Two men are talking in whispered tones, glancing around the dark alley furtively. There is a disagreement quickly blossoming into an argument. Voices are raised despite their initial attempts at being stealthy, and with sudden decisiveness, one man reaches under his jacket and produces a pistol. The other man attempts a panicked flight and immediately is gunned down for his trouble. The man wielding the pistol steps over the dead man and opens his coat to take what he came for; a canister of clean air.
Sounds like a bad movie, right? Who the heck would go as far as to kill a man for fresh air, let alone pay for it?
An eccentric Chinese millionaire named Chen Guangbiao has sold more than 8 million cans of air in Beijing. “Every day, we are inhaling the exhaust fumes of cars,” Chen told China’s Sina News, “and now we have pollution-free air to sell – a benefit to everyone’s health and longevity.” I wish I was making that up.
When I read this, all I could do was think back to Aaron’s smog article where he literally said, “Perhaps scenes from science fiction becoming reality will do the trick. Scenes where clean air is the new crack, sold by every type of gutter scum on darkly lit streets in the middle of the night.” Chen is not exactly “gutter scum”, but he’s also just the first to start selling fresh air. I’d be willing to bet that the fresh air trade gets very seedy very quick, because the smog in China is only getting worse.
Now to be fair, Chen’s original intention was to bring awareness to the smog issue and raise money for poor parts of China. I do not think Chinese consumers got the joke, because his cans of air are still selling like hot cakes. In another demonstration, an artist sold a jar of French air in China for about 800 dollars. We find this ludicrous and ironic since last week we wrote a story about France having a huge smog problem and banning cars to combat the issue. I guess French smoggy air is still better than Chinese smoggy air. I guess the only problem for the enterprising Chinese con artist is whether to sell those paper filter masks on the corner for a dollar a pop, or whether to get in on the ground floor of the clean air syndicate that will no doubt form as soon as criminals get involved.
It’s not science fiction anymore, folks; it is actually happening. In China, clean air is worth money…