19.1 Heated Conundrum

All the world knows about Beijing’s infamous yellow smog. Last weekend, the skies were practically brown. The AQI was bristling its way up to 300 and I have locked myself in my room in an attempt to wrestle a few more years of my life away from the dirty air.

I also happen to be dressed in inappropriately summery clothes because my room was a sauna. With the window tightly shut to keep out the invasion of the PM particles, and the centralized heating system still blasting its heat waves through the small room, it was a tropical forest up in here. Some of my resident comrades even bought a fan, for the winter. I only hope no one has the AC on cold, a futile hope.

Thus I am confronted with a conundrum. Why won’t they turn down the heat?

Not only would that result in less coal-burning, even if it’s a minute fraction of the total coal being smothered to produce electricity and heat, which we all know makes the AQI jump a few hundred feet upward, but it would also solve our sweaty messes in these rooms. And with less toxic air, I could actually afford to keep the window open at night so my lungs don’t suffocate under the lack of fresh air. My Chinese friends in their four-person dormitories complained of the same problems: they were sweating like a hot yoga session day and night, and some were unable to sleep well because it is just too much to toss and turn on wet sheets. Suffice to say that I was not crazy and privileged to be complaining about this issue. Winter is supposed to be a time for thick pants, winter coats and searingly hot coco to keep our fingers from frostbites, but yet there I was, wishing I could be transported to the North Pole.

Some things I will never understand…

Or breathe.


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