One mom’s deep concern and fear for her daughter’s health drove her to create a documentary about China’s disastrous air pollution crisis. “Under the Dome” has created a national debate and become a viral phenomenon with 200 million views in China alone. It was created by Chai Jing, an investigative journalist, whose personal experience of her unborn daughter being diagnosed with a tumor in her lung led her to research the unfathomable air pollution that is rendering Chinese cities almost uninhabitable.
The effects of China’s air pollution are staggering to say the least. In 2010 alone, air pollution was linked to 1.2 million premature deaths in China. With 29% of particulate pollution in California originating from Asia, we wonder: how many of California’s (or the West Coast’s) premature deaths are caused by China’s unrestrained air pollution problem?
Air pollution knows no bounds and even disregarding China’s contribution, many U.S. cities grapple with hazardous air quality. This is what Chai Jing’s documentary highlights: that air pollution should be of great concern to parents no matter where they live, as the impact of air pollution on children’s respiratory health has been well-documented.
Such concern might also be shared by those hoping to be parents given that those most at risk are in the womb, “The time between conception and birth is perhaps one of the most vulnerable life stages, during which the environment may have tremendous immediate and lasting effects on health.”
This possibility is the reality that Chai Jing experienced in a very personal way. Her words have been translated into English through crowd-sourced translation organized by a Chinese high school student and completed in two days.
Update 2/7/17: What’s happened in the two years since this important documentary aired? Two weeks after this film went viral, it was no longer possible to download it in China. But for the first time on March 5th, 2015, Premier Li Keqiang acknowledged the problem in his opening address to the National People’s Congress (NPC): “China’s growing pollution problems are a blight on people’s quality of life and a trouble that weighs on their hearts.”
In 2016, China and the U.S. (responsible for 40% of carbon emissions worldwide) formally joined the Paris climate agreement.
But, at the turn of the new year, China once again reached historic “red alert” smog levels in as many as 32 cities. In response, its National Energy Administration announced $361 billion to develop renewable power by 2020. China has made gains by tripling its hydropower capacity and has become the world’s largest generator of solar power. But, enormous challenges remain to curtail the crisis being caused by pollution. Chai Jing’s message continues to be a wake-up call to the world.