The heavy fog or smog that has shrouded Beijing in the past couple of days has triggered a renewed round of debate over the different air pollution standards applied by China and the United States.
While the air quality monitor at the US embassy in Beijing offered a PM2.5 reading of "522" Sunday evening, well beyond its "hazardous" index range of 301-500, Beijing's Environmental Protection Bureau reported only "slight pollution."
The Chinese exclusion of the PM2.5 standard has again been under attack on microblogs.
It is a good thing that the Chinese people have become increasingly intolerant of any threat to their living conditions. More and more people are adopting the stricter environmental index widely used in developed countries to measure their own environment.
This will only force the government to raise its standard and improve its work - the environmental ministry announced in November that public opinions were being sought for a second time concerning the new regulation of air quality standards.
The current standards are still based on those set in 1982, when China's reform that led to three decades of industrialization and economic boom was barely taking off.
However, the public's green awareness should not only focus on implementing world-class environmental monitoring standards. While they blame the authorities for ineffective schemes as well as indulging industrial pollution, it is also necessary to compare public awareness and initiatives in making our environment better.
Vehicle emssions have contributed massively to air pollution, especially in cities where a big proportion of heavily polluting industries have been relocated. But environmentally friendly vehicle models have not found their way to customers' hearts. The gas-guzzling types are still selling well. Public transportation was only in vogue briefly as a clean alternative. "No driving day" campaigns have barely been heard of late.
Local governments spent tons of money to set up separate garbage bins in the streets to collect recycled waste. But few citizens willingly oblige.
Furthermore, while Beijing's underground water level struggles at an all-time low and the environmental well-being of North China has to be compromised to ensure the capital city's water supply, many Beijingers never blink when washing their cars, using a swimming pool or watering their lawns.
Apparently, more work needs to be done before our cities can be as clean and beautiful as those in northern Europe.
But that day will not come without comparable joint efforts of the government and the public.