Dear Chai Jing,
You released your documentary about smog pollution in China, called Under the Dome, over the weekend. In a TED-Talk style setting, you talk about China’s smog problem, and how it may have affected the health of your daughter. Although it’s over 100 minutes long, Under the Dome has had more than 100 million views within two days. You have touched a nerve.
Although I had never heard of you before, I’ve read that you are a well-known Chinese journalist, television reporter, and author. I wish I spoke your language and could understand your documentary. The rough translation showing up on YouTube gives me only a general sense of what you are trying to say, and how you say it. But I’ve watched the footage of you speaking in front of an image of your daughter’s ultrasound, and I know that you speak about the dangers of pollution. Even though I can’t understand the words, I can relate to you as a mom.
I admire your courage. I know that it’s not always easy to make your voice heard in China, especially when you are talking about the downside of massive industrialization that relies on dirty fossil fuels.
I know that your infant daughter had surgery for a benign tumor, and I am glad to read that she is recovering. You wonder whether her health problems were caused by air pollution. Some have dismissed your concerns about that. All I can say is, I know that air pollution, and smog in particular, is linked to a host of maladies. It does harm our bodies, and the bodies of our children. And I agree with you that we need to protect our children from it.
Some are wondering how and why your documentary has reached so many people, in a country where internet censorship is routine. Is the Chinese government trying to build support for strong limits on air pollution? Or will you become a target of censorship in the future? If so, I am watching. I am rooting for you. Whether or not I speak your language.
Here in the US, the EPA is considering strengthening its national standards for smog pollution. Thousands of moms are speaking up right now, demanding that the EPA follow the science and give us a smog standard that truly protects little lungs. Your story gives me so much motivation to educate parents and lawmakers about this issue, so that every child can breathe healthy air.
In the film, you say:
“One day, tens of thousands of ordinary folks will say no. They will say they are not satisfied, they don’t want to wait and they don’t want to evade responsibility. I have to stand out and do something, and I will do it right now, right here, in the very moment where I am. I am the change.”
You are a mother, a journalist, and an inspiration. Thank you for your courage.