Looking at the biggest environmental issue of Beijing in the last a few years, it must be the heavy haze that caught the most attention. Data shows that vehicles, which contribute 31% of the PM2.5 air quality index is one of the major causing factors. People are wearing masks anytime when they are out in the air, but the numbers of vehicles driving on the road did not decrease even a little. A lot of people don’t really believe in this PM2.5 condition is because of the number of vehicles, just like a lot of people don’t believe in climate change. While the truth is, first of all, suppose there are 6 million vehicles out on the road in Beijing per day, then each of the 6 million vehicles will all be like a “dust raiser”; Secondly, the low-efficient traffic that caused by too many cars results in the “cold start” of the engines, which further produces up to 20% of ambient particulate matter; Last, and the most important one, a lot of the automobile emission is nitrogen oxides, 80% of which becomes PM2.5 after second reaction.
Sometimes numbers aren’t strong enough to work as a warning sign. Here comes the issue of public awareness and public education. There were plenty of projects that incorporated the process of public educating within the design solutions. Visualizing the process of water purification process, letting people engaged in the process and learning from it is the most handful one. The idea is still being tried out on different scales, during which process a lot of people don’t see our living environment should necessarily functioning that way, but I say, especially with this case in Beijing, the most powerful way to awake people and take actions is to visualize it. Just take the PM2.5 as an example. If we could have an absorbing tank inserting on both sides of the roadway(or maybe the green buffer in between), it will definitely absorb huge amount of dust every day. Then compress the absorbing tanks after several days(maybe even longer) to a brick-like shape(or other interesting shape). These “bricks” could be used as a kind of art installation in exhibition, or just using them in the landscape-people sitting on the benches made out of their automobile emissions!
The issue of PM2.5 in Beijing is so complicated and will not be solved by single policy or idea, it needs a system that facilitate the process in a positive way. When I was studied at Beijing, I really knew how did it feel to either stuck in a super crowded subway, or stuck in a super slowly moving crowd of cars on the street. The issue had already been so severe that everyone knows about it, and talk about it, but there is still a gap there between the public understanding and that feasible and positive system. And at this point, it’s time for this educating to be powerful and required, and some sort of revolutionary and leading action is needed to guiding the public.