Saturday, March 23, 2013

State of the Climate...Debate (in China)

It is appalling that a US Representative, elected by the people, holds the belief that anthropogenic (human induced) climate change is not a big problem. That there is a need for the NCSE in the United States is a sad reminder of the ignorance that I left behind when I moved here more than two years ago. Asked "Is the earth's climate changing?" 49.9% of [American] respondents said, "Yes, I'm convinced," and 33.5% said, "Probably yes, but I'd like more evidence," while only 8.5% said, "Probably no, but more evidence could convince me," and only 7.6% said, "No, there isn't any solid evidence." ( Yet the 16.1% have a lot of sway in the halls of our democracy.

In China this "climate debate" is non-existent. A combination of the focus on science in the education system and the hegemony of a secular (atheist?) state mean that Creationists and so-called "climate-deniers" are not given a spot at the podium--the nonsense is back-benched. Instead, another problem exists: corruption. Sinopec does not fight the science; they fight the financing of the necessary changes in policy. The euphemism used by the New York Times in an article entitled As Pollution Worsens in China, Solutions Succumb to Infighting is "infighting," but the article lays out the real problem:
The state-owned enterprises are given critical roles in policy-making on environmental standards. The committees that determine fuel standards, for example, are housed in the buildings of an oil company...Fuel standards are issued by the Standardization Administration of China, which convenes a committee and a subcommittee to research standards. They each have 30 to 40 members, almost all of whom are from oil companies... 
Dire predictions from Deutsche Bank about the expected number of cars on the road by 2030 mean “a strong government will to overcome the opposition from interest groups” is necessary to begin the work that must be done.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

The New Pope and China: Healing Time

"He is absolutely capable of undertaking the necessary renovation without any leaps into the unknown. He would be a balancing force. He shares the view that the Church should have a missionary role, that gets out to meet people, that is active ... a Church that does not so much regulate the faith as promote and facilitate it." 

-Francesca Ambrogetti, who co-authored a biography of Bergoglio

The first Jesuit pope and the first from Latin America (not the first non-European, but "the 11th non-European pope in the church’s history, and the first in 1,272 years") has the potential to heal the rift between the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association (CPCA), or 中国天主教爱国会, and the Roman Curia.

"Former" Bishop Thaddeus Ma Daqin
Choosing a new Secretary of State will be one of his most important early tasks, "given the dreadful mess the last Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, is considered to have made of it. Cardinal Bertone was seen to have accumulated too much power over the Vatican’s finances for himself and close associates, as well as presiding over the Holy See’s calamitous diplomatic relations, which in the past two years have broken down with Beijing," reports The Independent. This break-down in diplomatic relations has centered around the CPCA's desire to appoint bishop's without Vatican approval. An AP article published in The Japan Times lays out the challenges and the hopes of some Chinese Catholics. The other issue that has dominated the conversation between Beijing and the Vatican, since their formal break 50 years ago, is Taiwan and the "one China Policy."

The rift between the Roman Catholic Church and China pre-dates the ascendancy of the Communist Party. Some readers will remember an earlier post of mine that treated the issue of so-called "Chinese Rites" and the response of the Kangxi Emperor to the itinerant orders and Pope Clement XI's papal bull, Ex illa die. Of course, this is ancient history, but Ricci is still a central figure for Chinese Catholics. Like the new pope, Ricci was a Jesuit who thought that allowing the Chinese to continue ancient Confucian practices, like the celebration of ancestors on Tomb-Sweeping Day, was not contrary to being Catholic. More than a hundred years after Ricci's death, Clement XI sided with the Dominicans and other itinerant orders more fundamentalist point-of-view. As a result, the Kangxi Emperor said that Christians were no longer welcome in China because they cause trouble.

Today, the Chinese government rejects exercise of any authority by organs of the Catholic Church outside China. This has been their position since 1949, the year communists gained power over all of mainland China.  CPCA, which was founded in 1957, thus does not recognize the proclamation of the dogma of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary by Pope Pius XII in 1950, canonizations from 1949 onward (e.g. the canonization of Pope Pius X), Vatican declarations on even well-established devotional piety (e.g. on the Sacred Heart of Jesus or on Mary as Queen), and the Second Vatican Council (1962–1965). There are still card-carrying members of the CPC who believe that only atheists should be allowed to participate in the governance of China, but that is quickly becoming an out-moded way of thinking.

It will be interesting to see what Xi Jinping does. He and the Pope do have some commonalities. There are likely to be many sarcastic commentaries in the coming weeks, such as Anthony Tao's at Beijing Cream. My hope is that more serious people will work diligently to bring a fragmented Church closer together.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Drying for Freedom in China

As most of my readers know, in 1995, when I was an undergraduate at Middlebury College, the speaker at a peace sympoisum that I had organized, Dr. Helen Caldicott, gave a speech. In the company of my high school mentors, Bud and Barbara James, I had heard her speak in Newburyport, MA, in 1993. Both experiences were significant for me and eye-opening. In Newburyport, she plucked an infant from the arms of a young mother and asked if the child would be a down-winder. It was in Middlebury, though, that she made a statement which truly changed the course of my life: "If we all hung out our clothes, we could shut down the nuclear industry."

For the seventeen or eighteen intervening years, a great deal of my free time and even a couple year of poorly remunerated employment have been devoured by Project Laundry List. Still, I left--and not on Sabbatical, either--in 2010 and came to China in February of 2011 to teach English. My departure came as a result of several frustrations, which I won't cover in this post, and, because, after 15 years (nine of them in Concord), I was ready for a new adventure.

In the year following my departure, the board moved slowly to hire a new executive director and finally, just over a year later, they hired somebody. Unfortunately, poor health led to his resignation about a month ago and I have stepped, perhaps too boldly, back into the breach.

The board had essentially dwindled to one or one and a half semi-active members and so the first step I took to breathe some life back into the group was to approach some wonderful old volunteers to join the board of directors. We now have a board of six and hope to double that in the coming months. Volunteers, like the woman who said she was willing to publish our newsletter, who had heard from nobody in two years, have been approached and are getting actively engaged again. I set up a Skype number and have been re-connecting with dozens of volunteers and supporters. It has been rewarding and fun, but I do not intend to continue at the current pace.

Our Facebook presence has continued unabated, thanks to a wacky volunteer from Seattle, whose creative attempts to bolster "likes" and meaningful engagement, as well provide moments of joy, have succeeded. Somebody else has created a Pinterest page and we are talking about how to leverage YouTube and other social media.

Serendipitously, the filmmakers who tailed me half way across the nation for the 2009 Clotheslines Across America Tour have scheduled a grassroots festival of Drying for Freedom screenings to begin on National Hanging Out Day (April 19th). This has given us something to rally around and focus on as we seek to get North Americans re-focused on the tremendous amounts of energy wasted on bad laundry practices. I will participate in screenings in Changchun, Jilin, CHINA; Wolfeboro, NH; Concord, NH; and, hopefully, in Exeter, NH, and Boston, MA. Local supporters are helping with all of these venues and dozens more.

We will be having a board meeting on Tuesday, March 19 at 9AM Eastern Standard Time. I hope that if you are interested in joining the board, doing a screening, or contributing to the cause in dollars or hours, you will be in touch. Thanks!