Every cloud has a silver lining -- even in China's case, where the cloud is a dense blanket of air pollution nearly 20 times the UN's limit of what's safe for humans to breathe in. A widely circulated column from CCTV, the state television network, highlights not one, but five "unexpected gains" brought by the haze.
1. It's united the public against a common enemy.
2. A great equalizer, it damages the lungs of both the rich and the poor.
3. It's given the nation time to reflect on the consequences of its economic boom.
4. Everyone's sense of humor is coming out as people turn to jokes and sarcasm to deflect from the very real sense of crisis (and that very sense of humor is somehow "the source of strength for defeating the smog").
5. At the same time that it's making everyone more prone to serious health problems, it's also making them smarter:
Our knowledge of meteorology, geography, physics, chemistry and history has grown [because of pollution] and the standard of our English has improved too. Without this haze, would you know what PM2.5 was? Would you know that 60 years ago the haze claimed 12,000 lives in London? Would you even know the words "haze" and "smog"?
If that's not enough, another state-controlled media outlet published an article touting the "defensive advantage" smog could provide in military operations -- missiles, it explained, can't hit their targets if it can't find them.
Meanwhile in Shanghai, smog Monday reached dangerous levels for the seventh time this month, prompting officials to warn children and the elderly to remain indoors. And in November, an eight-year-old girl became what's believed to be the country's youngest lung cancer patient; doctors are blaming her condition directly on air pollution.