuss plans to address climate change.

Air pollution and climate change aren’t political or national problems. They’re human problems.

It's easy to think of China as just some far away place or even an international rival. But there are no rivals when it comes to protecting the planet. And thanks to the people of Beijing, we can see that we’re not so different.

After all, as recently as 2002, the Los Angeles skyline looked like this:

70% of that smoke was from Snoop Dogg. Image by David McNew/Getty Images.

China and the U.S. are the two biggest polluters in the world. And as Chinese citizens on Weibo demonstrated, that's not the only thing we have in common.

Despite the Chinese government making an effort to censor open criticism from their citizens, the Chinese people are fed up with the conditions they live in.

Just like here in America, they’ve chosen to express their outrage in vast numbers and use humor to poke fun at their government.

Something we do here in America. Occasionally. And occasionally even, with great success. Here's hoping China can do the same.

Believe it or not, there has been a lot of controversy lately about how people cook rice. According to CNN, the "outrage" was a reaction to a clip Malaysian comedian Nigel Ng posted as one of his personas known as Uncle Roger.

It was a hilarious (and harmless) satire about the method chef Hersha Patel used to cook rice on the show BBC Food.


Keep Reading Show less
Photo by Picsea on Unsplash
True

It is said that once you've seen something, you can't unsee it. This is exactly what is happening in America right now. We have collectively watched the pot of racial tension boil over after years of looking the other way, insisting that hot water doesn't exist, pretending not to notice the smoke billowing out from every direction.

Ignoring a problem doesn't make it go away—it prolongs resolution. There's a whole lot of harm to be remedied and damage to be repaired as a result of racial injustice, and it's up to all of us to figure out how to do that. Parents, in particular, are recognizing the importance of raising anti-racist children; if we are unable to completely eradicate racism, maybe the next generation will.

How can parents ensure that the next generation will actively refuse to perpetuate systems and behaviors embedded in racism? The most obvious answer is to model it. Take for example, professional tennis player Serena Williams and her husband, Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian.

Keep Reading Show less
Photo by Mahir Uysal on Unsplash

Two years ago, I got off the phone after an interview and cried my eyes out. I'd just spent an hour talking to Tim Ballard, the founder of Operation Underground Railroad, an organization that helps fight child sex trafficking, and I just couldn't take it.

Ballard told me about how the training to go undercover as a child predator nearly broke him. He told me an eerie story of a trafficker who could totally compartmentalize, showing Ballard photos of kids he had for sale, then switching gears to proudly show him a photo of his own daughter on her bicycle, just as any parent would. He told me about how lucrative child trafficking is—how a child can bring in three or four times as much as a female prostitute—and how Americans are the industry's biggest consumers.

Keep Reading Show less

You can put this one in the "win column" for those who believe in equal pay. Leslie Odom Jr. took a stand and was not going to settle for anything other than what was fair.

The Hamilton star, who won a Tony Award for his portrayal of Aaron Burr in the most successful musical in modern history, simply sought a similar wage to white actors who had comparable roles in other musicals. As he explained to Dax Shepard on his podcast Armchair Expert, they did not contact his agent at CAA until after the announcement of the shows filming. When the offer finally came, it was disappointing.


Keep Reading Show less