Woman’s personal documentary of air pollution goes viral in China

air pollution viral video
Video screen capture "Under the Dome" by Chai Jing

Former news anchor Chai Jing’s “Under the Dome,” an investigation of smog, gets hundreds of millions of views.

Chai Jing resigned from her position as a prominent news anchor at China's state-owned CCTV after the birth of her daughter. But she is still hard at work telling stories.

Over the past weekend, her video about the country's air pollution, “Under the Dome,” went viral in China and now around the world. The New York Times reports that the video has over 20 million views on the video-sharing site Youku, and has been translated and shared on numerous other websites.

Styled like a TED-talk in front of an audience, Jing’s video combines research, data visualization, investigative reporting and her own personal awakening to the issues of smog after she became a mother.

You can watch the full version, with English subtitles here:

Jing explains that she keeps her daughter inside when the air quality is bad in Beijing, which in 2014 was nearly half of the days of year. “The day will come when she asks me, ‘Why do you keep me here? What is going to hurt me when I go outside?’ ”

It is likely this personal side to the story that has earned the video so much attention, but perhaps also its bravery in a country where media is heavily censored. The video is critical about the government’s lack of oversight regarding pollution, yet so far the film and discussion of the film have not been blocked in China.

Environmentalist Ma Jun told The Guardian that the lack of censorship may signal a change in the Chinese government’s attitudes towards pollution. “The very fact that this gets a green light to go ahead to be aired and to allow nearly two days of intense communications, I think it already shows a willingness to face the problem rather than dodge it,” Ma said.

The video is already having an economic impact. Forbes reports that a number of companies in the environmental monitoring business saw their stocks climb after the film’s release, including firms that produce air quality monitors and renewable energy technologies.

Online activism has been a strategy for environmental activists in China before, with projects like the crowd-sourced Danger Maps and Twitter accounts that share live air quality data.

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