Sunday, August 26

thinking about China and me

I just finished reading Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China, by Jung Chang. I've read a few different books on China, but this is one that really helped me get a clearer picture of China's history. It's kinda long, but enjoyable and totally worth it if you are looking for a glimpse into Chinese life from before the time of Japanese occupation of Northern China in the 30's to just after Mao died in 1976. Reading it has given me a better understanding of the Chinese people and perhaps any people under leadership that exploits them.

Lately, there has been talk in the news which has led to a lot of talk among people in the community of how Chinese products are unsafe. Some people even bring it up in the context that the Chinese are out to get us.

My Dad subscribes to the New York Times and sends me articles on China occasionally. He just sent me this: As China Roars, Pollution Reaches Deadly Extremes. I took some lines out of the article that I relate to.
Chinese cities often seem wrapped in a toxic gray shroud.
Environmental woes that might be considered catastrophic in some countries can seem commonplace in China: industrial cities where people rarely see the sun.

On windy days in Yanji, I'm thankful that the pollution is blown away and we can see something other than gray sky. Whenever I visit bigger cities, though, clear days are much harder to come by. Here in Kentucky, I've been reminding myself to be thankful that there are beautiful white clouds and blue skies so often.
Chinese buildings rarely have thermal insulation. They require, on average, twice as much energy to heat and cool as those in similar climates in the United States and Europe, according to the World Bank. A vast majority of new buildings — 95 percent, the bank says — do not meet China’s own codes for energy efficiency.

This is too apparent in the winter. I have seen snow blowing in through the roof of a hallway in the winter. The rooms we teach and work in are heated, but we almost always wear our long down coats and sometimes hats and gloves inside when it's cold. The wind in the winter makes our buildings whistle.
This spring, officials in Yunnan Province in southern China beautified Laoshou mountain, which had been used as a quarry, by spraying green paint over acres of rock.

I often think about how some of the things that bother me in China or about Chinese people are things that are common in America, too, but just are covered up a little better. Often when I ask what students want to do when they finish college, they'll bluntly say, "I just want to make a lot of money in business." Of course, most people in America want the same but say it in a way that sounds better. Americans are also destroying our environment and doing other things we blame on other people, we just know how to cover it up in a way that is more distinguished or less recognizable than green spray paint.

Chinese manufacturers that dump waste into rivers or pump smoke into the sky make the cheap products that fill stores in the United States and Europe. Often, these manufacturers subcontract for foreign companies — or are owned by them.

Indeed, Britain, the United States and Japan polluted their way to prosperity and worried about environmental damage only after their economies matured and their urban middle classes demanded blue skies and safe drinking water.

But China is more like a teenage smoker with emphysema. The costs of pollution have mounted well before it is ready to curtail economic development.

Wednesday night, China and what they are doing to the things they export, was brought up. Another person then commented that maybe we should stop pointing the finger and look at our own greed for a second. I was really glad to hear that. We should be concerned about health and safety, but we can't forget our own role in world events. The actions we take when we hear news like this should cause us to make changes in our own lives and hopefully changes in our community and world. That will mean different things to different people, but I know one place that I can look at is whether I treasure my Maker and the things of him over things that don't last.
The toll this pollution has taken on human health remains a delicate topic in China. The leadership has banned publication of data on the subject for fear of inciting social unrest, said scholars involved in the research.

In some countries, not all the news gets out to the people. Surely even in the States there are things that are hidden from us, but what are we doing with the information that we do have? Are we allowing ourselves to keep delicate topics in the news from impacting our lives? I have recognized a callousness in myself lately with all the news I see on the internet or hear from other people. We, as people who have great freedom, have great responsibility. I don't know the full extent of what that means, but I know it's something I have to deal with.

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