It’s just after Christmas in Beijing, which puts us firmly in the middle of Coal and Cabbage season. Oddly enough, the huge piles of cabbage that overtook the sidewalks at my university last year do not seem to have materialised again.
Coal, on the other hand, is still abundant. While the use of coal for household heating within the 4th Ring Road is banned, the minute I cross over the 4th ring on my morning ride to school, I can taste coal in the air. I ride past coal-fired road-side cooking stands and dodge around coal-laden flatbed tricycles, and if I’m lucky I get to school with only a mild case of black lung.
Of course, if you’re using low-grade high-sulfur coal, some basic safety precautions should be followed. This sign, hanging near my university reminds us that, “when using coal for heating, a vent must be installed”.