How China Defeated Air Pollution With Three Critical Ingredients

Reflections on seemingly insurmountable human-made damage from a Patagonian backcountry adventure: there’s always a way out

Ricky Lanusse
The Environment

--

That’s me, walking into an infinite blanket of white and somehow reflecting on air pollution. (photo by author’s girlfriend, best photographer out there)

Last week, I went backcountry skiing along the border between Argentina and Chile. It doesn’t get much better than that: a world of solitude, an infinite blanket of white, and panoramic views of volcanoes and glacial lakes.

After a day in the mountains, we headed for an overnight in Puerto Varas, a picturesque Chilean town by the shores of Lake Llanquihue. Yet, this picture-perfect setting masked an unexpected encounter. For the first time in my life, even having traveled through sprawling cities, I was blindsided by the stifling presence of an adversary I had never battled before: air pollution.

As the biting Patagonian cold descended, the town’s stoves, all fuelled by wood, came alive. The wind had seemingly disappeared, allowing a dense cloud to escape from each chimney, hovering ominously over the town.

An adversary I had never battled before, hoovering over Puerto Varas: air pollution. (photo by author’s girlfriend, best photographer out there)

I can assure you that each breath served as a chilling reminder of this unseen…

--

--