Air pollution in the form of smog and PM2.5 became a political issue and a public concern in China with the airpocalypse in early 2013. Since then, smog/wumai and PM2.5 have triggered general concern, public protests, abatement measures, and political processes to curb emissions into air and improve living standards for Chinese citizens in large parts of Northern and Eastern China. This lecture will discuss the air pollution situation in China before 2013 by looking into historical sources and public debates on such issues. The aim is to place the current air pollution in a historical context and show how various forms of poor quality air were seen to have negative effects on human health also long before the 2013 airpocalypse.
Rune Svarverud is professor of China studies at the Department of Culture Studies and Oriental Languages, the University of Oslo. He has been working with various aspects of Chinese intellectual life and the history of ideas in China, starting with a PhD on early Confucian thought while lately mostly working with cultural and intellectual contacts between China and the West in the wake of the Opium war. He is currently a team member in the Airborne project studying air pollution from many different disciplinary perspectives. Svarverud, as member of the Airborne project, is working with and publishing on various historical aspects of air pollution in China.