There’s no question about it: China is smoggy. Year after year, the number of days of unacceptable pollution levels in its largest cities goes up, and it’s starting to have troubling side-effects. The Financial Times reported last year that pollution has cut life expectancy in the north by 5.5 years; in January, scientists warned that smog was slowing photosynthesis in plants, thereby threatening the country’s food supply.
So it’s no wonder the Chinese government is trying to reduce air pollution, using everything from enormous water pistols to anti-pollution legislation. It’s even thinking about installing domes filled with clean air in Beijing for residents to cower under.
On 13 August, the Ministry of Environmental Protection decided to open a new front, and released a set of guidelines telling the citizenry how to reduce pollution. These include avoiding products with lots of packaging, turning down the air con and burning fewer things. These instructions, it says, are “concise, easy to remember and easy”.
Should they prove otherwise, article 7 of the guidelines urges citizens who spot examples of ungreen behaviour to call a hotline to “report and prosecute” their neighbours.