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August 15th, 2008:

Smog To Kill 21,000 Canadians This Year

Smog to kill 21,000 Canadians this year, medical group warns

Reuters in Toronto – Updated on Aug 15, 2008

Smog-related deaths may exceed 700,000 in Canada over the next two decades, the Canadian Medical Association said.

Long- and short-term exposure to air pollution would kill at least 21,000 Canadians this year, the CMA said in a landmark study into health costs of poor air quality.

That is much higher than a government estimate of 5,900 premature deaths linked to pollution.

“This report shows that things don’t seem to be getting better,” said Brian Day, the CMA’s president. “And in fact, in terms of the actual numbers, they seem to be getting worse.”

The CMA estimates the costs of health care and lost productivity from air pollution will top C$8 billion (HK$58.6 billion) this year and climb to C$250 billion by 2031.

Pollution-related illnesses such as asthma and cardiovascular disease would prompt more than 30,000 emergency-room visits and 620,000 doctor’s visits this year, the report said.

In addition, more than 80 per cent of those who die because of poor air quality will be over the age of 65.

“Canada has one of the highest percentages of baby boomers in the world, and in the next two or three years the baby boomers will hit 65,” Dr Day said, adding that he hoped the government would see it as a problem that could be reversed.

Canada is not alone in experiencing the health effects of air pollution.

At current pollution levels, an estimated 64,000 people die from causes attributed to particle air pollution each year in the United States, according to the Natural Resources Defence Council, a US environmental group.

Almost half of Europe’s population may have been exposed to airborne concentrations of particle matter above the European Union limit, the European Environment Agency says. The substances have reduced the average life expectancy of Europeans by more than eight months, the agency says.

Beijing’s Amazing Urban Forest

Fri, Aug 15, 2008

In the not-too-distant future, parts of Beijing city center will resemble the deep forest rather than a bustling metropolis, since an international architecture competition decided on a new environmentally-responsible streetscape.

Once this year’s Olympics come to an end, pavements will take on the form of a forest floor, walkways will be made from permeable materials, water is to be redirected by catchments at plaza level and from surrounding roof tops and solar panels will generate electricity for adjacent buildings and pedestrian areas.

Organized by one of Asia’s largest development corporations, New World China Land Limited from Hong Kong, the most recent designs will see the Chongwenmen Street in New World’s recently built commercial center transform into an urban forest.

The design brief requested a number of quality parks, plazas and gardens to be reintroduced into an area that is currently relatively unsightly and mainly concrete.

Toronto design firm, WaHa Studio, invited SITE New York to collaborate on the design which includes a Canadian and Chinese team of architects and landscape designers. Their plans will introduce a more organic feel to the bustling city center:

“The burgeoning growth of central Beijing has either destroyed or disrupted a large number of the city’s original one-to-three story residential neighborhoods – especially in the most vulnerable and historic Hutong areas. Large-scale developments have imposed an imbalance between commercial expansion and the maintenance of traditional communities. It has also increased air pollution, visibly exposed the gap between rich and poor, exacerbated the level of street crime and decreased the amount of leisure and garden space within the central city.”

“The urban forest concept has been influenced by an observation that the existing site is roughly shaped like a growing tree, with a crown of extended branches. It can also be seen as similar to a river, with many tributaries, or linked to the cardiovascular system of a human body. In addition, since the entire Beijing street system is based on a classic grid, the paved areas in this design are used for a special iconographic significance. These horizontal surfaces have been dematerialized and fragmented into casual, ribbon-like patterns, reminiscent of Chinese calligraphy and landscape painting. While intentionally ambiguous, the plaza imagery is proposed as a nature-based and culturally referenced source of symbolism for a rapidly expanding metropolis.

It certainly sounds impressive but with all that foliage we wonder how they’ll manage to keep the re-growth under control. At least it will provide a few green-fingered residents with work!