Shanghai Air Pollution

Swatches of color cut directly from photos over my time in Shanghai.

One of my least favorite parts of Shanghai has been the air. The combination of industry, construction, motor vehicles, and you touching yourself at night creates some pretty nasty haze.

The daily pollution reminds me of this little-remembered verse from “Who Let the Dogs Out?” by the Baha Men:

I see ya’ little speed boat head up our coast
She really want to skip town
Get back off me, beast off me
Get back you flea infested monger.

The “coast,” of course, is the East China Sea. The “little speed boat” is symbolic of economic progress. The “beast” is Capitalism and the “monger” is the foreign devil. Interwoven between such simple words is a complex tapestry of geo-political meaning. But when the Baha Men sing “I see you” it’s ironic, because it’s actually hard to see people through the thick pollution here.

My mighty and patient benefactors explain that the air is getting better. As long as one isn’t asthmatic, old, young, or otherwise sensitive to excessive particulate and toxic matter he should be fine.

Clean blue skies are rare, but there is actually a lot color variety in the Shanghai sky. Much like the Eskimos have many words for snow, I offer a few different descriptions for the numerous pollution-based colors I see.




I first read Pudong Night as Pudding Night. So now my new favorite sky swatch is creamy smoke. And thank you, for bringing the Baha Men back into my life.

(laughing) — GAG!


Gross. I think I still have some crusty dust in my nostrils.


It’s a great country but that air!! Or rather, the lack of it.

I had been warned, but still I was shocked.

We were privileged to be in Shanghai, Beijing, and Hong Kong several years ago in October.

In Shanghai and Beijing I could hardly breathe, though I liked both places. Hong Kong was windy and we could breathe freely there.

The situation is much worse than most people could imagine and all citizens of the US who think US air is bad should have to spend a few months In Shanghai and Beijing.

With its enormous population to feed, house, and employ, and the apparent limitation of energy resources, there is no solution. China needs a miracle.


…how’d you get that red? Never seen such a big patch of red sky in Shanghai.

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November 25th, 2009. Categories / China, Shanghai

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