Brown sky and the sea of red

This is a view out my window in Suzhou, China.

If if looks murky, it’s because the pollution in China is like nothing we have in the US. The air quality index here today was just over 200, which is considered “very unhealthy” (specifically unsafe for the elderly or vigorous exercise) — and the next rung up is “hazardous”. For context in the bay area the air quality index ranges between 10–50. This area is peppered with factories everywhere with brands that all of use every day: Apple, Sony, Nest — just to name a few — not to mention all the other products which we simply know as “Made in China”.

Air Quality in China. It’s a sea of red.

Today as I was unavoidably sniffing wafting vapors near a plastic mold injection machine, it made me angry that the Chinese government has allowed this local ecosystem to become so polluted. It made me angry that children who have no choice have to grow up here. It made me angry that we love our gadgets and gizmos but casually ignore that fact that there is a much higher cost than we pay at the store — the externality of a polluted world. It made me angry that we’re ushering in a new administration that doesn’t specifically value the environment and is looking to revert decades of fiercely debated progressive environmental policies — many of which allow us to live in a more beautiful country.

On the bright side, I am grateful to be working on a product (the Nest Learning Thermostat) that saves energy and grateful that our slightly higher costs of goods includes things like recyclable packaging and the absence of hazardous substances. Also the trip was insightful (for me) that we can do things even better. I’ll go into those details in a future post.

And, selfishly, I am looking forward to a big gulp of fresh air.