A small assist as the city issues its first-ever red alert for severe air pollution.

If you look hard enough through the thick haze that regularly engulfs Beijing, you can probably make out the faint outline of such iconic structures as the China Central Television (CCTV) tower, the Bird’s Nest stadium, and Tiananmen Square. But some days, the air quality is so severely bad—like on Monday when officials raised the pollution alert to red, the highest level—that all people can see is a wall of gray.

So locals have gone ahead and outlined the city’s major landmarks, which have become mere blurs in photos.

(Reuters/Damir Sagolj)

Can’t see the CCTV tower in the photo above? Oh, there it is:

Can you tell what’s lurking in the background of this photo?

(Reuters/Kim Kyung-Hoon)

Why, it’s Tiananmen Square:

These rough sketches hardly capture the grandeur of these mega-structures, but the doctored pics are sweeping social media and providing some comic relief for the 22.5 million people choking on the city’s worsening air pollution problem. As climate talks are taking place in Paris, Beijing officials have recorded a PM 2.5 level of 300 over the past three days. That means there are 300 micrograms of tiny hazardous particles per cubic meter in the air, and that number is expected to rise until a cold front moves in, according to the Associated Press. The amount is more than 10 times higher than what is deemed healthy by the World Health Organization.

Officials have urged schools to close and slapped factories and autos with a slew of operation restrictions. The city will cut the number of cars by half, while increasing the capacity of public transit by adding more trains and buses.

You can see more sketches at China’s Xinhua News Agency:

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. photo: bicyclists in Paris during a transit strike in December.
    Transportation

    Paris Mayor: It's Time for a '15-Minute City'

    In her re-election campaign, Mayor Anne Hidalgo says that every Paris resident should be able to meet their essential needs within a short walk or bike ride.

  2. photo: a wallet full of Yen bills.
    Life

    Japan’s Lost-and-Found System Is Insanely Good

    If you misplace your phone or wallet in Tokyo, chances are very good that you’ll get it back. Here’s why.

  3. Equity

    What Mike Bloomberg Got Wrong About Redlining and the Financial Crisis

    Comments about New Deal-era housing discrimination made by presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg echo a familiar narrative about minority homeowners.

  4. photo: Masdar City in Abu Dhabi
    Environment

    What Abu Dhabi’s City of the Future Looks Like Now

    At the UN’s World Urban Forum in Abu Dhabi, attendees toured Masdar City, the master-planned eco-complex designed to show off the UAE’s commitment to sustainability.

  5. Equity

    The Presidential Candidates that Mayors Support

    Big-city mayors favor Mike Bloomberg after his late entry into the race, while leaders in smaller cities have lined up behind Pete Buttigieg.

×