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UPDATED: March 9, 2015 NO. 11 MARCH 12, 2015
Should Social Conscience Dictate Use of Fireworks?

Raising awareness

Zeng Ying (The Beijing News): A popular meme has led to two diametrically opposed sets of responses. On one side, many media outlets and individuals, including celebrities, have spread this picture online, expressing their wish for better air quality and fewer work-related burdens on street cleaners. On the other side of the fence, some people, feeling disgusted with "emotional blackmail" they perceive, have responded by spoofing the picture and its message. It has even been suggested, sarcastically, that people refrain from driving, as traffic police need to attend family reunions during the Spring Festival; and that the public cease taking trains, as train conductors also wish to return home during the festival.

The disputes on this issue boil down to the question of whether or not the custom of setting off fireworks should be discontinued. Opponents denounce fireworks in terms of noise pollution, their contribution to bad air quality and the waste of resources that accompany the activity. Although their voices do not represent the final word on the matter, a rising awareness of environmental protection may gradually persuade people to cut ties with the longstanding tradition.

The picture is not an attempt to morally blackmail the public, but instead represents only one of the methods of raising the public's awareness of environmental protection. Though the manner of expressing this concern may not be perfect, it has at least managed to attract people's attention to the issue of fireworks around this year's Spring Festival. Some have even been persuaded to cut back on the number of fireworks they set off during the festivities. It is therefore simply morally unacceptable for some people to make a mockery of this picture.

Gongsun Hao (Yanzhao Evening News): This is quite a moving picture. While some people have spread it online with no small degree of fervor, others have expressed the suspicion that this scenario might have been deliberately concocted rather than occurring organically, as it is doubtful that an old couple would be tech-savvy enough to think of this method of getting their message out unaided. This has not yet been totally excluded from possibility. However, all of this is avoiding the core of the issue.

Reducing the quantity of firecrackers used would not solely be for the good of street cleaners. Even if they disregard the appeal of the elderly couple, the public should nonetheless try to set off fewer fireworks. In the face of the serious smog issue, a lot of people have begun to minimize or even desist from their use of fireworks during the Spring Festival.

Some argue that without fireworks, the atmosphere of the Spring Festival would simply not be the same. This represents a fundamental misunderstanding of the true meaning of this festival. Fireworks make up only a small part of Spring Festival traditions. If people really want to demonstrate fidelity to the spirit of this festival, more attention should be paid to the traditional culture of filial piety and harmony within families as well as among relatives and friends. As long as strong blood ties and emotional bonds between people remain intact, the Spring Festival will continue to be a joyous occasion. Fireworks contribute little in sum to these feelings of joy.

Tangjiweide (www.gmw.cn): The Spring Festival is a time of family reunion. When most people are enjoying various delights of this festival, street cleaners have to continue to work hard to clean the streets. Their demands are by no means exorbitant. They only ask that the public set off fewer fireworks, so that they may finish their work faster and thus get back home in good time for their family reunion. It's not difficult for the public to fulfill these relatively meager wishes. Actually, to some extent, their desires dovetail with our desire to have a cleaner environment.

Fireworks may seem to be fueling the atmosphere of a festival, but they bring with them many negative collateral side effects, such as doing harm to health and the environment. The obligation to clean up the remains of fireworks makes an already difficult job even harder for street cleaners. The Spring Festival often proves to be the busiest time of the year for these cleaners. Sometimes, they have to remove hundreds of tons of detritus from fireworks from the streets. To add to their plight, as different people set off fireworks at different times, they may have to repeatedly clean the same location, sometimes several times within a single day.

Some simple yet considerate practices could be effective in easing the burden on street cleaners. Setting off fewer fireworks during Spring Festival celebrations is one of them. Street cleaners contribute to improvements in the environment of cities, and they deserve equitable and civil treatment. Setting off fewer fireworks should become a mainstream movement. When they have learned to respect the work of others, people might find that their own duties can be performed more easily, and consequently, more people will hopefully be able to go back home earlier for their own Spring Festival family reunion.

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