One of the wealthiest men in China, Chen Guangbiao, worth an estimated $740 million, has traded in his entrepreneurial endeavors for ecological ones. Chen, a high profile philanthropist, made his fortune in the recycling business. Wednesday, he handed out cans air of that he declared were from the parts of China known for the cleanest, purest air.
The catch – there was no pristine air in the cans. Chen was making a tongue-in-cheek effort to call attention to the troubling air pollution plaguing China. On the front of Chen’s cans was displayed a caricature of himself with the saying “Chen Guangbiao is a good man.” Along the bottom of each was the phrase “Be a good person, have a good heart, do good things.”
Chen’s ultimate goal was to make a lasting point with governmental officials, mayors, and presidents of companies that there are no profits big enough to justify the damage currently being done to China – a pretty interesting point made by a self-made millionaire.
Air pollution is measured in terms of PM2.5, or particulate matter 2.5 micrometers in diameter. This matter is absorbed into the lungs and causes a host of health issues – not least of which is lung and heart disease. The World Health Organization advocates for a level of no higher than 20 and maintains that levels 300 and above have serious health consequences.
It’s not unusual for Beijing to have a PM2.5 level of 500 or greater. Shockingly, on January 12, the PM2.5 level rose to 755, the highest in recorded history.
Beijing citizens have noted that spending only 20 minutes walking outside often results in dizziness and a sore throat.
On Wednesday, Chen was handing out the cans for free. Now they sell for 5 yuan, or 80 cents, and proceeds go to the poorest regions of China. So far, 8 million cans have sold within the last 10 days.
(Editor’s note: I wonder where those cans will go after people dump them…)