News of the apocalyptic air pollution in and around Beijing, China took me back to family road trips around the south side of Lake Michigan in the 1960s. As we approached the steel mills in Gary, Indiana, we kids in the back seat would ready the Kleenex, and then hold it over our noses as the acrid, sulphurous gases penetrated through our station wagon's doors. It was like driving through a sunset at midday, with clouds of purple and orange pollution drifting over the freeway. For fifteen minutes we'd endure that torture, wondering all the while how people could possibly live in the houses we passed.
In China, fifteen minutes would not be enough to escape the noxious air. One radio report described China's off-the-charts pollution as being twice the width of Texas.