Eco-Living Magazine

Watching the Sun Rise in Beijing…on a Projector Screen?!

Posted on the 14 February 2014 by 2ndgreenrevolution @2ndgreenrev

Watching the Sun Rise in Beijing…on a Projector Screen?!

“The Sun Also Rises” is the title of one of author Ernest Hemingway’s most famous (and one of my favorite) books. And like the title suggests, most of us wake up in the morning expecting to see the sun rise.

In most places around the world, the sun does just that every every day. There are places, of course, north of the Arctic Circle or south of Antarctica, during periods of the year, when sunrise is brief, faint or nearly non-existent; however for most of the inhabited world, like the title of the Hemingway novel, the sun rises each morning.

But, what if you woke up one morning, in your town or city, expecting the sun to rise and it wasn’t there?

Recently in Beijing, China, this ominous thought has been a reality due to a veil of pollution from carbon emissions in the atmosphere. Instead of citizens of Beijing see the sun rise in the sky, instead sunrises have been projected virtually on LED screens, like the one pictured, in Tiananmen Square the large city square in the center of Beijing. And projected on those screens were also the the words, “Protecting atmospheric environment is everyone’s responsibility.”

James Nye of the UK’s DailyMail recently reported this story. “It is no surprise that serious air pollution plagues most major Chinese cities, where environmental protection has been long sacrificed for the sake of economic development. And coal burning and car emissions are major sources of pollution,” he wrote. Yet, at the same time, he reported on all that China is doing to reduce its emissions.  “…China is aware of this and doing more to increase its regulations and financial commitment to fight pollution.”

It was reported that even in winter when the city’s air quality is poor due to increase in coal burning and other pollution and worsened by stagnant weather patterns of winter pollution, the readings were well above 500 ppm. In recent weeks, the level and density of pollution reached as high as 671 parts per million (ppm) at a monitoring post at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing on January 24, 2014. That was well above the level that the World Health Organization reports as safe and was the highest reading since January 2013. To put some perspective on how high that is, the International Panel for Climate Change recommends a safe limit of only 350 ppm.

There are two important lessons from this story. First, climate change and the impact of our rising carbon emissions is real and could one day change the way your day starts. Second, each of us has a part in impacting the planet based on our carbon emissions.

By this point, you know the equation–burning fossil fuels, like oil and coal, means more carbon emissions in the atmosphere. More carbon emissions means a laundry list of threatening impacts on the planet: increasing global temperatures, rising sea level around the world, freaky weather patterns, threatened animal populations and ecosystems and stressed agriculture.

What’s tough about all of this is that fossil fuels cannot be turned off from one day to the next like switching off a light. Fossil fuels power the majority of the things in our lives-building and powering of our cars, buses, trains, planes, homes and offices; producing the gadgets, the plastics, the  buildings, the automobiles, the food and the clothing that we depend on.

Many of you reading this are probably already trying to reduce your carbon footprint–eating locally farmed foods, eating less meat, riding a bicycle or taking mass public transportation instead of always driving a car, flying less, buying fewer things, reusing and repurposing what you already own, switching to a renewable energy provider, if you can, and supporting businesses that are climate conscious.

If you are, great job! Share this great news with the people around you. If you’re not doing anything about your carbon footprint yet, no worries. Now is a great time to start!

My point is this. We can all do at least one thing. Famous Jane Goodall once said, “Every single one of us makes a difference each day and it’s up to us what kind of a difference we make.” We can all talk to someone about climate change. We can all give up meat at least one day a week. We can all live with one less thing. And we can be more creative about how to reduce, repurpose, recycle, refuse or reimagine a world a little more conscious.

It is going to take a long time, a huge commitment by all of us, innovation and willingness to change our lifestyles. But it doesn’t mean changing our lives so they’re not good lives. It just means rethinking and reimagining how we might currently be living. But we can do it.

So before we move through another day too quickly, overlooking the sunrise or moving through the motions without changing how we live, let’s try to contribute to another sunrise. And let’s motivate each other because it will be more effective, fun and profitable. Together we’ll have a bigger impact.

If you don’t know where to start, just start asking friends, coworkers and family for ideas; Google your questions; find websites, articles and podcasts and community events that can teach you more; check out and do one thing today that you learn can reduce emissions tomorrow.

Maybe you’ll walk one extra mile and drive one less; ride the bus or cycle one day a week to work instead of driving; take one less air flight this year; buy one less new shirt this month; wear a sweater instead of turning on or up the heat; have your coffee in a reusable mug instead of a plastic cup; buy food that is local this week, if you can; vote for a political candidate that is concerned with national climate change legislation. Because small changes can and do lead to big changes.

And talk to your friends, neighbors and colleagues to hear what is motivating or holding them back from contributing.  We  have to understand what’s happening outside our own backyards and we have to care about one another. “One of the hardest lessons learned from the past several decades of environmentalism is that fear is indeed a great motivator–but only to a point” says Kathryn Kohm, the editor of Conservation Magazine. The next motivator, she says is “…curiosity–and even wonder.”

How’s this for wonder? That means you have the power to contribute to tomorrow’s great sunrise. 

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