Blowing in the Wind

Selling Air Bottles, Flying With
Bacteria & Hiring Fake Protesters

As the climate changes and pollution rises, people and corporations scurry to seize positions on all sides of the wind energy debate. While it’s getting harder for humans to grasp a breath of fresh air, it’s just fine for bugs and bacteria, flying in upper layers of the atmosphere.
But even the threat of chocking to death might mean opportunity. Thus an entrepreneur in smog-filled China is selling bottles of air, while a mysterious company would give $20 to anyone who’d show up in Midtown Manhattan, to rally against wind turbines.
Just when you thought that there’s not much going on around you, right? At least not with the air, this constant soothing ghost of a breeze that envelops and kisses our skin ever so gently, but that it’s also the fastest element to mercilessly kill us, whenever it’s short or absent.
Then again, we’ve been stuffing it with some much dirt and soot, chemicals and heavy metal particles, heat and all sorts of flotsam, since at least the Industrial Revolution, no wonder we seem to be reaching critical mass. For millions, the act of breathing in itself is an all-consuming activity.
Billions are routinely spent to support industries and human activities that have a brutal effect on the environment. It’s now a cliche to call it our ‘addiction to carbon fuels,’ but the fact remains that man-made pollution it’s the single greatest factor wreaking havoc with earth’s climate.
But not all is garbage circling the planet, of course. A couple of years ago, a study found out that millions of moths and other bugs travel regularly overnight at some 60 miles an hour, which is faster than many birds migrate. Just like windsurfers, they seem to follow an internal compass tuned to the Earth’s magnetic field, the study found.
Well, now add to that sky superhighway, bacteria and other microorganisms too. And more, according to new research by the Georgia Tech’s School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, they seem to have a role in cloud formation, along with particles of dust and, naturally, water.
Researchers, flying on board a specially outfitted DC8 provided by NASA, were surprised to realize that these are the same bacteria found on the ground, that somehow survive at high altitudes. That makes them travelers too, and this may be one of the most effective ways for nature to spread out microbes globally.
The Georgia Tech team is now busy, studying how that relates to climate change projections, since clouds are important in regulating the planet’s temperatures. As the atmosphere heats up, it may be crucial to consider the behavior of these microorganisms and how they add up to the overall climate changes.

Even for the hardened Chinese citizen, living in a country that’s beaten all records of rapid population and industrial growth, the recent wave of heavy air pollution that has gripped the country in the last few weeks has been too much. As its economy relies heavily on coal energy, it’s very likely that air quality in China has reached a critical point.
Last Saturday, for instance, Beijing busted open the Air Quality Index, hitting a staggering 755 points in a scale of 0 to 500. The EPA, which uses the index to measure air pollution, considers anything between 151 and 200, unhealthy, and above 301, hazardous. So much for the estimated 20 million souls breathing such air, even with those useless masks.
To have an idea, similar levels of smog killed 12,000 people in a pollution wave that hit London in 1952, according to the NYTimes. Whereas now, 60 years later, the U.K. has one of the best air qualities in the world, thanks to strict regulations, China may not have the means or that much time to lower its catastrophic levels of smog.
Then, along comes billionaire Chen Guangbiao and his five yuan (75¢) cans of fresh air. Each comes with a different ‘flavor,’ such as Tibet, post-industrial Taiwan, and even revolutionary Yan’an, the Communist Party’s early base area, according to the Fairfax Media. The idea would potentially make him even richer if it wasn’t more of a publicity stunt.
Chen is trying to make a point, you see, and really, with that kind of air pollution, his gimmick is neither farfetched nor completely laughable. Actually, we don’t believe anyone is laughing at the idea, and we even fear for him, if we think that the authoritarian Chinese government is no known for its sense of humor either.

Now, every once in a while we come across a piece of news that raises red flags, and this is one of them. We couldn’t confirm the info in any of the well established media channels, so here’s our disclaimer: this may be a hoax. Unlike others designed to do harm, though, this one may be delivering an important message.
It goes like this: a company named Ovation put out a Craigslist add, recruiting people who’d like to make $20 just to stand at noon Wednesday in front of the U.K. Consulate in Midtown Manhattan. The idea is to ‘pretend you hate’ the wind turbines being built in England and Scotland, while supposedly standing behind the speakers at the rally.
There are so many questions as to whether this was (the add had already been pulled yesterday) a serious Help Wanted notice, starting with the fact that there’s no known, publicly-traded energy company named Ovation. But even assuming that it’s just a front for the industry, one has to wonder: so that’s how they do it?
Opposition to wind turbines has been surprisingly strong, and in the U.S., there are a number of well-to-do New England communities against them, citing noise and visual pollution, of all things. Whatever. The intriguing fact is that no one had any idea where it all came from.
Many probably showed up, at least on the account of the media exposure the add suddenly got. Others did it too because there’s always people who like to stop and stare. And yet others will be, from now on, scrutinizing these sort of rallies, to see if they can detect insincerity in the face of the protesters.

Presumably, if the add was indeed serious, the company or companies had already hired a number of actors. It must have been at least curious, if it all went according to the unconfirmed plans, to see who would be these fake protesters. Some would say, hey, it’s $20, but really? We’re reserving our judgement, of course, lest not we be in that kind of destitute condition some day.
But, after all that’s been said about the air, the atmosphere, and the wind, it’s hard to believe that there’s still people in the world today that think petroleum and coal are not the cause for some of the worst aspects of climate change. Really? What about melting glaciers, rising sea levels, extremely harsh weather, catastrophic erosion, acidification of rain water? feel free to jump in and ask us to stop, please, contamination of the soil, etc.
It’s really hard to swallow that there are those willing to deny 200 years of recorded history, plus mathematics, economics, experiments and statistics science, direct observation, and pretty much all accumulated human knowledge, in order to maintain the status quo. Even if one considers the stratospheric profits that the industry has been posting every quarter.
It may be possible for a while longer but, realistically, they won’t be able to keep it up all the time. The only problem is, when finally public awareness and technology will be up to par to tackle air pollution and climate change, it may be a bit too late, and possibly not even enough. But we can’t count with that possibility.
After all, the answer my friend is blowing in the wind, possibly high up in the mountains of Tibet.

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