Oxygen in a can
Pollution is one of the major issues resulting from China’s accelerated growth, and last week, air pollution has reached the maximum level of alert set by the authorities, making it an even more imperative concern.
In response to the rarefaction of “good quality” air, a new lucrative market has emerged, and through media and social networks we get stories to laugh about such as a restaurant in Zhangjiagang charging customers for breathing the establishment’s filtered air or a Chinese multimillionaire who started selling fresh air in cans two years ago. More recently, a Canadian start-up was in the spotlight for being successfully and massively selling bottled air for about 20$ each.
As funny and absurd as it may sound, this scenario is not extracted from a pessimistic futuristic novel and should rather be worrying.
We already know that “unlimited” access to drinkable water is something only a relatively small part of the world population can boast having, but fresh air shouldn’t be an issue for it appears to be abundant. Actually, as it is a natural ressource like any other, we shouldn’t totally take it for granted, especially because they are altered by our own activities. In the case of China, air pollution is mostly caused by the coil industry and in return it causes 4,400 deaths every day according to a study.
For this reason, I wouldn’t categorically blame people for selling or buying bottled fresh air: this market subsists as a supply to a demand that is driven by a real necessity (health), and the prices are partly justified by the costs of bottling and shipping. This is however a short-term and very limited way to counter the effects of a long-lasting air pollution and it is only affordable to the wealthiest, as usual.