With China’s smog situation raging out of control, the country is attempting to find some creative solutions in order to make the air passably breathable again… and several of these ideas are downright silly.
Don’t get me wrong: given how devastating pollution is to the environment, all ideas – even the funniest ones – are worth exploring in order to find real solutions. At least China is attempting to tackle the problem in some manner rather than pretending it doesn’t exist at all like some other major polluting countries.
Still, what makes these ideas extra ridiculous is that we already know how to stop a pollution epidemic: by not polluting. That radically simple solution, however, appears to be a no-go for an industrializing nation, so they’ll probably give four of these other less conventional plans a shot first:
1. Literally Altering the Weather
Since precipitation does a pretty good job of helping to eliminate smog in the air, meteorologists are hoping they can help alleviate the problem by forcing it to rain more often.
In a plan straight out of a mad scientist’s playbook, documents show that the Chinese government intends to fire rockets full of silver iodide into clouds. Within the clouds, ice crystals may form and eventually fall back to the earth in the form of artificial rain or snow, depending on the temperature below.
Alas, it’s hard to tell whether this elaborate scheme would actually do any good until it is tested. Talk about an unnatural solution to an unnatural problem!
2. Massive Skyscraper Sprinklers
If scientists cannot recreate fake rain, there’s another offbeat solution in the works. Environmental scientist Shaocai Yu thinks he may be able to replicate rain by attaching gigantic sprinkler systems to the country’s tallest buildings and spraying water in the air. The idea is that water will help filter the smog in the way that precipitation normally would.
Critics of this idea not only question its viability, but also the amount of water it would waste in the process. Since water is already a scarce commodity in parts of the country, could China really afford to designate so much of it to a plan with minimal (if any) benefits?
3. Air Purifying Bicycles
Companies have begun introducing bicycles with customized air purifiers so that cyclists can ride through traffic without inhaling unhealthy exhaust fumes. The idea really took off in China in particular when Matt Hope, a British artist who has lived in Beijing for five years, introduced a similar homemade cycle to counter his city’s pollution epidemic.
Though Hope admits his creation was mainly meant as a satirical statement, that didn’t stop it from going viral, with media outlets pitching it as a serious solution. While his bike technically works, he doesn’t like the idea of mass producing it as some sort of excuse to continue polluting elsewhere. Still, even if the bikes were to go mainstream, at least they would offer an alternative to the carbon emitting vehicles that much of China relies upon.
4. A Giant Vacuum Cleaner
Beijing officials are meeting with a Dutch inventor/artist, Daan Roosegaarde, who has created a prototype for an enormous vacuum cleaner that sucks smog particles out of the air. Shaped like a hula-hoop, the instrument uses electrostatic to collect the smog and clears out the space between.
This video featuring an artistic rendering of how the device works seems pretty laughably optimistic. Even the creator of the device admits that his invention is not a cure-all. “It’s not going to cure smog on a large scale, but at least we can remind people what clean air looks like,” said Roosegaarde. I don’t know — something about a lone patch of breathable air almost seems even more depressing.