Air pollution in China is unavoidable, and a huge health problem. Last year, a Berkeley Earth study found that deaths related to the main air pollutant, PM2.5 particles, total 1.6 million a year or 17 percent of China’s mortality rate. In a separate analysis, Greenpeace found that despite that average PM2.5 concentration dropped by 10 percent nationwide in 2015 compared to 2014 levels, none of the 366 cities their researchers tested met the World Health Organization (WHO)’s air quality standard.
Unsurprisingly, a recent WildAid report found that over 90 percent of Chinese residents are concerned about air pollution. The majority of city-dwellers believed vehicle exhaust was the main source of haze, and 58 percent of survey respondents believed that the government and individuals are equally important in affecting change. However, their top choices for how air quality can be improved were all government-led actions.
In an effort to remind citizens that they can make a difference, too, WildAid launched a humorous ad campaign as part of its GOblue program. The organization’s ‘first major public service announcement’ (PSA) is somewhat bizarre: “Hairy Nose” presents a snapshot of a future where pollution has led people to grow out their nose hair to help filter the air as they breathe, and has become engrained in society’s fashion, culture, and activities.
“Air pollution is the number one environmental and health concern in urban China, but most people are waiting for the government to enact change or improve the situation,” said May Mei, WildAid's Chief China Representative. “It’s important that individuals know they have a role to play too.”
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Nearly three-quarters of those surveyed by WildAid in 2015 reported a willingness to reduce driving time to improve air quality; globally, 81 percent of consumers say they will make personal sacrifices to address social or environmental issues. The organization hopes that PSAs like “Hairy Nose” will help them follow-through. WildAid’s media partners are donating air time to deliver the message to millions of people each week on social media sites, a half-dozen national television networks, and on outdoor screens, subway and taxi screens in major Chinese cities.
Solar power installations and corporate commitments to transition to renewable energy are expected to aid significantly in improving China’s air quality, especially as the dirtiest coal plants are shut down. The environment is top-of-mind for many in China, and that trend is poised to continue. For example, the film that recently became the highest-earning film ever shown in China is a romantic comedy with an environmental message.