Sunday, November 16, 2008

"Brown Clouds" is what the Grey Lady calls "yellow dust"

Those of us from Seoul or other parts of South Korea (or next-door Japan, for that matter) are familiar with the annual ritual of staying indoors or going out only if you have a white mask to cover your nose. "Yellow Dust" on pink flowers as a rite of spring. (For those inclined to learn a Korean word, it's 황사/黃沙, or hwangsa, in Korean.)

Well, the New York Times has a piece on hwangsa and wider problem of Chinese pollution (and pollution from other East Asian countries) in general, of which hwangsa is just one part. 

"Brown clouds," which is how the thick soup of particulate matter is referred to in the NYT, may not be just the fault of China. Seoul with it's millions of cars in a small area gets much of the blame for its own problems, though Seoul has long been working to put cleaner vehicles on the roads and to completely phase out residential coal-burning (the most common way that Korea's ubiquitous ondol floor heating was fired up back in the day).

But the NYT, citing a United Nations report on air quality, focuses primarily on Beijing and the China-generated problem of the dust clouds—which occasionally make it all the way to California to mix with the smog there. Maybe they should start calling the Chinese capital Beige-ing. Get it? Beige... like the bland color of the sky there? Feel free to use that one. 

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