Ninety-nine stuffed animals recently sailed into the Huangpu River in Shanghai, China, on a little fishing boat. But no worries — though the scene may have shared a resemblance to Noah’s Ark from the Bible, it isn’t some type of apocalyptic warning. In fact, it was to raise awareness of a major ongoing issue in China.
By now, you’ve probably heard an infinite number of horror stories depicting China’s terrible water pollution situation, including the one where some 16,000 dead pigs were dumped and found in the same Huangpu River last year. Why is this especially a major issue? The Huangpu River supplies the city with some of its drinking water. Having grown up in Shanghai myself, I nearly went into cardiac arrest when word broke out.
Sadly, even with all the media attention, not a lot has actually been done to relieve the problem. This is where New York-based Cai Guo-Qiang stepped in with his art piece, titled “Ninth Wave”, to promote his cause of putting an end to water pollution.
Photo courtesy of Shanghaiist
Photo courtesy of Shanghaiist
Cai produced each and every single one of the 99 animals, along with the boat in his hometown of Fujian, China. According to the Wall Street Journal, Cai explained the concept behind the mini ark: “The creatures are depicted as near death — as though seasick from the currents of our times.” As for why he chose 99 animals, he reportedly said that it is a number that symbolizes “infiniteness” in China.
It’s no secret that China is currently facing a very serious air pollution problem. Last month, the northern city of Harbin was forced to cancel classes, shut down the airport and close down bus routes. At the time, the air pollution was 40 times higher than the international safety standard set by the World Health Organization.
The density of fine particulate matter is used to determine air quality. According to the World Health Organization, anything below 25 micrograms per cubic meter is safe. Harbin was well above 600 micrograms per cubic meter and some areas went as high as 1000.
Wu Kai, a citizen of Harbin told Huffington Post “I couldn’t see anything outside the window of my apartment, and I thought it was snowing, then I realized it wasn’t snow. I have not seen the sun for a long time.”
Now, China is dealing with its youngest lung cancer case- an 8-year-old girl. Doctors state that this is a direct consequence of the air pollution while living near a major road in the eastern province of Jiangsu. According to the American Cancer Society, the average age for lung cancer diagnosis is 70.
In the past 30 years in China, lung cancer deaths have multiplied profusely and cancer is currently the leading cause of death.
Designer Chiu Chih explored the idea of what could potentially be the future of China if the air pollution continues to harm its inhabitants. This included oxygen masks which would have to be worn in the smog-ridden area. Unfortunately, this may turn into a reality.