Turning my investigative essay into different genre(poetry)

Lois Hu


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On seeing the famous documentary seen by more than 200 million Chinese by the name, “Under the dome” and narrated by Chai Jing, I got insight on the story of China’s polluted air and from that, I made up my mind to do my best to try and stop or at least control the pollution. The topic that I will tackle is mainly the state of air pollution in China and ways to control it since in China Air pollution has become personal. Current solutions are not good enough, people are forced to buy air purifiers or filters for their homes or cars.

The main causes of pollution in China include, coal burning since most companies are coal powered and smog generated from cars and heating systems. The research also includes examination of the influence that coal burning brings to the environment and to what degree will it harm our planet. Acts by Chai to reveal the extent of pollution are quite brave and courageous considering the companies that she faces. Some of them I will highlight and try my best to follow in her footsteps during the research that I will conduct. The report also features the changes that the environment has faced, from walking and seeing the Milky Way to people walking with face masks on the streets, people being forced to use tape to cover every window frame and people being forced to check the Air quality index applications to know the current state of the environment and therefore plan your day according to that.

The report aims at showing people how they can best handle the situation on environmental pollution and how they can stand up and be environmental conscious and how they can force the big companies to follow suite too. It tries to explain that together, environmental pollution can be eradicated in China.

Every so often a powerful movie or a seminal book alters the way we perceive the world around us. About two years ago, an online documentary about air pollution called Under the Dome has gone viral on the internet. I had to admit that I was never a fan of documentary. It is dull and humdrum, puts me to sleep right away. After seeing more and more people reposting it on the social media, I changed my mind and decided to take a look of this “trendy” documentary. Under the Dome is charismatic. When “Under the Dome” was posted online it found a ready audience. When I finally watched Under the Dome, it had been viewed more than 100 million on Youku, a Chinese version of Youtube. And it was generating considerable chatter on social media sites as well; there were 280 million posts on Sina Weibo alone. Research also shows that before it was taken down from Internet sites, more than 200 million Chinese had viewed it. Under the Dome is powerful, scientific, motivating and brilliant. It got my 104 minutes worth. But what is so special about this particular documentary that almost everyone around me was watching and discussing about this?

The documentary is narrated by Chai Jing. In this documentary, she walks to and fro in front of a large screen, weaving graphs, statistics, vivid photographs, interviews and personal stories into an arresting narrative of China’s pollution crisis. She reveals footage from factory visits and interviews with government officials, environmental experts and business owners. She gives the documentary a deeply personal twist, tying the story of China’s polluted air to the story of her own daughter’s health. Chai claims the her daughter’s tumor in utero was caused by air pollution. This does not only tugs at parental heartstrings, but also us the people who live on this land.

Under the Dome drew hundreds of millions of viewers for its insight into the extent of the country’s pollution problem, including me. Towards the end of the film, Chai urges individuals to take responsibility. She convinces a restaurant to use more environmentally sound equipment. She says: “Honestly, I am not afraid of dying. I just don’t want to live this way anymore. This is how history is made. No, I’m not satisfied, I don’t want to wait. I want to stand up and do a little something.”

Inspired by Chai, my research topic will be focused on air pollution. It’s a crucial and critical crisis that has became a threat to us the human who live on this planet. Air pollution, after all, has become personal — the daily smog, the face masks, the air filters, the no-school days, the constant coughs, the visits to the children’s hospitals. Hence the frequency with which people take to the streets to protest polluting factories and power plants. They have become motivated to learn about the toxic stew that is threatening their health and, still more, the health of their children: What’s in this stew, what are its sources, what are its effects, and how can they protect themselves? Many residents are buying air purifiers or filters for their homes or cars. But is this the only solution we have got?

Many may know coal burning is one of the main reasons to cause air pollution in China. With advanced technology, the demand for products goes up, thus the coal-powered factories are producing more. Emissions from coal-powered industries, cars and heating systems generate the smog. The air in much of China is so bad the government has repeatedly declared “war” on it. The enemy are tiny particulates which spew forth from countless cars, coal-fired power stations and steel plants to create a dense smog. In my research, I will examine the influence that coal burning brings to the environment and to what degree will it harm our planet.

I was stoked that Chai visited state-owned oil companies such as China National Petroleum Corporation, which has also been the subject of the government’s anti-corruption crackdown. It was very brave and courageous for her to go to such a grey zone. Chai also criticises PetroChina and Sinopec. These companies set their own production standards and the Ministry of Environmental Protection is largely powerless to respond. Steel producers and coal plants also ignore regulations to maximise profits. Chai visits a steel producer in Hebei province with a government inspector to measure levels of pollutants. Months later, it has yet to pay its fines but a provincial official tells her that it is not possible to shut down such factories and sacrifice employment for the sake of the environment. How have officials failed in controlling air pollution in China? Since when seeing any sky at all in the city is a luxury? I remembered when I was little, the sky used to be blue and we can see starry milky way in a summer night. But now, when you go out to the street, all you see are the faces without any expressions, covered by the same exact masks. People are despair about the poor air quality, about the government for not doing the right thing. Do we really not have a chance to change the situation? I don’t think so.

In my research, I will be researching the background information of the ongoing air pollution issues in China and what action had the government taken and why it was failing it. Since I am currently in the United States, I don’t need to worry about my topic will be censored and I have freedom to speak on the topic which is considered as “against the government”. (After a week of passionate public discourse over the film, the central propaganda department told websites on Friday to remove “Under the Dome.”) I will also cover the solutions and new inventions that can be used to fight the air pollution.

Many may ask, “why should we care?” Let’s imagine this, when spring comes, the doors are left open, welcoming the cool breeze, the smell of fresh flowers, the colors of spring. Sometimes when you encounter fresh rain, or fog, you find it hard to resist the temptation to breathe deeply and feel the crisp air and refreshing moisture enter your lungs. In the fall, you want to just find a loved one, and do nothing but laze around all day under the clear autumn sunlight. Come winter time, you want to run outside and watch your kid stick their tongue out to catch the falling snow, and you’d tell them about the wonder of nature and life. But instead, everyday you wake up, first thing you do is look at the Air Quality Index app on my phone. Use it to arrange your day. You wear your mask shopping, buying groceries, meeting with friends. You use tape to cover every window frame. Is this the life you wanted? I don’t believe so. Air pollution issues do not only exist in China, but also worldwide, it can affect anyone in this living planet. My purpose of this research is to call the attention of the people. Some people may have heard the environmental issues but still think it is not relevant to them, but this is fatal, serious, and relevant to both you, and me.

An ordinary people like me might seem insignificant, however, if hundreds and thousands people rise and stand up with environmental consciousness and passion, it will soon become a butterfly effect and bring the changes to the existing environmental issues.


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