HH Connecting The Dots: Dirty Money: The Big Profits Of Pollution

It started about two hours after I landed. “It” being a persistent, ugly cough that I developed a couple of hours after I landed in Shanghai.

Shanghai is an amazing city. Although it doesn’t have the political significance of Beijing or ancient beauty of the Forbidden City and Great Wall of China, Shanghai holds the key to the Chinese economic-growth engine.

With 24 million residents, it’s the largest city in the world and home to several of the world’s most iconic buildings like the Oriental Pearl Tower and the 128-story Shanghai Tower, the second tallest building in the world.

I stayed at the JW Marriott at Tomorrow Square. I even scored a free upgrade on the 34th floor and smiled in anticipation of some great views of the Huangpu River, the historic Bund, and the glittering, futuristic skyscrapers of the Pudong district.

My room was clean, modern, and luxuriously appointed. But when I opened the curtains, instead of an impressive view, I could barely make out the landmarks through the thick, gray clouds of smog.

The air pollution is as bad as I have ever seen in China… and I’ve been there a lot.

Salted Egg Yolk

The thick haze of pollution obstructed everything beyond 50 yards. I might as well have stayed on the ground floor because my “room with a view” had no view.

Shanghai’s air pollution is getting worse by the year.

  • Earlier this year, the level of airborne particulates in Shanghai soared to 360, or 15 times the World Health Organization safe level of 25 micrograms per cubic meter.
     
  • The neighboring city of Nanjing was forced to close all its elementary and middle school classes because the sky was the color of “salted egg yolk,” and the city of Qingdao canceled all outdoor activities.
     
  • According to official numbers from China’s National Bureau of Statistics, 90% of the 161 cities whose air quality was monitored in 2014 failed to meet official standards.
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