It would be a mistake to classify the ongoing environmental emergency in Beijing as a mere random deterioration. The dramatic news coming from China’s capital city is imposing action on a phenomenon that is no longer just atmospheric, and the authorities have adopted unprecedented measures. On January 12th, the Beijing municipal environmental monitoring center did not resort to its usual downplaying tactics: “Air quality will remain at a heavily polluted level for at least three more days. During this period, residents are advised no to go outside or exert themselves.” Particulates – the most harmful element of air pollution – has surpassed warning levels, although the US Embassy has claimed levels higher than those officially released. The city has literally become grey, even in broad daylight. The air is unbearable and visbility is reduced in the most heavily congested areas, and the tops of skyscrapers are barely visible from the ground. There are three main factors behind the pollution: emissions from the factories surrounding Beijing, the widespread use of coal heat during the cold winter months, and the large number of automobiles in circulation. Traffic has spiraled out of control and delays are almost impossible to predict following the rapid motorization of the city. Tap water quality has also been drawn into question by independent researchers. Food safety has become a mandatory reference point for inhabitants, and the authorities have not been able to defuse conerns. The bodies of water around Beijing are being polluted indirectly by industrial and urban waste, and the chemical treatment necessary to ensure potability have become increasingly heavier and more stringent. The immediate economic consequence has been constant increase of bottled drinks, and a phenomenon that used to be limited to foreigners – long suspicious of the local tap water – is now spreading to a large part of the local population. In an ironic twist of fate, industrialized nations are cutting down on bottled liquids while in China they are steadily increasing. In 2000 bottled drinks revenue were $1 billion dollars, in 2012 revenue increased nine-fold, and are projected to be $16 billion in 2017. Nestle’ saw an increase of 27% over the previous year in revenue for its bottled water unit. Behind these statistics and concerns lies an extensive background upon which todays critical situation has been built. Decades of economic development have taken place in spite of environmental concerns. Nature has been violated and resources dispersed in an unyielding race for riches. Historically, China knows few thriving fertile lands; more than half of the country is arid desert and only 10% of the land is agriculturally viable. The senseless industrialization and the demand for added value at all costs have worsened the situation. Now the vital components of social and individual existence for a country – air and water – are not only scarce, but what remains is less and less able to be used.