The Dirtiest Place on the Planet

The Dirtiest Place on the PlanetIt is the city of Linfen, China and spending about a day there breathing in the air is about the same as smoking three packs of cigarettes.

The scary part is that there's a lot of cities in China like this. Sixteen out of the world's 20 most polluted cities are in China.

Linfen produces what any nation of over a billion people need - a ton of energy. It's an endless landscape of factories all spewing a bunch of toxic chemicals into the air and poisoning the land and the water.

There's no clouds, just a permanent toxic smog hovering over the city. Linfen is located in the heart of Shanxi Province. Every day, thousands of coal trucks go between Linfen and the rest of China's cities. Then they come back empty for more.

China suffers from both local problems and global environmental challenges. So the combined impacts of climate change and local pollution are causing enormous consequences. A lot of the environmental problems in China are very closely linked to the energy consumption.

Watch the full documentary now (playlist - 27 minutes)

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Ratings: 8.64/10 from 33 users.
  • brianrose87

    If you want a reason for why the world cannot agree on limiting greenhouse emissions this video shows why.

    The U.S. and other developed countries have emitted the largest aggregate amount of carbon over the last 250 years. Developing countries are the areas of the current growth of carbon emissions. Each side has an equally valid argument.

    Should we limit CO2 emissions on total emissions since 1800, or should we limit their growth from this moment forward? This is a rhetorical question because neither option is politically possible.

    China now emits more CO2 than the U.S. The rate of growth of China's emissions are putting our world on a dangerous path, but in terms of total emitted carbon since 1800 the U.S. exceeds China by orders of magnitude.

  • PaulGloor

    You would think though that developing nations would look at it squarely and say, we can do better than the US, learn from their mistakes and build upon innovation which is available.
    All this is is a grab for power through fast economic growth. Instant gratification.

    When everyone hates the US so much, why does everyone want to be like them ?

  • BrughKart

    They hate the US because they ARENT like the US. I know how that may sound but take it with an open mind, I'm not american, but it IS the conclusion that I have come to. Countries that have a higher standard of living than the US generally never bad mouth it or point out its flaws. That sort of thing only seems to come from people whose standard of living, and their nations economy in general, are still catching up.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_LK6B2HGMK4EHZ6YJ3I6WFKY77U DigiWongaDude

    @ BrughKart: Are you talking about U.S. pollution policy hate only? Because to say that is to belittle much of the outrage of the world to simple envy or trivial negative jealously. I say outrage because hate evolves from a developed fear. On behalf of that outrage, I respectfully disagree. There is much to be outraged about.

    (I know you were responding to PaulGloor, whose question sets up a rhetorical envy or jealousy conclusion too)

  • Imightberiding

    You got yours' so I'm gonna get mine! Does this attitude in this day & age justify something that is blatantly wrong? Of course the developed western nations of the world are guilty of countless atrocities against this planet & her people. Should we not be aware & perhaps past this point?

    Does China's assault on the environment somehow become justified because of all that was done prior to their modern/industrialized development? Of course they need to support their massive population & industries that provide products for the rest of the world. Does that mean they should ignore the harms of the past & continue on the same path?

    Should we allow what the catholic church & colonizing nations did to the world outside their borders again? Didn't we all learn from these past mistakes? Why then are countries as advanced & technologically savvy as China allowed to carry on with a process we all know to be wrong & harmful?

    Perhaps the answer lies in "not my back yard". As long as it isn't effecting the rest of the developed nations & they are still getting all the "stuff" their hearts desire, what is the harm in that? After all, it's just a bunch of cheep, uneducated labour suffering at the fore front of this health & climate crisis. It hasn't directly reached our countries yet so in the mean time I will continue to type away on my lap top as we all answer important calls on our I-phones while wearing the latest jeans & fashions that we look so good in.

    If this was happening in the west it would not be tolerated. In fact I would say it is far past ever happening in the west again. (I hope) We have already done our damage & hopefully learned from it. Now we have regulations in place to strive towards a better future & do our best not to repeat past mistakes. Non of us gives a flying ph#ck about the lives of millions of desperate hard working people a world away. So they continue to replicate the past industrial revolution, they suffer & we reap the benefits.

    We all yearn for times past. London's air is far cleaner now than a hundred years ago. China certainly knows this, yet they continue on as though there is no tomorrow. There won't be if they don't stop with archaic ideas of providing energy to make a buck at the expense of their people & the planet.

    Can you grab that Starbucks latte for me? I gotta check my email & my cell phone is ringing.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_LK6B2HGMK4EHZ6YJ3I6WFKY77U DigiWongaDude

    The west can't deny the east the opportunity to gain the power accumulated by the west (from polluting), BECAUSE the west hasn't cleaned up its own damage. It would be hypocrisy, and all China would have to say is they have plans to clean up their own mess, and we should concentrate on ours.

    You can't TELL a sovereign nation what to do when it's acting in it's own best interest. They will simply refuse.

    We all use the cheap exports and so international pressure on them, through sanctions etc., won't work as retaliations would swiftly follow.

    ...So create a pot of money accrued internationally for pollution control (just print the damn stuff already, and don't bail out banks!) Half goes on the cleanup of existing plants and half goes on grants to encourage emerging nations to use cleaner methods. Okay, not half, but split it up proportionally. Except Germany, amongst others, won't pay out for that too, indeed why should they?

    ...So make each country pay for their own pollution footprints. Except the U.S. refuses to pay its way (proportionally), paving the way for others to do as they wish too, citing the U.S. as the reason for non-compliance.

    ...Okay, so punish though who refuse to do their bit, for setting bad examples for others. But everyone's spent all their money and are indebted to the hilt, intentionally perhaps? The whole world is broke, polluted, unemployed and/or starving. Apart from a fraction of 1% who think everything's just groovy the way it is.

    Oh well at least they banned smoking in public places. :-/

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_LK6B2HGMK4EHZ6YJ3I6WFKY77U DigiWongaDude

    @ 05:44 (part 2) USA = fracking flaming tapwater? China = flammable boogers?

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_BYHC4RSPU2QLVZS6UX4GQ7NR7M AllanA

    Well looks like someone can use some American PR people that can turn these frowns into smiles. These PR people been working hard in the USA conning people into things like "clean coal" and pointing out that they've reduced their use of generating CO2 (by buying energy sources from someone that isn't a part of their CO2 generation, but this is another story).

    Oh yeah, another great story from VICE. Thank you guys yet again! Keep them coming and seriously, I don't know what I'd watch if it wasn't for you guys!!!!

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_LK6B2HGMK4EHZ6YJ3I6WFKY77U DigiWongaDude

    Don't know if it's ok to say this but, at the end of this doc, is a link to another VICE one about a couple living in isolation in Alaska. Bloomin' great too!

  • http://twitter.com/Demoorelizer Dylan Moore

    Unless the rest of the world stops buying everything from China and perpetuating their economy and the processes they use, then nothing will happen. It's all about the dollar, citizens do not matter to them.

  • Peter Ho

    I'm from Taiwan and we have similar concerns on human rights problem in China. But I believe we should have a more accurate understanding of China (since we're geologically close and are also Chinese) than most westerners. Out of all the human rights problems, we have never heard any slavery going on. Scamming people off their labour is a more accurate term. This scam happens more often in small businesses instead of a corporate scale.

    Yes, these Chinese workers gets underpaid (according to western terms) but to most of them, they are at least still able to afford basic needs. You can't realistically expect everyone to live like westerners unless we change our economic system.

  • http://twitter.com/selindh Jeff

    I am glad i clocked in here, Underpaid employees or just do not Pay or even recognize you as a human being i have run into this here in the good ol U.S.A
    play little games with employees C.E.O's worth Millions Play games like small children Na Na Na I am rich you are not i'm going to behave in a manner consistent with an eight year old child i would be happy to give more info

  • Sy2502

    Interesting documentary, although the commentator made a couple of less than smart observations. For example, comparing food grown in the dirtiest area in the world with American, FDA approved food, which apparently, is grown in labs (oh really?). If this person doesn't even understand the vastness of the gulf of difference between the two, he isn't the proverbially sharpest tool. The same goes for the other comment about how, at least, in Linfen, at night, one can see the stars. Well I am sure this gentleman will soon be moving there permanently, so he can watch the stars while breathing the equivalent of 3 packs of smokes a day. American enviromental simpletons (which is a small but vocal portion of the American environmentalists at large) insist in criticizing America while places like China are absolutely appalling. I wonder when they are going to go after the real polluters for a change, instead of berating the American pubblic.

  • http://twitter.com/panthera_f panthera f

    Good to know, that if the USA and China doesn't DO something about it, they are the first to choke on their own filth.

  • Malik

    I was excited to watch this documentary but I had to end it when 5 min in someone from Greenpeace appeared in it...

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=38201009 Ellen Johnston

    Wasn't that a joke, i.e., the stars (the entertainers) come out onto the hotel stage? I don't believe the "commentator" wanted to leave his audience with a glowing review of the city, rather he didn't want to completely blame the citizens of the community but rather show that these people are coping with government sanctioned practices.

  • kay

    An image of a nuclear cooling tower when showing factory smokestacks that contribute to air pollution is inappropriate. Pure water vapor comes out of cooling towers. Duh. Someone should have caught that.

  • Kennyken

    Crazy..they had a madman in charge in Mao who's programs of industrialisation actually set the countries development back by decades in the Great Leap Forward..well the costs of that madness are well documented. This is more of the same, another headlong leap by the country that will also have it's effects in the years to come. Look at Russia and the problems it has now, the country is so polluted from Its command and control Cold War economy that lifespans have fallen through the floor today.

  • Martin Miljkovic

    hi, haven't heard that about russia pollution, could you plz share the source?

  • Richard Neva

    Pittsburg PA looked just like this in 1948. I two minute walk would coat your face black! Isn't Communism wonderful? We will return to this when America is fully a Communist nation!

  • race_to_the_bottom

    That's because Pittsburg was making our steel. Now, our steel, and the products made from it, are made in China.

  • race_to_the_bottom

    Its not a "nuclear cooling tower". Coal fired plants use cooling towers too.

  • Richard Nixon

    USA? The US has a low pollution-particle account. Actually lower than much of Europe. And a low death rate attributed to pollution. Look up "pm10 by country" and "Countries Ranked by Air Pollution".

    So do some research.