Beijing needs to breathe!

The data say that Beijing’s pollution has been getting a lot better over the past few years, but is still a lot higher than their target of 30 microgram per meter cube. We want to tell this story because it tells a story that’s not the common narrative: yes the pollution is bad, but it is getting a lot better.

Our audience is Americans interested in China.

There are a few interesting notes about the data: the seasonality is very strong, with highs in Winter. A little research suggests the idea that coal burnt in northern China produce chemicals that are then brought to Beijing by the wind patterns.

We tried looking for the familiar narrative of better pollution levels during the 2008 Olympics, and did find that the levels were much lower than they were for the same time future years.

However, what caught our eye was the dramatic improvement over the past few years, where the worst part of the year is similar to the best of previous years. This is a dramatic reduction in the pollution of the city!

Focusing in on that narrative, we worked to find a sculpture that could convey the discomfort of the pollution, while also leaving the audience with a sense of hope for the future. We settled on using masks that the viewer would wear on the way in – the pollution is still terrible after all, while displaying the yearly pollution levels in stacks of masks.

Margaret, Rikhav, Olivia