Posts Tagged China

Giant furry T-rex discovered in China

Saw this article catching up on my Journal readings this morning… CRAZY!

A giant feathered tyrannosaur has been unearthed in China, the largest creature – living or extinct – known to sport a downy coat.

The carnivore, which grew up to nine metres long, likely looked “downright shaggy,” Corwin Sullivan, a Canadian paleontologist on the team that unveiled the creature, said on Wednesday.

Three specimens of the dinosaur, which the scientists have called Yutyrannus huali for “beautiful feathered tyrant,” have been uncovered in north-eastern China.

One was an adult estimated to have weighed 1.414 tonnes, 40 times bigger than any previously found feathered dinosaur. Two juveniles tipped the scales at about half a tonne.

The ancient bones were found by fossil traders and brought to museums where paleon-tologists realized their significance, which is detailed in the journal Nature this week.

The discovery “provides sol-id evidence for the existence of gigantic feathered dinosaurs,” reports the team led by Xu Xing, at Beijing’s Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology.

The scientists say the creature did not actually fly, which would have been impossible given its large size – far bigger than the average cow – and the downy structure of its feathers. But they say the feathers may have had an important function as insulation because the creatures lived about 125 mil-lion years ago when global temperatures took a dip.

“The average temperature would have been about 10 C,” says Sullivan, an associate professor at the Beijing paleontology institute.

“That is perhaps not too different from northern China today,” he says, but was an “unusually cool” period in the age of the dinosaurs.

Tyrannosaurus rex, which was larger and roamed a warmer world, is not believed to have had any feathers though the researchers don’t rule it out.”It’s possible that some dinosaurs that were even bigger had feathers but we can’t tell one way or the other because most dinosaurs are known only from bones,” Sullivan said from Beijing.

While the feather preservation on the three specimens “is patchy,” the team says the creatures had plenty of long, filamentous feathered plumage.

“They would have looked superficially more like hair than the feathers of modern birds,” says Sullivan, who de-scribes the downy creature as quite a carnivore.

“I wouldn’t want to meet one in a dark alley,” he says.

The obtaining of specimens from fossil traders is not uncommon in China. But the trade is not without problems.

“Some dealers will yield to the temptation to improve their specimens,” says Sullivan, explaining how they have been known to combine parts from different specimens and species.

But with experience and knowledge of both the fossils beds and the traders “who you are dealing with it is possible to largely avoid those problems,” he says. “So we are quite sure these specimens are authentic.”

Sullivan, who was raised in Ontario and British Columbia, did graduate studies at the University of Toronto and Harvard University before heading to China four years ago where he has been involved in several significant fossils finds.

By Margaret Munro, Postmedia News

© Copyright (c) The Edmonton Journal

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Dongbei – First Step

It’s October again!  For those of us in China this is great news because we get a week off for the national holiday (like Canada Day except not in July, eh?).  At this time of year likely over a billion Chinese are traveling all over the country, whether it be a long train ride back to the hometown or a short flight to a touristy attraction in which must be one of the largest mass migrations of people on Earth.

I get set for my own little getaway, but as much as I would have loved to visit the misty peaks of Yellow Mountain, or the limestone karsts of Guilin, I’ve lived learned enough to avoid the hotspots during what they call the Golden Week, when prices everywhere are jacked through the roof and people are packed like canned sardines.

Last year I went for a bicycle adventure at Lake Qinghai, but though  I won’t be cycling through a herd of sheep again anytime soon, I had a rich cultural experience instead.  This year, I’ve decided to lay low and hang out with a friend at his hometown in Shenyang of Liaoning province.  Together with Jilin and Heilongjiang, these three provinces make up the north-eastern region of the country that we expats call by its name in pinyin: Dongbei.

Dongbei – the land of cold, snow, and ice.  A bit like home with a twist of dog meat and dumplings, possibly dog meat dumplings, and large women.  I walk out of the airport the first night and embrace the glorious 4°C weather with hands reaching for the sky.  I had a couple hours to kill before I head to the train station to await my friend’s arrival so I took a cab downtown in search of my favourite Chinese character:  串 .

The better my Chinese gets the more easily amused I am with the pictographic language.  Having lived in Beijing before I have grown peculiarly fond of the word we pronounce chuan’R, and if you see a large red 串 posted outside any restaurants, look forward to a night of local fun.  I skim through the all-Chinese menu looking for words I recognize.  Lamb skewers, beef skewers, chicken skewers.  Fish skewers, mushroom skewers, veggie and potato skewers.  If you get my drift 串 = skewer, see.  Genius, I know right?

For some reason 串 is more a popular pastime in the North and having lived in Shanghai for the past year, I have sorely missed the salty skewers, watery beer, and loud, smoky atmosphere where it seems to be perfectly acceptable behaviour to light up, ash, and butt out on the floor.  I match my skewers with 3 large bottles of Snow Flower, a Shenyang brew, and slam’em back thinking, after all, what better way to greet an old university buddy than to greet them half cut?

I am surprised I remember this trip enough to share it, for staying sober in Dongbei seems to be a difficult task.  The second day I tag along with my buddy’s family for a weekend in Donggang, a county-level city at the coast of south-eastern Liaoning near the China-N. Korea border.  We arrive at an insulation materials factory that one my friend’s father’s acquaintances is apparently the owner of and there in the cafeteria I had an enormous meal of fresh seafood with a bunch of middle-aged Chinamen.  I chuckled to myself at the strange resemblance to lunchtime during an audit at work.

I wasn’t prepared for what I was about to consume.  I can honestly say I’ve been quite open-minded about eating in China, but just from looking I was already reluctant to try the seafood and it had been a long time since I had to bust out one of my old theories for survival in China.

 “Rule #2 at the dinner table: if it’s soft you can eat it, if it’s hard then spit it out.  No questions.”

A proportion of the seafood on the table was raw and there was not a pot of boiling soup in sight.  Turns out it’s a local tradition to soak them live in saltwater overnight and eat it with a touch of soy sauce.  I’ve eaten more than a fair share of sushi in my day but to pry open the carapace of a crab that looks like it’s still bubbling at the mouth and drink, yes drink, its innards was news to me.  Knowing not to disrespect, I smile and say it’s delicious, cringing on the inside as I watch another being put onto my plate.

And then came the baijiu.

The foul, colorless poison they call white wine and drink by the litre.  I was told I don’t have to be so polite, so I thought I could relax until I realized that in Dongbei, manners don’t exist in the way that you eat, but in the way that you drink.  When cheers-ing, you have to position your cup slightly lower than the other person’s to show your respect, and when they say ganbei (directly translated as ‘dry cup’, meaning cheers), they really mean it.  Cups of baijiu poured to the brim were being put back like water, and everyone wanted to ganbei the Chinese-Canadian.  We started drinking at about noon and by one o’clock, me, my friend, and a few other particularly adamant drinkers were already at the puking stage.  After lunching and un-lunching, we went fishing for fathead minnows, which were turned into a few excellent tasting dinner dishes including deep fried filet, broth, and of course, more seafood n’ baijiu.

How many of you have been to North Korea?  Ya, me neither, but I got real close.  Later that weekend I was taken on a cruise in a fishing boat near the Yellow Sea and got right up to the North Korean coastguard, who was watching us like a hawk.  The fishermen driving us got the jellyfish they came for, turned around and headed back to shore.  With the cruise concluded the weekend and I breathed a sigh of relief as we prepared to leave the baijiu crew and return to Shenyang, where my friend suggested I crash a wedding but besides that and more 串 , the remainder of my trip was pretty low key.  My friend had described Shenyang as a Chinese Edmonton and I totally agreed.  I took a few photos and went for a little tour of the city, but really not much to see.  I’ll have to look forward to my next trip to Dongbei, when I plan to travel to Harbin, Heilongjiang Province to attend the world-famous snow and ice festival where I shall spend my Christmas Holidays~!!

See also:

Le Tour de Qinghai

https://speakupforscience.wordpress.com/

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Criticizing the Chinese EIA System

Part Two of Three

Introduction

As much as the international level environmental impact assessment (EIA) for mega-scale development has succeeded in China, it is unfortunate they only account for up to 5% of construction projects.  Although the impacts from the remainder of individual development projects are relatively lower in scale, their sheer numbers is of great concern when considering cumulative effects.  The majority of these projects do not require funding and hence are not bound to the IFC Performance Standards on Social & Environmental Sustainability, nor are they likely to follow them as voluntary initiative.  Often this means that the social and health impact assessment, which is a key feature of an international EIA, is ignored altogether.  The environmental industry is a growing field in China and there are many weaknesses to its EIA system such as gaps and flaws in legislation along with minimal enforcement.

Gaps and Flaws

Even though China has greatly expanded their legal regime in the environmental sector during the past few decades, the Chinese EIA system regardless has many gaps and flaws where much improvement is needed.  Weaknesses of the screening process, excessive power of local authorities, political pressure on decision makers, and limited public participation have greatly impeded the performance of the EIA concept in this country.

Weakness of the Screening Process

One way to perform an environmental impact assessment is to establish a set of criteria and compare all potential disturbances with their corresponding standards to determine the significance of an impact.  A multitude of numerical standards constitute Chinese environmental laws hence its EIA system relies heavily on quantifiable measurements.  As mentioned previously in Understanding the Chinese EIA System, there is a screening process that specifies whether an EIA report, form, or registration form is required for a project, and the EIA Law stipulates that only EIA reports and forms must be prepared by licensed institutions or certified professionals.  However, these only cover about 40% of development projects in China, in other words the remaining 60% of projects required to submit EIA registration forms are performed by the project proponents themselves, who may not be professionals in scientific assessment.  Furthermore, the problem with having concrete numerical values for environmental standards becomes evident during this screening process; individuals performing the EIA may be inclined to design construction proposals just within the maximum threshold of a category to avoid more stringent environmental scrutiny from the next level up, which works in favour of both budget and time allocation.

Excessive Power of Local Authorities

The authority to approve an EIA is distributed between the Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP) and local environmental protection bureaus (EPBs).  The MEP is primarily responsible for authorizing special projects like nuclear or military facilities, projects that extend across provinces, and projects involving the State Council; local EPBs have the authority to approve all others.  These remaining projects are distributed between provincial, municipal, and county level EPBs, but in reality the county level government approves the large portion of EIAs, worth more than half the total investment of all projects.  This imbalance of power between approval authorities enables lower level EPBs to develop local policies that may impede or even contradict the EIA law, and can lead to incomprehensive consideration of environmental impacts during assessment.  The establishment of a hierarchical government where higher level EPBs directly supervise lower level EPBs is essential to avoid this problem.

Political Pressure on Decision Makers

Similarly, excessive power of local EPBs may lead to political pressure on approval authorities to pursue economic advancement.  Despite their status as state ministry, the mandates and rules of the MEP are often undermined by ministries of industrial and economic development as well as by local governments.  Common violations of the EIA law include beginning construction before approval of an EIA, some projects are approved to build a hill then they go and build a mountain, others completely ignore the concept of EIA.  This is partly a result of the fact that local EPBs are also in charge of their own hiring processes, which is a problem especially where decisions are made by individual representatives of a government.  In other words, people are being put in difficult dilemmas because of China’s relentless push towards becoming an economic superpower, and forces decision makers to approve a project in fear of losing employment.  For this reason, the first step towards strengthening the EIA Law would be to assign the staffing responsibilities to a third party authority.

Limited Public Participation

In order for EIA to promote sustainable development, it is important to incorporate the concerns of the communities, as public participation forms a large part of the necessary social aspect that makes an international level EIA so effective.  With this communication between the government and the public, environmental decision making becomes transparent thus increasing public support of decisions made.  It also raises public awareness regarding environmental issues that directly affect the people, creating a more opinionated atmosphere during consultation. Public participation must be comprehensive and non-discriminating, meaning everyone regardless of age, gender, or ethnic group should be allowed to participate.  The enactment of the EIA Law in 2003 introduced this opportunity to the public in China for the first time.

Unfortunately, another apparent weakness of the EIA Law is that public participation is only required for developers preparing environmental impact reports; therefore only a small percentage of EIAs have a social component, though a number of changes have been made in effort to address this problem.  The EIA Law does not obligate smaller scale projects to consult the public, but they may be subject to local regulations if the proposed development is to be located at sensitive regions or within vicinity of residential areas.  Moreover, information related to the project is made available for the public to view.  With that said, the consultation is still inefficient for several reasons.  Although information is made readily available, it may be inadequate or even inaccurate, and to date the public never has full access to EIA documents.  Furthermore, the “Three Simultaneities” should be expanded to include not only mitigation measures but in addition public consultation.  This way public opinions and concerns will be assimilated into project design, construction, and operation, but public participation in China is only required for a brief 10 days.

Minimal Enforcement

One of the greatest weaknesses of the Chinese EIA system is its lack of strict enforcement.  Sometimes project components will begin construction and won’t complete an EIA unless they are caught by enforcement authorities.  The most evident problems related to lax enforcement involve high compliance cost, integrity of environmental practitioners, and lack of post-construction monitoring and compliance supervision.

High Compliance Cost

Environmental law enforcement is utterly inadequate in China, which explains why so many developers have ignored regulatory requirements in the past.  Legislation provides that those project developers caught violating the EIA law must suspend construction and prepare a makeup EIA document within a certain time limit.  The penalty for not meeting the time limit is a fine of 200,000 RMB, which is miniscule for many large multi-billionaire corporations.  In other words, it costs more to comply with the law and prepare an entire EIA report than it does to break it, take the penalty, and write a makeup EIA.  Ironically, it may be even easier to obtain approval with a makeup EIA since the project has already been invested in and construction has already begun.  This practice completely disregards the “Three Simultaneities” concept and the principle of conducting EIA is rendered useless.

Integrity of EIA Institutions and Practitioners

In order to maintain a certain level of quality, the EIA Law requires professional consultants and institutions to seek certification from the MEP.  This licensing system was established to ensure the integrity of environmental practitioners, but the EIA market in China is too dependent on and driven by clients’ demands.  Some institutions are more focused on business networking than they are on protecting the environment, and because of this the entire EIA concept has become a mere solemnity.  Past EIA documents have been known to lack scientific support and analysis, and have been submitted without conclusions or mitigation recommendations.  Furthermore, there is evidence of data concealment or fabrication indicating that some institutions are willing to provide false or inaccurate information for the sake of approval.  In other cases, though some EIA institutions may be fully certified with appropriate expertise and resources, they are hired because of their affiliation with local EPBs and developers are reassured with the prospect of approval through internal liaison.

Lack of Post-Construction Monitoring and Compliance Supervision

According to the EIA Law, if pollutant emissions in reality exceed what is stated in the document, then the project developer has to conduct a post-construction EIA, make improvements, and have it reapproved, after which the environmental protection authority is required to inspect the project’s operations.  Moreover, the last portion of the “Three Simultaneities” concept requires that pollution abatement controls must continue to be applied after construction ends and operation begins.  These include environmental monitoring and adherence to mitigation measures suggested in the EIA, but again lack of strict enforcement does not provide strong incentive for project developers to comply.  In some cases, pollution control equipment has never been installed at facilities, or is temporarily installed only during compliance audits when inspectors are present thus reducing costs.  Environmental monitoring is supposed to keep a record of the compliance status of the project during operation, but since compliance audits are so rare a large proportion of enterprises are not implementing pollution reduction strategies and the EIA document is simply shelved away after the approval is made official.

 References:

Moorman, J.L., and G. Zhang.  2007.  Promoting and Strengthening Public Participation in China’s Environmental Impact Assessment Process: Comparing China’s EIA Law and U.S. NEPA.  Vermont Journal of Environmental Law 8: 281-335.

Zhao, Y.  2009.  Assessing the Environmental Impact of Projects: A Critique of the EIA Legal Regime in China.  Natural Resources Journal 49: 485-524.

See also: Part One of Three: Understanding the Chinese EIA System  https://speakupforscience.wordpress.com/2011/07/25/chinaeia1/

Coming soon: Improving the Chinese EIA System

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Year One

Wow, how time flies!  Today, it’s already been a year since I left Canada with the crazy idea that I could live and find work in China and to date I’m pretty pleasantly surprised with the outcome so far.  Before I left I thought I knew what I was getting into but it’s been quite a lot more difficult adapting to the new lifestyle than I initially had thought.  Take food for example, since I grew up in a Chinese family I wasn’t prepared for any culture shock in that department.  I remember thinking that maybe, just maybe, I could live without western food but soon after I landed I realized all the Chinese food I grew up loving was really just Hong Kong-ese, and it hardly even exists in the mainland.  They have a few gimmick restaurants in town but I haven’t really found any one restaurant with the same quality as one would find in Hong Kong… or Mom’s kitchen.  Just last week, I found myself roaming around Shanghai for hours looking for a hotdog stand to no avail.  Though I’m not as well-travelled as I would like to be at the moment I’m amazed with the diversity here even just between provinces, pretty much everywhere I go I find something unique to that region.  I noticed, however, that in general there are a few rules that seem to apply everywhere in China, and the following is a list of subtle or not so subtle differences that I have personally experienced and how I have adapted to them in this country:

1.   Sunday Stroll

This wasn’t the biggest slap in the face.  On the weekend I like to spend my mornings going for a walk on the way to grab some grub.  What is a peaceful nature walk in Canada has become an endless venture through a maze of people.  I tune out the noise by putting on my headphones and hang on to me wallet.

2.   Single File

When it’s time for lunch, don’t start lining up like a chump.  After a week of “Um, excuse me sir, uh excuse me ma’am, um hey, excuse me? But I was fir… OW, exc…” I quickly learned to blend in with the rest of the apes.  There’s room for creativity, but I recommend a sword fight to the death.

3.   Exotic Dinner

Even a whopper costs an arm and a leg compared to Chinese food.  If you’re craving an All-American meal there’s no such thing as cheap average-joe prices, only I’m-a-filthy-rich-expat-living-in-China prices.  As a result, I rarely go for western when I eat out unless I really REALLY need it… and I do get a craving every now and then I’m afraid.

4.   Mealtime Convo

Okay, alright.  This one applies to the Hong Kong-ese as well.  What to say but monkey see monkey do?  Want a quiet supper?  Wait ‘til payday.

5.   Hot or Not

In the west we enjoy a nice turkey sandwich here and there all throughout the year.  Unless it’s a blazing hot summer day in China, it’s usually hot or not.  If you know me then you’ve seen me in the summer: cloudy with a chance of showers.  Rollin’ out the head band baby.

6.   Soft Drinks

Speaking of summer, who in their right mind wouldn’t want an ice cold glass of water when it’s 30 degrees outside?  It appears the Chinese prefer their drinks hot, regardless of the temperature outside.  They even drink warm beer, because Confucius say cold drink bad for body.  I’ll stick to my Coca-Cola.

7.   Everyone’s a chimney

‘Cause they’re always smoking.  Many people aren’t aware, but it’s actually illegal to smoke indoors in Shanghai.  The unsuccessful bylaw was passed last year but I don’t think it’s catching on.  After all, it is a part of the culture:  Eat drink and smoke.  Where I come from people usually smoke after a meal, but here I seen ‘em puff during.  I also find it amusing that the sign used to symbolize “No Smoking” in the west is sometimes used to symbolize 灭烟处, meaning “Butt Disposal” in China.  Enjoy it or suck it up.

8.   The Scouting Report

When the sun is shinin’ ladies bust out the umbrellas and the fellas got a thing for chicken legs with pasty, ghost-like skin.  No competition from me on that one.  I’ll pass, now where the beach at?

9.   Rush Hour

Remember how Mom taught you to look both ways before crossing the street?  Clearly, she ain’t Chinese.  ALWAYS look ALL ways, 360 degrees, red OR green.  The fast guy has the right of way, a four lane road fits six and the crosswalk means dodge.  Play Frogger with care.

10.          Baijiu

The locals drink baijiu, this rice wine that’s like 65% and tastes like rubbing alcohol mixed with formaldehyde.  At 3 kuai a bottle it gets you smashed for a low price, so it might appeal to the cheap drunks out there.  Otherwise stay away.

11.          Crouching Tiger, Hide the Dragon

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:  I can’t do it.  Thankfully I haven’t encountered many in Shanghai, but sometimes they are inevitable.  You can see how easy it is for everyone everywhere.  They don’t sit on the bench in the park, they squat on it.  They squat while texting, they squat while smoking.  How do they do it?  The answer is simple and there’s only one logical explanation…….

Evolution.

Practice makes perfect I guess.

WELCOME TO MY WORLD.

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Pangolins and TCM

If you’ve ever rambled through the  rainforests of the Asian tropics, then you may have inadvertently meandered into the habitat of what appears to be a living, breathing, gargantuan pinecone called a pangolin.  Otherwise known as the scaly anteater, this creature is another one of those absurdly bizarre animals that often peak my interest.  Like the nickname suggests, its diet primarily consists of ants and termites they capture using a sticky, glue-like saliva, hence the toothless countenance and grossly elongated tongue.  Sheltered throughout its body by a massive coat of armour-like scales, its description sounds like that of a reptile but in fact these scales are keratinized, meaning they’re actually made of the same material as human fingernails; this anomalous characteristic makes them one of the most unique mammals in the world.

Pangolins are good at protecting themselves and have a variety of very efficient defensive mechanisms.  First, similar to skunks they are able to release a pungent stench by contracting their anal glands, also like an armadillo they have the behavioural instinct to roll up as a ball when provoked.  In this position, not only are they extremely difficult to pry apart, but pangolin scales are like razor edges fully capable of severing your finger or causing immense damage to the paws of large carnivores, causing even leopards to think twice before attempting to hunt one.  Unfortunately, there is one type of predator who has a particular taste for pangolin meat.

People

Now, I’m not here to point fingers or anything of the sort, but I’m inclined to inform you there are certain people from a certain country you may or may not have heard me mention before that starts with a C and ends with an a and is not Canada that has been blindly overharvesting pangolins for their meat.  As a result, pangolin populations have declined sharply in the past decade and in 2008 several species became endangered.  TRAFFIC, a joint organization between IUCN and WWF to ensure wildlife trading doesn’t threaten nature conservation, reveals that pangolin traders are the most common criminals convicted during animal trafficking stings in all of Asia. Interestingly, these pangolins were not all being hunted for their meat, but rather for another purpose…TCM, or Traditional C**nese Medicine (again, nothing of the sort).

In this undisclosed country Pangolin scales are known as Chuan Shan Jia, and are used to disperse blood stasis, promote lactation, dispel pus and reduce swelling.  They’re removed in a brutal process immersing the poor animals in scalding hot water, boiling them until the skin is soft enough to simply peel off the scales, which I would imagine feels a lot like getting your fingernails and toenails ripped off, except that you have them all over your body.

Because of their scarcity and nocturnal lifestyle, the scientific data currently available will not suffice and further research combined with the expertise of local hunters may be necessary to better understand their current distribution before implementing conservation measures.  Despite increased legal protection since their classification as an endangered species, proper enforcement of these laws and regulations continues to be a problem in developing countries like Cambodia, Thailand, Laos, Malaysia, Vietnam and China.

Oh…………. woops.

References:

Newton, P., N. Van Thai, S. Roberton, and D. Bell.  2008.  Pangolins in peril: using local hunters’ knowledge to conserve elusive species in Vietnam.  Endangered Species Research 6: 41-53.

www.traffic.org

https://speakupforscience.wordpress.com/another-day-on-the-terrace/

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10块钱

(这是我第一次写中文博客,希望你能看懂和没有什么语法问题)

 明天是七夕,我出去逛逛找花店和顺便吃顿饭。我在我的公寓楼下左转向西走。在路上有一家人,父母和儿子,问我一个问题。本来我以为他们迷路,很愿意帮忙跟他们聊天儿一下。我听清楚一点发现他们不是迷路,而在乞求我借钱。爸爸说: “我们来北京找朋友找不到,你借我10块钱行吗?我们就快饿死了,谢谢你,先生。我和我老婆不吃饭无所谓,但我儿子,你看,他肚子痛了。你真的借我10块钱都不行吗?”平时我一点都 不听乞丐说的话,所以我过一会儿说:“不行啊,对不起。真的”,然后继续走路。

我来北京重新开始新的生活,我实在也需要很细心来省钱。上个月我去了我的家附近一个餐厅,在尝尝他们的炒饭。不错,10块 钱能买到一顿又大碟又好吃的炒饭。今天晚上我本来打算去了找花店以后就去那个餐厅吃饭。我不知道为什么,但我一到餐厅门口动不了,突然有一个很内疚的感觉。我已经在门口站了五分钟了,我到底在想什么呢?后来,我终于决定不吃了。我想点的炒饭这么大碟,三个人吃够了。我钱包里的10块钱能养活一个家庭的三个人,再说我吃午饭吃了很多不是特别饿,我真的是这么自私的人吗?我对我自己感觉的很反感,一点胃口都没有了。所以,我决定今天晚上为了那家庭也不吃饭。爸爸,妈妈,小孩儿……我祝你好运。

真 倒霉,原来这个世界上有连十块钱都没有的穷人。你们做父母,怎么会这样的?就算我今天借给你点钱,那明天,后天,下个星期呢?对不起,但是中国有那么多人,假如每个人乞求我借钱我都借,那我自己会变穷了。如果是你的话,你会怎么办?我回家的时候发现我公寓楼下右边有花店。今天我好幸运有这个经验,有时候……

生活发生的事情有原因。

第二天我醒来时是湛蓝的天空。

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South China Blues

Thus my journey begins.

It’s May 2010 in Hong Kong and I take my first step onto Chinese soil to find it feels oddly… different, from a year ago.  This is no five week vacation… this time I am here for good or at least until I’m satisfied with my accomplishments.  I’m not here to shop, nor am I here to party… too much.  This time, I am here in hopes of finding an opportunity to finally kickstart my long awaited environmental career.

My first impression: gotta love this city.  I fell in love with the architecture, the urban lifestyle, the professionalism, the efficiency… the ocean.  I don’t get a lot of chances to see the ocean where I’m from so curiously I spend my off days at the pier, staring out at the horizon.  The world is such a beautiful place.  I love the bustling nitelife and how a beer costs me a great Canadian buck a 40. I love the late night dai pai dongs and how I can wake up at 3am, walk downstairs for a bite and be back in bed in a half.  For all my fairer colored friends  (oh, and also my darkness brothers), a dai pai dong is an old school Hong Kong style food joint.

There’s no such thing as perfection in this world, however; I seem to dislike the attitude of some of the locals here in this city.  My flight arrived at 6am on a scorching Friday morning and I am in a rush to catch the 7am bus.  I approach a ticket stand and Buddy at the counter tells me I’m at the wrong place.  So I ask, “Then, where do I go to purchase a ticket for bus A41P?” He points at a counter down the hall.

“Alright, cool. No problem.”

So I go there and ask for the ticket.  Dude tells me I’m at the wrong place.  So I ask, “Then, where do I go to purchase a ticket for bus A41P?” He points at a counter down the hall.  I’m like wait a minute, isn’t that the one I just came from?  Confused, I walk around the airport for a bit to find a sign that explained everything: the ticket stands weren’t open for another 15 minutes; Buddy and Dude were being total douchebags.

Whatever. That’s nothing, really.  What bothers me a lot more is the immediate response I get from a lot of people when I tell them I am on my way to Beijing to look for a career in the environmental industry.  Apparently to them, there is no such business.  People here don’t care about such a thing.  I should pursue a career where I can make some real money… otherwise I should go home.  But I’ve done my research.  You didn’t.  I did.  I have a real idea of what’s out there and I know what I’m getting myself into, as long and arduous a road as it may be.

It’s unfortunate it appears that people here think that the world revolves around a giant wad of cash.  Their mindset is so financially fixated that they seem to forget the single-most important rule in life:

Rule #1: Enjoy the simple things.

I find myself increasingly disgusted by the lack of public concern for environmental management.  To say that I am angrily annoyed with people would be an outrageous understatement, but I like to retain a sense of professionalism in a scientific blog.  I see glimpses of hope here n’ there and I send my props to the government for making an effort, but have they really done enough to initiate change?

Sure, the city has tried to reduce plastic waste by charging people for grocery bags.  They cost 50 cents each, so let’s see… 0.50 HKD divided by 7.417 equals 0.0674 CAD.  Doesn’t really sound like it’ll dissuade a lot of people to me.  I’m not about to conduct a feasibility study in Hong Kong, but perhaps the encouragement of reusing more durable bags or bins like we do in Canada is a smarter alternative than a miniscule financial deterrent.

I notice a few recycling bins scattered throughout the city, too.  They come in trios: one for paper, one for aluminum, and one for plastic.  But what about glass?  I have to point out, I’ve never actually peeked inside one of these bins either and it’s difficult to say whether or not people are actually using them for its intended purpose or if it’s just another waste bin for them to stick their trash.  Trash cans and their associated ashtrays can be found on every other street, but these recycling bins are far and few in between.

There is a hefty fixed penalty of $1500HKD for littering which is a lot more than a slap on the wrist, but if environmental legislation and the people of Hong Kong are anything like a parent and child, well… if you punish a kid by taking away their favourite toy, they’re not going to be very happy and I think it could create a lot of unnecessary tension between the government and the public.

With that said, I think things are slowly but surely on the right track.  Instead of employing destructive preventative measures like fines, Hong Kong has initiated other, more constructive ways to prevent pollution.  There are educational institutes in the city such as the Lung Fu Shan Environmental Education Centre at the peak of Hong Kong University.  I do have to admit, though, this centre was borderline lame.  Maybe I didn’t visit the centre thoroughly because of time constraints but my first impression was, well, I guess I wasn’t very impressed at all.  And I chuckled a bit as I left at the thought of the actual number of people willing to make the 15 minute hike to the top of a steep grade in the heat to visit this tiny place.

Furthermore, I’m glad to see some investment in the eco-tourism industry with the establishment of the Hong Kong Wetland Park.  I haven’t yet been there but it’s nice to see the city attempting to increase the number of nature lovers out there.

If only my Chinese were as good as my English then maybe I could reach out my ideas to the public more effectively, but I guess that’s another really good reason why I am here right now.  C’mon people, I know that I am not alone here.  What can one man, an over-ambitious Chinese Canadian 25 year old going through that dreaded quarterlife crisis searching for the right career opportunity, possibly do to change the mindset of over a billion people in a developing country struggling to coincide economic growth with sustainability?

Yes,  I understand that I am ultimately Canadian inside but I come from a country where multicultural diversity is the norm and lost as I am in this giant of a world I do indeed feel a sense of belonging to the city of Hong Kong, my birthplace, and I do have a right to care.  I absolutely refuse to believe that there’s nobody out there who shares the same views as me.  There has GOT to be an organization out there somewhere.  And I’m not talking people who work for an environmental company as just another job.  I’m talking about a small group of like-minded individuals who genuinely have the desire to try and make a difference in the world, and it’s about time I put my networking skills to the test.

I would like to take a moment to be blunt, just to make sure I get my point across:

JUST BECAUSE YOU PEOPLE DON’T CARE DOESN’T CHANGE THE FACT THAT ALL OF THIS IS GOING ON  DURING OUR EVERYDAY LIVES .  WHAT IS GOING TO HAPPEN TO THE SOIL IN WHICH WE GROW OUR FOOD?  WHAT IS GOING TO HAPPEN TO THE WATER WE DRINK (NOT TO MENTION THE CHINESE SEAFOOD INDUSTRY), AND TO THE AIR THAT WE BREATHE? IF WE DON’T TAKE IMMEDIATE PREVENTATIVE MEASURES THEN THE HONG KONG YOU KNOW NOW WILL NO LONGER EXIST 30, 50, 100 YEARS FROM NOW.  SEE THE BEAUTY OF HONG KONG THROUGH MY EYES:

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