White snow, depending on its depth, is usually considered to be a good thing. Often song-inspiring, kids around the world never fear catching flakes on their tongues or scooping up a cupful and drizzling it with a flavored syrup to make a true snow cone. This type of colored snow, depending on your blood sugar level, is usually considered to be a good thing. Eating any other color of snow, especially the song-inspiring yellow kind, is never a good thing. Hues of pink, red, orange, blue, green and other rainbow shades can be caused by bacteria, algae or chemical spills. What about black snow? Inquiring Siberians want to know after several cities in the Kemerovo Oblast reported black snowfall for a number of days last week. Some call it eerie, some call it beautiful … what do the parents of kids carrying cups of it call it?
Before you make an educated and obvious guess, take a look at the pictures collected from social media by The Siberian Times. Finished? Are you ready for a dose of Siberian irony?
“The government bans smoking in public. But let us inhale coal dust all together and let it reside in our lungs.”
Fans of government deregulation usually support ending the former and conveniently ignore the latter, but it’s hard to ignore black snow covering the streets, fields, buildings and statues in Prokopyevsk, Kiselyovsk and Leninsk-Kuznetsky that caused one citizen to wonder:
“Is this what snow looks like in hell?”
That assumes hell has frozen over, which is a subject for a different article. It should come as no surprise that these three cities are the heart of Siberia’s coal mining and processing industries. Kuzbass, short for Kuznetsk Basin, is home to 2.6 million people and one of the world's largest open-pit coal fields. How big is the coal business there? It’s home to an indoor/outdoor coal mining museum which is one of the area’s most popular tourist attractions. Do kids get a free cone of black snow at the end of the tour?
It should also come as no surprise that this black snowfall is being blamed on the coal industry. Director general of Prokopyevskaya factory Anatoly Volkov admitted that a shield that was supposed to catch coal powder before it entered the atmosphere stopped working at his plant. Is that all?
"It’s harder to find white snow than black snow during the winter. There is a lot of coal dust in the air all the time. When snow falls, it just becomes visible. You can’t see it the rest of the year, but it is still there."
Vladimir Slivyak, a member of the non-profit environmental action group Ecodefense, says black snow is common in the area but this particular winter is one of the worst. How bad is it? It’s so bad, officials were caught in December covering the black snow with white paint. Really!
It should come as no surprise that these same government officials are pointing their sooty fingers in every direction but towards themselves. Deputy governor of Kemerovo region Andrei Panov, the official in charge of ecology, says other coal-burning plants, coal boilers in homes and buildings and car exhausts were also to blame. He can’t blame smoking, because that’s banned in public. Sadly, inhaling the coal dust through a filtered cigarette might actually clean it.
The mystery of this Siberian black snow of death is not the cause but how the government can keep covering it up (literally and figuratively) while the life expectancy in the area drops, quality of life worsens and residents worry about how it’s affecting their children – and no, they don’t let them eat it. This social media comment sums it up well:
“It is not surprising that our people have no taste in art, it simply can't form when you live around ugly sculptures covered with black snow, and slide down a black slide, and see dirty monuments. The future of our children is terrifying.”
There are no songs about black snow. Stop making excuses, Siberians ... hell has frozen over.
Your future is now.