“Under the Dome” Documentary Blasts China’s Pollution
An unwanted yet not-so-unexpected consequence of China’s rapid rise toward the top of the industrialized heap has been environmental degradation and pollution on a grand scale.
Beijing, with a population just under 19 million, regularly surpasses the EPA pollution rating of 300 which means air is unsafe breathe and has had days when readings have reached three-times that level—the country burns nearly half of the world’s coal all by itself.
More than half of China’s surface water is so polluted as to be untreatable to make drinkable and a quarter of it is so dangerous it can’t be used for even industrial purposes. Groundwater is no better; about 60 percent of water beneath Chinese cities has been described as severely degraded.
A documentary titled Under The Dome which focuses on and details not only the causes of the country’s severe air pollution but the lax government regulation and supervision that seem to encourage polluters, hit the internet this weekend.
And then, just as quickly, it didn’t.
The documentary, which has been called China’s Inconvenient Truth, was released Saturday on popular Chinese video sites such as Youku and iQiyi and in less than 24 hours had tallied an incredible 155 million views, proof that the Chinese public takes the problem seriously. The film, whose title is a reference to what it feels like to live under the choking gray haze of smog, is the work of Chai Jing, a former anchor on state-run China Central Television, who has said she made it to chronicle the pollution she believes contributed to her daughter’s health issues.
And the very fact the 103-minute documentary was produced and released seemed to signal that the Chinese government was finally starting to take seriously the concerns of Chai and her millions of viewers. But, just as suddenly as Under The Dome had become an internet phenomenon, it was missing in action. In China, at least. Viewers who went on to the likes of Youku and iQiyi were told that the video could not be found and suggested that the government was not ready to acknowledge taking a direction on the matter that has been criticized by other industrial nations as unfair and foolhardy.
If you’re reading this and have access to YouTube—blocked in China—you can view the entire documentary with English subtitles.