Reading The Pictures is dedicated to the analysis of news photos and media images.
December 10, 2015

The Market Fiddles While Beijing Lungs Burn

A building with a screen on it in Beijing on Tuesday was obscured by smog that led to the city’s top level of air pollution warning. Damir Sagolj/Reuters

The NYT ran this photo in their Tuesday “Picture of the Day” gallery, and it also appeared in the news story “Smog So Thick, Beijing Comes to a Standstill.” It’s not just an illustration of an environmental emergency, however. It’s also an indictment of consumer culture and the profound disconnect between the two.

As we know, though, the interest in any particular wire photo has everything to do with timing. The fact this photo – depicting Beijing’s first pollution “red alert” ever – is circulating at the same time as the crucial Paris climate summit raises its relevance, and the anxiety, to a whole new level.

As for the economic/environmental tradeoff, that’s another matter. In other words, for all we can see, the market fiddles while Beijing lungs burn.

(photo: Damir Sagolj/Reuters. caption: A building with a screen on it in Beijing on Tuesday was obscured by smog that led to the city’s top level of air pollution warning.)

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