Photos and text by Teun VoetenAbove, Taiyuan, a major industrial center in Shanxi Province
The sun doesnt shine in Bejing anymore. Well, it still shines, but its now hidden behind a thick layer of smog that engulfs the bustling metropolis every morning. Only on rare days, when the climatological conditions are optimal, can a strip of blue sky be discerned.
Photos and text by Teun VoetenAbove, coal mining and heavy industry make Shanxi one of China's most polluted provinces.
China, which has made a concerted effort to clean Beijings air for the Olympics, has now surpassed the United States as the main producer of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide.
Photos and text by Teun VoetenAbove, near the tourist town of Pingyao, Shanxi Province
Per capita, Americans still produce five times as much as the average Chinese, but that may well change by 2050, when Chinas population is expected to peak at 1.5 billion people. Even now, a recent study concluded, 30 percent of Chinas fauna is seriously endangered.
Photos and text by Teun VoetenAbove, Datong is home to two massive electric-power plants fueled by coal.
Shanxi is the most polluted province of China, producing 30 percent of the countrys coal. Datong, about 300 kilometers away from Beijing, boasts a coal-fueled electricity plant that provides half of Beijings energy needs. On the big boulevards of Datong, by Chinese standards only a midsized city with 3 million inhabitants, coal merchants traveling by horse and cart defy a busy stream of traffic.
Photos and text by Teun VoetenCollecting coal to be sold at local markets
Datong is proud of a world-famous attraction: the Yungang caves, where gigantic Buddha statues sheepishly grin at the thousands of visitors who throng to the site every year. These days, however, a thin layer of black soot covers the statues soot from the Jin Hua Gong state mine, just a few miles down the road.
Photos and text by Teun VoetenThis grim, polluted neighborhood in the small town of Liangdo is home to miners.
Photos and text by Teun VoetenShou Gang (Capital Steel), a major steel plant on the outskirts of Beijing
Deeper south in Shanxi Province is another tourist attraction: the ancient walled town of Pingyao, which looks like time came to a standstill five centuries ago.
Photos and text by Teun VoetenRecycling plastics in Datong.
Tourist guides describe picturesque Pingyao as the most atmospheric town in China. But visitors can go just a few miles south to the industrial town of Linfen, where a gloomy industrial zone unfolds.
Photos and text by Teun VoetenWorkers after a shift at Jin Hua Gong
It is a dark landscape where shepherds drive their sooty sheep through Dickensian alleyways. Rivers have become open sewers, covered with strange-smelling orange foam.
Photos and text by Teun VoetenJin Hua Gong coal mine
The centralized politics of China can get things done. The evidence is Linfen, a city that a year ago topped the list of the 10 most polluted cities in the world.
Photos and text by Teun VoetenSorting coal at a small privately operated mine outside Datong
On bad days, visibility was only 60 feet, and most inhabitants donned facemasks to protect themselves against the poisonous fumes, mainly caused by heating coal.
Photos and text by Teun VoetenCoal sorter
But the government shut down the biggest polluters and forced inhabitants to switch to gas heating.
Photos and text by Teun VoetenSteel industry just outside the city of Datong
Last winter, the skies turned blue again, and facemasks have become the exception.
Photos and text by Teun VoetenA monument to labor and industry just outside Datong
Photos and text by Teun VoetenRecycling bottles covered in soot