The Chinese know smog when they see it—even when the government calls it "fog." So Beijing citizens are taking their own pollution readings. "If people know what their air is like, they are more likely to take action," said a researcher at an environmental group that is showing residents how to test pollution on a locally made monitoring machine—then posting the results online.
Government officials typically report "light" pollution days when residents can barely see through the smoggy haze. The smog was so bad in Beijing earlier this week that hundreds of flights were canceled, but it took the government days to admit it was a problem of smog, not fog. "The government always has this worry that if they tell the truth, there will be social unrest. But the reality is the reality. Whether you tell the public or not, the danger is still out there," a journalist tells the AP. (Read more Beijing smog stories.)