Monday, September 9, 2013

A Chronicle of The Maiden America Tour

The trip that Deborah and I made to America was the best and longest vacation that I remember since grade school. We were repeatedly permitted to sleep-in by generous friends and family. Deborah commented more than once that she was amazed at her own ability to sleep in every manner of bed from the inflatable mattress to the futon with a mountain in the middle to the too-soft bed of fluff to the couch in the middle of a NYC 21st floor apartment's living room.

I took a few pictures on Deborah's camera, but I wanted to see what she noticed. Reviewing the more than 1,000 photos that she took, I found that she has a fetish for American trash cans and recycling bins. She also took a picture of each new brand of petrol that we saw so there are a huge number of gas stations in her collection. 

Finally, there are a lot of shots of plates loaded to the gills with food. I made sure she had a quarter-pounder at a drive-thru MacDonalds, a heaping plate of chicken at Cracker Barrel, a #4 Breakfast Special at Dunkin' Donuts, and a lot of healthier, traditional fare, such as soft-shell crabs in Baltimore and schrod with clam chowder and a side of baked beans as her first meal in Boston's Durgin Park. I woke up and made tomato sauce with Tom Cornell at the Peter Maurin Farm (A Catholic Worker community) and, outside of lobster, this huge pot of his famous concoction was the most-discussed and favorite culinary delight of the trip.

Tom's Tomato Sauce
Deborah and I helped harvest some early radishes at the Peter Maurin Farm. The dogs came with us for company.

We had lobsters and clams in Maine at a clambake (first for me, too), Red Lobster in Times Square (another first), and lobster salad with blueberry muffins in Cohasset. 

She loved our pineapple juice and seemed to enjoy her ham 'n cheese croissant, as well. She had Mexican with me at Dos Amigos (Concord, NH), Hermanos (Concord, NH), and Lauriol Plaza (DC). We had oysters from PEI and I had a Bloody Mary at Old Ebbitt Grille, Washington's oldest saloon. 

There were several other firsts for me, as well. For instance, we skipped Philadelphia, originally on the itinerary, and went instead to Washington Crossing, PA, en route to friends in Doylestown. It was exhilarating to see where a band of Marblehead fishermen helped sneak the Continental Army across the river on Christmas, to attack the arrogant, sleeping Hessians at Trenton. 

Finished with lunch in Wellesley and not due for dinner in Lincoln, MA, until 6:15, we also went to the Minute Man National Park on our last full day in America. I had never been there and was shocked to learn that it was just a couple miles up Bedford Road from my uncle's house. 

Uncharacteristically, I made only a few driving mistakes, the biggest being that we crossed the George Washington Bridge instead of the Tappan Zee, because I lost heart at the turn-off for Route 80 East and so headed back to NYC instead of continuing on I-287.

I learned a lesson on the rental car. Let somebody insured rent it and then have you added as the second driver. Quoted a mere $555 for 17 days, it ended up after insurance and gas being about $100 a day! We wanted to pick it up on Monday morning instead of Sunday night, but that was going to raise the cost by a lot...which makes no sense to me. We wanted to turn it in at Logan Airport instead of Manchester, NH, but that was going to raise the cost by $600 so we took a $70 full-sized van with only four passengers in it to Logan from MHT. It was worth it environmentally and economically to rent their EZPass. We traveled in style, listening to Secretary John Kerry preach war on NPR, operating cruise control from buttons on the steering wheel, and incessantly forgetting the keys in our press-the-button-to-start Nissan.

We are incredibly grateful to all of the people who put us up, especially my parents, Arnie Arnesen & Marty Capodice, The Peter Maurin Farm, and Randi Cecchine/Michiele, who all took us for multiple nights. This was an incredible introduction to America for a Chinese woman who has never traveled outside of China and a great chance to see so many wonderful people for me. I think Deborah met so many people that you might be referred to hereinafter as "the person with the crazy dog" or "the one with the cute child." 

Deborah got to see many iconic things and to go half way up the Statue of Liberty. I took this picture of the pulpit at St. Patrick's Cathedral, which is undergoing a glorious renovation.

We saw the George Washington Bridge and the Lincoln Memorial, as well as the National Museum of the American Indian in both New York and DC. Here is a sampling of the places we saw. The sun on the scaffolding surrounding the Washington Monument was dreamy. 

The irony of using the George Gustav Heye Customs Building
as a home for the National Museum of the American Indian
with its fancy dome featuring most of America's most
famous early European explorers strikes me every time.
We had a really touching experience when, with typical brashness, I asked a man emerging from a fire station if he was a fireman. He said that he was, disappeared back inside, and emerged again, asking whether we would like to see the inside. He opened the main door, but let us in through the side door. To the side of the single engine, was a display from the wreckage of September 11. They lost a man and the pieces you see in this picture are all that were salvaged.

Deborah Zhang & Alexander Lee’s
Maiden America Tour (
Made in China)

Thursday, August 15
Thu, Aug 15, 2013

Depart: 04:40 pm
Arrive: 09:10 pm
Beijing, China (PEK)
Tokyo, Japan (HND)
Japan Airlines, Flight 22
Economy   Class 

1 Stop - change planes in Tokyo, Terminal 1, (HND)
Connection Time: 9 hrs 45 mins 
Depart: 06:55 am
Arrive: 06:35 am
Tokyo, Japan (HND)
New York, NY (JFK)
American Airlines, Flight 134
Economy   Class 

1 Stop - change planes in New York, (JFK)
Connection Time: 1 hr 55 mins 
Depart: 08:30 am
Arrive: 09:50 am 

Next day
New York, NY (JFK)
Boston, MA (BOS)
American Airlines, Flight 1838
Economy   Class 
Total Travel Time: 29 hrs 10 mins

Hotel in Japan…

Friday, August 16
459 us towards Downtown Crossing via Central Square & Logan Airport (Express) from Terminal C-Departures
12 PM- Lunch at Faneuil Hall & Quincy Market area
1:30 PM- The New England Aquarium
4:00 PM- Get iPhone fixed at: Apple Store (Genius Bar), Boylston Street, 815 Boylston Street; (617) 385-9400.
6 PM- Meet George & Catherine Gregory at Rattlesnake Bar
Stay at Chris Hoag’s house in Chelsea, MA

Saturday, August 17
Chris drives us to New Hampshire!
10:30 AM- Breakfast with Christine Hamm
2:30 PM- Arrive at Arnie’s house
3:15 PM- Go pick up book at Gibson’s
4PM- Tea Party with Bruce, Liza, Eli, and Audrey
6PM- Dinner at Chenyangli ( in Bow, NH, with Bruce, Liza and children (reservation is for 20)
Stay at Deborah Arnie Arnesen & Marty Capodice’s

Sunday, August 18
10 AM- Catholic Mass at Sacred Heart
11:30 AM- Unscheduled time till 2 PM lunch
2 PM- Late lunch with Dr. Travis Harker, President, NH Medical Society (and my physcian) at Hermano’s Cucina
3:30- Meet Rebecca Foulkes at Audubon Center for a walk
Enterprise Rental Clusterf**k
6:30 PM- Drinks and Burgers on the deck with Meredith and Craig
Stay at Deborah Arnie Arnesen & Marty Capodice’s

Monday, August 19
7 AM or after- Pick up car at MHT Enterprise
10 AM- Breakfast at the Friendly Toast with Bud & Barbara James
12 PM- Day hike at Bradbury Mt. State Park with Bryan Wentzell
4 PM- Clambake in Boothbay with Gabrielle DiPerri, Martina M. and Roger Duncan at "The Manse"
Stay in Portland, Maine, with J. Bryan Wentzell and Anna Fincke

Tuesday, August 20
Drive to Blue Goose Lodge in time for lunch
Boat ride
Walked to main beach
Stay at Blue Goose Lodge

Wednesday, August 21
1:30 PM- Castle in the Clouds
Afternoon Swimming
7:30 PM- Mise en Place

Thursday, August 22
Stay at Blue Goose Lodge
10 AM- Wolfeboro Diner and The Art Place
1 PM- Wolfeboro Farmer’s Market, The Country Bookseller, and Dean and Lise Richardson’s
4:00- Visit Susie and Peter Walker
4:30 PM- Buckey’s for miniature golf and dinner
7:30 PM- See An Unexpected Guest at The Barnstormer’s Summer Theatre, Tamworth, NH

Friday, August 23
Noon- Depart for Middlebury, VT, via Concord, NH
11:50 AM- Secretary of State Office in Concord
1:30 PM- Lunch at The Lebanon Diner
3:15 PM- Tea in South Royalton with Christine Hamm, Yang Chenfang, and Jamie Thaxton
5 PM- Quick walk at Texas Falls in Hancock, VT
6 PM- Dinner at Mr. Ups with Heidi Willis and Seth Gibson, Randy & Polly Wilson
Stay with Heidi Willis

Saturday, August 24
9 AM- Rosie’s for breakfast with Wright Hartman and Charlie Lee
Before lunch- Shelburne Farms
1 PM- Lunch with Margaret Strouse and Christopher Middings at Leunig’s Bistro
5 PM- Arrive in Bristol
Stay with John & Rita Elder

Sunday, August 25
Depart for CW
Stay at Peter Maurin Farm

Monday, August 26
Work in the garden and eat great food
Cook dinner of di san qian for eight
Stay at Peter Maurin Farm

Tuesday, August 27
Drive to Theresa Maier’s in New Jersey and park car
Arrive Penn Station
Walk waterfront on Hudson down to Patty Heffley’s house and past Port Authority
Dinner at Red Lobster in Times Square after visiting Times Square Museum (free) and Rockefeller Center
Stay in NYC with Randi Cechinne at 365 West 25th Street in Chelsea

Wednesday, August 28
10 AM- Metropolitan Museum of Art and Central Park
1.     Brooklyn Bridge
2.     Chinatown & Little Italy
3.     Wall Street & The Bowery
Stay in NYC with Randi Cechinne

Thursday, August 29
1.     Empire State Building
2.     St. Patrick’s Cathedral (under renovation)
3.     New York Public Library
4 PM- Visit the Alan, Brooke, and Ben Phillips and Linda Zhang on Upper West Side
Stay in NYC with Randi Cechinne

Friday, August 30
3:15 PM- Thompson-Neely House
4 PM- Washington Crossing Visitors Center
Stay with Gary & Gayle Sutterlin in Doylestown, PA

Saturday, August 31
Stay in Arlington, VA, with Shari Lewis

Sunday, September 1
Lunch of soft-shell crab sandwich at Phillips in Baltimore
Stay with Jake Sargent

Monday, September 2
1:35- Red Sox vs. Tigers baseball game (special thanks to Tom Duca and Avery Meyer for making this possible), Section: G19; Row: 13; Seats: 9-10, go to Will Call window A or D around noon (Account # 5748290); goody bag for first timer at fan services desk
5:30 PM- Aunt Kathy & Uncle Ross for lobster salad and blueberry muffins
Stay with Aunt Kathy & Uncle Ross

Tuesday, September 3
10 AM- Marian Dioguardi
Lunch with Cousin Charlotte and Aunt Madeline
6:15 PM- Uncle Bob and Mary
Stay with Meredith Hatfield

Wednesday, September 4- Wave to “The Windy City”
8:30 AM- Bagel Works with Suzanne Harvey
10:15 AM- Secretary of State's Office
11:10 AM- Oath of office administered by Judge Macnamara at the Court House
11:50 AM- Enterprise at MHT

Wed, Sep 4, 2013

Depart: 03:50 pm
Arrive: 09:45 pm 

Next day
Boston, MA (BOS)
Beijing, China (PEK)
American Airlines, Flight 187
Economy   Class 
1 Stop - change planes in Chicago, IL (ORD) 
Total Travel Time: 17 hrs 55 mins

Thursday, September 5, 2013
10:15 PM- Arrive Beijing International Airport

Friday, September 6, 2013

Back in the P.R.C.

"Oh, show me round your snow peaked mountains way down south
Take me to your daddy's farm
Let me hear your [sanhu's] ringing out
Come and keep your comrade warm"
The trip home to China was easy and we are back in the cooler, early autumn weather that New England is experiencing simultaneously. The air is still bad here, but the food is good. We glided into Beijing about half-an-hour late and took a bus to Dongzhimen for just 16 RMB, a reminder of how lucky we are to be back in a country where public transportation abounds.

I normally write and gently editorialize about China on this blog, but having spent the last nineteen days fairly disconnected from the Internet and back in the USA, I want to offer a few reflections on my awesome country. While the following remarks are critical, I am now more than ever aware of how lucky we are to be citizens of such a great nation.

First, the rudeness of Americans to each other struck me. There is nothing in this post-911 world more absurd and also frustrating than air travel, but the rudeness of people ahead of us in line and even of some of the TSA employees was appalling. I have long held the controversial view that usually a certain kind of sociopathic personality is attracted to policing, but it seems nowhere more prevalent than in the men and women who spend their days monotonously waving partially undressed people through long, slow lines. It is all an exercise in futility. The Chinese national who was with me had a 187 mL of Sutter Home Chardonnay that went entirely undetected. Hard to make a Molotov cocktail from white wine, but what is all this expensive equipment for?

The other place that I noticed rudeness was in the way that people speak to each other (and about others) in the presence of strangers. The American Airlines' stewardesses, while I awaited the lavatory, were having an all-out bitch-fest about one of their fellow employees in plain earshot of waiting customers. I also was exposed to dozens of people to-ing and fro-ing who were using colorful language on the phone about fellow employees.

Second, we really are fat and doing very little about it! I exposed Deborah to a couple of American traditions squarely out of my normal daily regimen when I was state-side: a MacDonald's drive-thru for a quarter-pounder and a stop by Dunkin Donuts' for the #4 breakfast special. We even went to a Texas Roadhouse, where we had enough food for $20 to feed a small army. Those who know me well, know that I have struggled with whether wheat causes me joint pain and weight gain and that I have concluded dairy is the culprit in gastric explosions of Hiroshima proportions shortly after ingestion. I was surprised and pleased to find that many menus are conducive and helpful to the "lactard" and "glutard" (my attorney-sister's endearing terms for her brother), but these foods are still the major part of most Americans' daily caloric intake.

The Wall Street Journal yesterday had a huge article about yogurt and how a third of the supermarket real estate is now taken up with the richer Greek variety. New Hampshire's own dairy magnate features prominently in the article, claiming that customers "show up behind dairy cases and say, 'Where is my Mocha Latte, Apricot Mango or Cappuccino?'"

Third, American's disconnectedness from reality is stupefying. The "rush to war" before Iraq has been well-documented and discussed, but we are now involved in a similar rush to unleash on Assad's regime some well-meaning strike that preserves the international regime and shows that "we mean it" about weapons of mass destruction (chemical, biological, and nuclear).

Vietnam veteran and current Secretary of State John Kerry's testimony was carried on NPR, where he declared with brash confidence that the Obama Administration would get "a limited strike" resolution passed in short order. “Iran is hoping you look the other way,” Kerry told the committee. “Hezbollah [a Lebanese Shiite militia] is hoping that isolationism will prevail. North Korea is hoping that ambivalence carries the day.”

Nicholas Kristoff is in the New York Times with his regular column adeptly using his well-deserved credence as a spokesperson for human rights to push us towards war-making, but neither he nor Secretary Hagel nor General Dempsey have shown how more violence will beget a safer world. It is not possible for a human being to turn the other way given what Assad has done to his own people with the air force (let alone chemical weapons); however, doesn't the American public want and deserve a specific, cogent explanation for how the limited use of our brutal force can change things? I heard one NPR story which was talking about a woman who goes to war operating drones from an office building in metro D.C. eight hours a day and then goes home to a peaceful life for the rest of the day (short, perhaps, of bad traffic, where our rudeness is on full display). This is how we plan to keep the peace of the world?

* I have invented an instrument with three strings, because the Beatles' used the Russian instrument called a balalaika in their original song. The Chinese have several two-string instruments, such as the jinghu and erhu, but I am not aware of any three-string instruments. Er means two; san, three.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Tea and Game of Go Gifts: Giving and Receiving

Life is about what we give and receive, whether it is air, birth, cancer, a poem, or...a tea set. Yesterday, we had our first visitors in our new apartment, Deborah's paternal grandmother and a 16 year-old paternal first cousin who is learning English. On this occasion, Deborah's grandmother gave to her, for our mutual enjoyment, a tea set that had been presented to her late husband by his company. It is levely, made from a deep purple clay (zisha or 紫砂) and adorned with an insect larvae as the handle of the teapot. Each handle, on the teapot and six cups with saucers, is shaped like a twisting piece of bamboo.

The day prior we had purchased an iron teapot for my little sister at Maliandao, the tremendous Beijing tea market famous across China. We will make gifts of tea to several friends on our trip home.

I am now in the midst of a great book, The Ancient Art of Tea, written by a Chinese tea expert from the West. It is a trove of wonderful information and poetry related to Chinese tea culture. The author, one Warren Peltier, says, "Presenting a fine gift of tea to your friend or host is seen as showing your esteem toward that person."

We are also preparing other gifts. Tomorrow, we will go fetch paper and a scroll so that I might make a gift to my favorite professor of a Chinese poem, in my own hand, about the ancient game of weiqi, or the Game of Go. He is a rather advanced player. I also bought him these stamps (for $1.50 or 10 yuan!). Who says a gift needs to be expensive to be meaningful?

The blind poet Jorge Luis Borges, a couple days after my fourth birthday, penned a poem about the Game of Go. Spanish was his native tongue and so I present the untranslated version here as a gift for my Spanish-reading friends, especially Jessie Mejia.

El Go
Hoy, 9 de septiembre de 1978,
tuve en la palma de mi mano un pequeño disco
de los trescientos sesenta y uno que se requieren
para el juego astrológico del Go,
ese otro ajedrez de Oriente.
Es más antiguo que la más antigua escritura
y el tablero es un mapa del universo.
Sus variaciones negras y blancas
agotarán el tiempo;
en él pueden perderse los hombres
como en el amor o en el día.
Hoy, 9 de septiembre de 1978,
yo, que soy ignorante de tantas cosas,
sé que ignoro una más,
y agradezco a mis númenes
esta revelación de laberintos
que ya no exploraré...

Monday, August 12, 2013

On Chinese Rain

New Hampshire friends, I am very sorry to hear about the tragedy in Manchester last night. It is not dissimilar from what happened in Penacook/Boscawen a few years back. I hope we will learn that the answer is not armored cars for local police departments, but mental health policy changes and alertness on the part of clergy, mental health workers and all of us.


Li Shizhen Collects Medical Herbs
The Chinese word for rain is 雨 or yue. Yan mo (淹没) is the word for flooding by forces of nature. Ancient Chinese classified water based in its apparent source, either sky or earth. The sky waters were called "heaven's spring." Li Shi Zhen in Outline Treatise of Materia Medica listed 13 types of sky waters and 30 types of earth waters each with its own medical use. (from Warren Peltier, Ancient Art of Tea, 2011, pp.34.)

On Thursday afternoon, Deborah and I will alight at Beijing Airport, which saw hundreds of delayed flights yesterday due to flooding as well as the death of a worker from a lightning strike. This summer has been a bad one for rain in China, especially my former home in Dongbei (Northeast China).

"By Friday, pounding rain in Heilongjiang and Jilin provinces, as well as the Inner Mongolia autonomous region, had caused flooding and affected 2.28 million people, according to the State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters.

"Floods have ruined 1.07 million hectares of crops and plants, resulting in direct economic losses of 6.6 billion yuan ($1.08 billion), according to the headquarters," according to a news report in China Daily. Last week, I learned that China has moved its grain production over the last few decades from the Yellow River to the three northeasterly provinces of Liaoning, Jilin, and Heilongjiang. That would be like the US giving up on Indiana and Nebraska and moving all grain production to New England. Yikes!

One of the things that China can be very proud of is that through long-term efforts, it has successfully fed nearly 20% of the world’s population with less than 10% of the world's cultivated land. The main products include rice, corn, wheat, and soybean. China's average yield of grain is among the top in the world. In 2005, the total planting area reached 104.3 million hectares, and the aggregate production exceeded 484 million tons, among which the production of rice, wheat, and corn was 180.6 million tons, 97.5 million tons and 139.4 million tons, respectively. This number has grown in the ensuing seven or eight years, but now about 1% of China's total cropland has been flooded.

Reasonable prognostications by experts in agriculture and water indicate that the situation will only deteriorate. If you want to read more, visit

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Is Racing to Adopt "Transition Fuels" a Perilous Idea?

The Lesser of Two Evils is Still Evil

It is interesting to read Keith Schneider's rationale for China adopting the same transition to natural gas from coal strategy that has taken place rather organically in the unfettered markets of the United States (well, there are some subsidies back in the US of A, but in the Summers-ian, Geithnerian, Paulsonian, Bernakeian economy there is still less interference than in "Communism with Chinese characteristics"). Mr. Schneider is positively giddy in his reports about the wonderful things that have happened in the Rust Belt and Ohio Valley because of natural gas' precipitous rise in America.

I am very skeptical about anybody dismissing those of us opposed to the Keystone XL project and shale gas, in general, as DNA (Do Nothing Anywhere) Americans. There are lots of reasons to oppose this shift from coal to natural gas. Just today the Old Grey Lady speaks about Kalamazoo and Mayflower as precursors to future disasters. While that may be speculative and/or reactionary (c'mon Fukishima couldn't happen again, right?) there is a bigger reason to be skeptical about not letting China burn its coal:

The coal will be burned anyway. If China does not burn it, they will export it to Africa and the developing world. Warren Buffet is already making moves to ready North America for the exportation of its no longer needed coal resources...and the ports might somebody be convertible to LNG terminals, as well.

Until the economic community gets real about rebound effect (Jevons' Paradox) and removes all corporate gains from efficiency savings from the corporations' and the public's pockets, we will spiral towards a climactic climatic disaster! I am not optimistic about this happening if Obama appoints Summers to the Fed, but that is a convoluted political sidebar issue stemming from my fear of Larry's chronic macroeconomic orthodoxy.)

Blessing a fuel shift to the lesser of two evils would be the moral equivalent of my organization giving its blessing to Haier, GE, and Maytag for the production of combined washer-dryer units, because they are not producing two white goods for families, just one. Either scenario is completely unsustainable. As much endogenous energy as there is in two obsolescing large appliances, the energy just one and certainly both would use over their lifetime(s) is still the bigger concern--just as the water that a nuclear power or other thermal plant withdraws over its 40-year expected life is more significant than the water used to build its concrete reactor vessel and/or cooling towers. I shudder to think of a world where Godrej has delivered just one washer-dryer unit to ever hamlet in India...never mind one to every household therein.

Note: All emission estimates from the Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions
and Sinks: 1990-2011
The natural gas and petroleum industry is three times worse than coal in terms of emissions, according to my understanding of the EPA data (US Methane emissions by source). Methane, even if the Massachusetts-tested PG&E lasers can cut down on leaks, is 72 times more potent than carbon dioxide over a 10 year period. Our 100 year-centric carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) accounting system should not forget that the 20 year global warming potential (GWP) of methane is 72, which means that if the same mass of methane and carbon dioxide were introduced into the atmosphere, that methane will trap 72 times more heat than the carbon dioxide over the next 20 years! 

It is very Seventh Generational thinking to be concerned about a 100 year horizon, which is a laudable mode of thinking, but most of us are legitimately worried about a 20 year horizon or maybe 50 years in terms of our own health...and the planet's. Even as I write this, I live in a city (Beijing) where the PM 2.5 is over 300 ("hazardous") at Xizhimen North Street air quality index measuring stationIt is extremely dangerous for me to go outside, but don't be fooled by the media's post-Olympics focus on China's capital--there are many other cities here that have just as bad or worse air. Those of you who have the benefit of living in a better air environment should be careful before condemning the whole developing world to ozone (smog) levels like we are seeing today. Continuing to exploit fossil fuel (coal or natural gas) is penny-wise and pound foolish.

Perhaps, I am jaded and "transition fuels" are a good idea, but I need to be convinced that keeping the developing world from exploiting shale gas and allowing them to use ever diminishing amounts of coal is worse than letting them burn through the shale gas while other parts of this largely undeveloped world exploit the coal. Maybe what I am suggesting is draconian, because it keeps the second-tier developing nations (i.e., African republics, the ones who will use the coal if the BRICS opt for natural gas/methane/CH4) from immediately becoming frenzied consumer cultures like the China that I am witnessing. 

I support Bill McKibben and those opposed to Keystone XL, because not allowing the natural gas industry to develop quickly is the only feasible pathway to a lower carbon future that I see. I hope the Chinese government gets real about policy suggestions for addressing Jevons' paradox; confronts Haier about making washer-dryers; and does not move to a "transition fueled" economy, enabling it to enrich itself by selling coal to second-tier Third World nations. It will be the end of the world as we know it.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

English Mass at St. Joseph's Cathedral in Beijing

Among the roughly 15 million people here, Catholics are said to number only around 60,000 and are served by four cathedrals (informally named for each of the cardinal directions).

Our bishop is one of the few recognized by both the Catholic Patriotic Association and the Vatican. His name is Joseph Li Shan and this is his seal:

Last Sunday, as I plan to do tomorrow, I attended Mass at St. Joseph's Cathedral, the second oldest Catholic church in Beijing--sometimes referred to as the East Cathedral. There is an English Mass at 4 PM. Here are a couple pictures from inside the sanctuary.

Friday, August 9, 2013

BEN & BEER in the North Capital

One of the hotbeds of foreign expert activity in China is the Beijing Energy Network's (BEN) Beijing Energy & Environment Roundtable (BEER). The Beijing Energy Network (BEN) is a grassroots organization with a mission of promoting knowledge sharing, networking, and collaboration in understanding and tackling China’s energy and environmental challenges among individuals and organizations from diverse sectors such as government, finance, industry, media, advocacy, think tanks and academia.

This week I was able to attend a very interesting round-table along with about 80 other folks, the vast majority of whom were waiguoren (foreigners). The panel was featuring:

  • Jennifer Turner, Director, China Environment Forum, Woodrow Wilson Center
  • Keith Schneider, Senior Editor, Circle of Blue
  • Jia Shaofeng, Deputy Director of the Center for Water Resources Research at the Chinese Academy of Sciences
Keith Schneider is senior editor for Circle of Blue—the internationally recognized center for original front-line reporting, research, and analysis on resource issues, with a focus on the intersection between water, food, and energy. Keith manages multimedia story development, reporting, editing, and production for Circle of Blue. His personal site:
Jia Shaofeng is the Deputy Director of the Center for Water Resources Research at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Chair of the Department of Water & Land Resources Research of the Institute of Geographical Sciences and Natural Resources Research at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Vice Chair of Special Committee for Water Resources at the Hydraulic Engineering Society of China, board member of China Society of Territory Economists.
Jennifer Turner has been the director of the China Environment Forum at the Woodrow Wilson Center for 13 years. She has created meetings, exchanges and publications focusing on a variety of energy and environmental challenges facing China, particularly on water, energy and climate challenges, as well as environmental nongovernmental organizations, environmental journalism, and environmental governance in China. One of her current projects is Choke Point: China—a multimedia and convening initiative uncovering how energy is impacting water in China. 

BEN asks that their speaker's remarks remain off the record unless the speaker(s) otherwise grant permission so I will not offer a report on what I heard, but here some links to the handouts and an article written by Jennifer and Keith, with two others, for Vermont Law School's environmental journal (!):
It is impossible not to editorialize generally about the way that switching to natural gas was portrayed as a huge victory for the climate. In fact, America is an out-sized consumer of energy, relative to its population, and simply fuel switching is, as Ozzie Zehner's book points out, not enough. We need to do some walking away from burning energy for anthropogenic ends. Choosing the lesser of two evils will still wreak havoc on the environment.

We must find a way, especially in developing economies, to take the earnings from efficiency gains out of the system so that we can avoid the untoward results, described by Jevons' Paradox. Otherwise, we are just inducing higher levels of consumption...which, by the way, is the stated goal for China of everybody from Premier Li Keqiang to former Secretary of Treasury Hank Paulson to Nobel laureate Paul Krugman

There are other opinions and thoughtful analyses, like this rambling rant in The Nation by Richard MacGregor sort of reviewing a book by Karl Gerth, but the "powers-that-be" seem to have made up their mind that a nation of Chinese consumers is inevitable and should be the goal. I hope to offer a future BEN talk on how Project Laundry List and the Least Resource Design Initiative might help.