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…