Enter Sand. Man.
Rare is the AQI reading that raises a Beijinger's eyebrow. 250? Meh - we have to wear masks everywhere, anyways.
But the 999 readings lately mean sandstorms, a temporary hazard for Beijing lungs, but a downright disaster for its northern neighbor, Mongolia.
Thing is, Beijing spent decades planting trees and taking other measures to fight the March sandstorms, theretofore as predictable as the April cottontree fluff blitz. We had a good decade free of yellow skies, just the usual 2.5PM grey.
"These sandstorms are a sign of Mongolia's worsening problems, rather than a lapse in China's safeguards," says Edward Lehman. "Right now the problem is twofold, climate change, which is leading to desertification, and overgrazing, which compounds the problem with soil erosion."
Rising cost of living and production have led to livestock numbers far exceeding what Mongolia's delicate environment can sustain. "The time has never been more crucial for economic diversification in Mongolia," says Lehman.