Showing posts with label Environment. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Environment. Show all posts

Friday, June 26, 2015

A Shaoyang Rainbow

Just over two months ago on the day I arrived Shaoyang, Hunan, I saw something I can't remember having ever seen before in China.

rainbow over a street scene in Shaoyang, Hunan

I had once wondered if I would ever see such a thing.

It was, and is, a special day.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Two More Blue Sky Scenes in a Zhongshan Village

More blue sky & clouds scenes, these from today in Shimen Village, Zhongshan:

watch tower and blue sky in Shimen Village, Shaxi Town, Zhongshan

open window of a yellow building with a blue sky and cloud above in Shimen Village, Shaxi Town, Zhongshan

Sharing these and other photos of blue skies in Zhongshan (here and here) was partly inspired by my recent experience viewing some photos shared by friends elsewhere in the world. I doubt the deep blue skies had been intended to be the primary area of focus in their photos, and I found it striking my eyes were so drawn to them.

I will move on to other topics shortly. For more thoughts on how blue skies and "normal" clouds can seem unusual to me and others in China, see an earlier post with photos from Macau here.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Saturday, March 28, 2015

A Blue Sky in Zhongshan

Today Zhongshan had a blueish sky.

blue sky above a tower near the former residence of Sun Yat-sen in Cuiheng, Zhongshan
Watch tower near the former residence of Sun Yat-sen in Cuiheng, Zhongshan

It didn't mean Zhongshan's air quality was "good", but the air was significantly better than when I was deceived by a similarly blue sky in Shanghai.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

A Drop of World Water Day From Zhongshan, China

Yesterday at a blt supermarket in Zhongshan, China, I was reminded that today, March 22, is World Water Day.

"12% off" sale for a selection of bottled water at BLT in Zhongshan

Like a recent promotion in Zhongshan on International Women's Day, I question whether it appropriately reflects the day's spirit. A sale of relatively expensive waters from around the world on a day partly focused on finding ways more people can have access to any sort of safe water doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me. But I guess I shouldn't complain. I visited this particular supermarket specifically due to its unusual-for-Zhongshan selection of carbonated water and saved a few RMB.

Although carbonated water is a treat for me here, in Zhongshan I always drink bottled water. I wouldn't feel safe regularly drinking tap water in China.

Finding clear and reliable numbers on China's water safety can be challenging. For example, although a 2014 report by the World Health Organization and Unicef indicates China has made notable strides in the number of people with access to improved drinking sources, this is largely based on the assumption that having piped water on premises is better. The report doesn't address whether the tap water in China is actually safe. Even by China's own standards, though, much of its water is bad. Incidents of severe water contamination are obviously not positive signs and some experts are highly suspicious of tap water. Other experts argue that China's approach to improving water access and water quality largely through a "infrastructure-focused approach" is misguided and should instead "focus on cleaning water sources and recycling water".

When I wonder about the reliability of the bottled water I drink and the amount of tap water I have ingested indirectly through prepared foods, I am not sure how much I have accomplished. One of the things I enjoy during my trips to the U.S. is drinking and using water straight from the tap without worry. This is one respect where I would say most Americans don't appreciate how good they have it.

For more about something that is so important yet easy for some to take for granted, see Tariq Khokhar's "5 reasons why water is key to sustainable development" and David Sim's "World Water Day 2015: Photos to make you think twice about wasting this precious resource". The latter includes a number of striking images from China and elsewhere providing more reason to appreciate regular access to safe water, especially if it as close as the kitchen sink.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Fang Tang's Caricature World at the Zhongshan Cartoon Museum

The Zhongshan Cartoon Museum (中山漫画馆)
The Zhongshan Cartoon Museum (中山漫画馆)

The Zhongshan Cartoon Museum (website in Chinese) opened just over two years ago at scenic Yixian Lake Park in Zhongshan, Guangdong. The Chinese characters "漫画" (mànhuà) in the museum's name are translated into English as "cartoon". But in a different context on a sign introducing a collection of pieces by Fang Tang (方唐), the characters are translated as "caricature", which captures the spirit of his work displayed there.

Fang Tang, formerly known as Chen Shubin, was born in Zhongshan in 1938 and has achieved national recognition (source in Chinese). According to the Zhongshan Daily Overseas Edition, Fang donated a number of his pieces to the museum because he felt it was a better option than them becoming "rubbish" after he dies. As a whole, I considered Fang's works to be the most striking examples in the museum, in large part due to the topics they covered.

Below are photographs of six examples of his work along with their titles. I would typically take a pass on translating artwork titles, especially without consulting the artist. However, for the sake of providing some context, I gave it a shot, erring on the simplistic side. Titles in the original Chinese are included as well, and dates are listed when possible.

With the exception of "Henpecked Disease", I would not have been surprised to see the below examples as editorial cartoons in an American publication, although a slightly different meaning could have been intended or interpreted in some cases. The pieces provide a taste not only of what Fang wanted to creatively express but also of what he has been allowed to express in China.

Sign introducing the collection of pieces by Fang Tang
Sign introducing the collection

Security (安全) by Fang Tang (方唐) depicting the Statue of Liberty waving a metal detector over people
Security — 安全 (2003)

Give Some Oil (给点油吧) by Fang Tang (方唐) depicting apparent religious/spiritual figures and the Statue of Liberty al in line to receive oil
Give a Bit of Oil — 给点油吧 (1981)

Recollecting (回想) by Fang Tang (方唐) depicting men looking at a caged bird in a deforested area left only with tree stumps
Recollecting — 回想 (1986)

Henpecked Disease (惧内症) by Fang Tang (方唐) depicting crowd of men running away after an angry-looking woman is revealed on a pedestal
Henpecked Disease — 惧内症 (1985)

Worship (崇拜) by Fang Tang (方唐) depicting a man walking by a pointing man standing atop a pyramid of people bowing
Worship — 崇拜

Conviction (信仰) by Fang Tang (方唐) depicting a man impaled by a arrow sign and holding an arrow point in the other direction while also holding a book
Conviction — 信仰

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Another Smoggy View in Chongqing

Perhaps I shouldn't have left the previous post, which was about a coat's timely message and Chongqing's temperatures, somewhat hanging with a comment about bad air pollution.

I have mentioned Chongqing's air quality before, and probably will do so again, but, to bring a little more closure to the earlier post, here was a view this afternoon from the SML Central Square shopping mall:

view from top of SML Central Square in Chongqing looking towards the Yangtze River

The buildings barely visible in the distance are located across the Yangtze River. I can't say to what degree fog may have played a role in the haze, but, even though Chongqing's air quality improved over previous days, it was definitely bad today.

Maybe someday soon I will see a "Make it Fresh" coat.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Very Unhealthy Whatever the Floor

What "Very Unhealthy" air looked like today from the 35th floor of a building in Shanghai's Xujiahui district:

View of buildings and air pollution from the 35th story of a building in Xujiahui, Shanghai.

"Hazardous" levels were reached a few hours later.

A few people wore face masks. Most did not. Some had a smoke.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Yellow Leaves, Leafblowers, and a Street Cleaning Truck

One day after I mentioned the fake indoor fall foliage at a mall in Shanghai, of course there were many leaves on the ground in Shanghai due to strong winds. The outdoor real leaves weren't as colorful though.

I would say most tree leaves in Shanghai are still greenish, but brown leaves on some trees are easy to find. And gingko tree leaves in particular have taken on a yellow hue.

gingko trees with yellow leaves
Yanzhong Green Space (Square Park)

More leaves have fallen during the past week or so, which in turn leads to a desire in some to remove the leaves or encourage them to rest elsewhere. This past weekend I saw someone struck by this urge (or perhaps paid by someone else struck by this urge) using a piece of technology which made me think of James Fallows. His feelings regarding leafblowers are in part captured with a label he used to categorize a few posts about them: "Leafblower Menace".

So I sent him a photo of a leafblower in action on Changping Road in Shanghai. I also sent him photos of people I saw later that afternoon on the same road using more traditional and quieter leaf clearing methods. You can see the photos and few thoughts about them in his new post "China Catches Up".

The people in the photos were primarily concerned about cleaning the sidewalk when I saw them. But, yet again on Changping Road, yesterday I saw technology specifically designed for cleaning the street.

road sweeper truck with the slogan "建设国际静安 创建文明行业" on it cleaning a street in Shanghai
Fortunately for me, no water sprayed out.

The slogan on the side of the street cleaning truck suggests to me that at least some people believe the truck represents progress for Shanghai's Jing'an district. And I have seen far many more street cleaning trucks than leafblowers in China.

Perhaps it is a positive sign I haven't seen any leafblowers with similar slogans.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Similarities of a Polluted Beijing and a Slowed Google

Yesterday, I saw Bill Bishop's photo of Beijing:

photo of a smoggy Beijing

Unsurprisingly, at the same time Beijing's air was reported as "hazardous".

Also at the same time, although my internet connection speed was good for regular access to China-based websites, it was extremely slow through the VPN I use to access blocked websites such as Twitter and Google. Here is what Google looked like for at least a minute when I tried to search for images of Beijing:

In this case, the grey placeholders for yet-to-load images seemed especially fitting. They didn't look very different from Bishop's photo or others of Beijing in heavy smog. Pollution blocking light makes one type of image common. Censorship blocking information helps make the other common for me. The visual similarity may be a coincidence, but once again there was a bit of harmony involving China's air.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Harmonious Chinese Air

Early this afternoon I noticed an especially harmonious moment in China. U.S. State Department facilities in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Chengdu reported nearly identical "unhealthy" air quality readings at 1:00 p.m.: 154, 153, 156, and 154, respectively.

A 190 reading from Shengyang was less harmonious, though still in the "unhealthy" category.

My experiences of days with obviously bad air in each of these cities easily come to mind. I am also reminded of similar days in many other Chinese cities. Sometimes I expected it, such as in Shijiazhuang which I knew was in a region with many coal-based power plants and industries. Sometimes I did not, such as in Liuzhou which is set in the midst of incredible natural scenery. Now that hourly and daily information like the above is available to check, I wonder how many times in the past a blueish sky tricked me into thinking the day's air wasn't so bad. In other words, the overall air pollution was probably worse than I thought. And I had already thought it was pretty bad.

The above readings are just a snapshot of ever-changing pollution levels from single locations in only the few Chinese cities covered by the U.S. State Department. Yet their momentary similarity despite coming from very different geographic regions is at least symbolic of the fact that air pollution is a widespread problem in China—presumably not what the Chinese government has in mind when it mentions "harmony". Although Beijing may receive the most attention, avoiding it or even all of the above cities is not enough to have a good chance of finding regularly clean air there. You could even find worse.

A Blue Shanghai Sky's Blues

When I looked up while walking outside this morning in Shanghai, the blueish sky and light patches of white clouds encouraged me.

blueish sky in Shanghai

But like a day when I was "deceived by the sky" in Beijing, I learned the air quality was nothing to cheer:
In this case, Shanghai residents can't even say "at least it's better than Beijing", where instead of 163 the air quality index at the same time was "only" 115—still far from good.

For me, it's a reminder that, although they receive the most attention, the more obviously bad air days are not the only ones to be concerned about. More on this theme later.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

A Walk Down Pudong Avenue in a Smoggy Shanghai

Fate or chance brought me to Pudong Avenue in Shanghai late Thursday afternoon, and I decided to take a long walk to my next destination. Fate, chance, or "progress", also brought me and many others easily visible air pollution. Below are several photos I took as the sun descended while I walked down Pudong Avenue towards the Lujiazui financial district. Regardless of the prominence of Shanghai's iconic towers in front of me, the pollution seemed to stay the same—once again, a reminder of what is shared with everyone.

Pudong Avenue in Shanghai

Pudong Avenue in Shanghai

Pudong Avenue in Shanghai

boy and girl on a sidewalk along Pudong Avenue in Shanghai

two men on motorbikes and two boys walking on Pudong Avenue in Shanghai

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Contrasting Air

Recently in China's capital:

Recently in an American small town:

Today I was in the latter location and did not have to wear a mask in Beijing due to an "airpocalypse" yet again. As I travel from region to region in the U.S. during a several-week trip, I have found the relatively clean air — something which once seemed unremarkable — to be so remarkable. And I appreciate it all the more.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

A Colorful Sight in Taipei

Yesterday while I walked around outside in a drizzle, I turned around and noticed something which surprised me.

rainbow arching over buildings in Taipei

The rainbow didn't strike me as remarkable except in one way—it had been a while since I had last seen a rainbow. In a post displaying the artificial rainbow I saw in Hengyang, I mentioned I couldn't remember having ever seen a genuine rainbow in China and wondered if pollution or tall buildings were significant factors. I now see that 15 years ago two scientists presented hypotheses for how pollution may have caused a decrease of rainbow sightings in Seoul, South Korea, but they don't claim to have an answer.

Whatever the case, I appreciated the rainbow.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

More Blue Skies In Hengyang

Blue skies in Hengyang have not been frequent during my time here, but fortunately today was another exception.

blue sky and white clouds over a building in Hengyang

kite flying in a blue sky with clouds

More about blue skies (or lack thereof) elsewhere in China, mobile phone sales, and other topics soon . . .

Saturday, June 21, 2014

A Hengyang Blue Sky

Based on my time in Hengyang, Hunan, I would not say it's the best place to visit if you are seeking clean air. One day in particular last week offered clearer skies and better than average air, though. The air wasn't perfect and the effects of smog could be seen in the distance, but the sky above was striking nonetheless. So I was able to enjoy a blue sky accompanied by an artificial rainbow . . .

two buildings with a painted rainbow, blue sky, and birds with a real blue sky in the background

building with a painted rainbow, blue sky, birds, and a countryside house with a real blue sky in the background

. . . and the Huiyan Pavilion (回雁阁) on Huiyan Peak.

Huiyan Pavilion (回雁阁) on Huiyan Peak (回雁峰)

On a related note, I don't remember having ever seen a real rainbow in China, which strikes me as odd. I wonder whether tall buildings obstructing the view or smog likely plays a larger role. Maybe someone can tell me what it means.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

PLA Soldiers, Chengguan, and a Raft Ride During a Flooded Dragon Boat Festival in Hengyang

Last night the rain was especially heavy in Hengyang, Hunan province. When I set out this afternoon, most seemed relatively normal in the central urban area where I have spent most of my time, like last week when the Xiang River flooded a pedestrian area.

However, while walking down a street not far from Yueping Park, I looked down an alley I had not passed before named Yudetang (余德堂) and saw something rather unexpected.

flooded Yudetang (余德堂) alley in Hengyang, China

During a confused split second I wondered whether I was looking at a canal, but I quickly realized that an area in a hilly section of Hengyang had flooded. The water came up to the waist of one man of average height who jumped into the water further down the alley. While I was there, another man said to me that surely the U.S. would not have problems like this. I told him that sometimes the U.S. experiences flooding that wouldn't look very different.

I soon saw the arrival of a boat with residents guided by two People's Liberation Army soldiers wearing their urban camouflage uniforms.

People's Liberation Army soldiers wearing urban camouflage uniforms navigating a boat with residents from a flooded neighborhood

I then headed back to the main road and soon found nearby an intriguing route up a hill.

steep outdoor stairs in Hengyang

After reaching the top and going down a different set of stairs, I soon found myself facing another flooded area.

flood waters almost completely covering a white truck

A group of people gathered near the edge of the flood appeared bewildered to see me, and we were soon having a friendly conversation. They said the area has flooded previously but never before had the water risen so high.

Soon, a raft passed nearby, and after a bubble of activity several people hailed it. To my surprise it was not for themselves. Instead, they excitedly told me I could board it. I had no need for a boat ride and was looking forward to exploring another set of stairs, but a woman encouraged me to get on the boat and told me I could take more photos. I then noticed that although there were no soldiers aboard, one of the rowers was a chengguan, a law enforcement officer for urban administrative regulations and the "least-loved public official" in China. I really didn't want to be getting in the way, but the chengguan insisted, in a friendly manner, that I come aboard.

So I departed my new friends. Several of them looked rather amused.

smiling people in Hengyang

During the middle of the trip, I saw a group of men trying to move a car.

men pushing a car partially submerged in flood waters

And after a 5 minute journey, I disembarked at an area with its own set of onlookers.

tube pumping out flood waters

My thanking the chengguan caused a bit of laughter. As the chenguan rowed away, I pondered the fact that the end of my raft ride had been filmed by a news crew from Hunan TV.

chengguan rowing a raft in a flooded street in Hunan

I then climbed some stairs to a long balcony and backtracked a bit. Progress of some sort had been made with the car in deeper waters although debate erupted over what to do next.

men in shoulder deep water around a submerged car

There were activities elsewhere, although I didn't stick around long enough to figure out what they had planned.

men untangling some rope or wire

For others, there was nothing to do but watch.

people sitting next to a flooded alley in Hunan

Eventually, I decided to depart, and I took one last look back.

men holding a raft

As I approached a main street, I saw a street sign indicating I was now at the opposite end of the same alley where I first noticed the flooding.

A local news report (in Chinese) confirms what the residents told me--this is not the area's first flooding.

Although the boats are somewhat fitting in an ironic manner, this certainly was not how I expected to spend the Dragon Boat Festival today in China. I am sure others felt the same. It was a somewhat surreal experience for me at times, but mostly I felt bad for the residents who have to deal with the flooding. Hopefully next year's holiday is more festive for them and all boats are far from their street.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Flooding and Cleanup Along the Xiang River in Hengyang

Flooding caused by recent heavy rains has led to at least 37 deaths in southern China. The Wall Street Journal posted a slide show showing some of the rain's impact in Hunan, Jiangxi, Guangdong, and Fujian provinces.

The rain has been heavy at times in Hengyang, Hunan province, but I haven't noticed anything calamitous in the central urban area where I have spent most of my time. Flooding has been easy to see, though, along the Xiang River (also called the Xiangjiang River).

partially submerged trash container near a partially submerge stone railing
The stone railing was completely submerged at one point.

The river never came close to overflowing the nearby streets in this part of Hengyang, but it did rise high enough to submerge at least one adjacent lower-level pedestrian area. The water has been receding, but this area remains underwater. So instead of this:

people one a stone railing next to the Xiang River in Hengyang
Signs of earlier flooding are evident.

... today cleanup operations were underway to remove silt and other debris.

workers sweeping silt away from a submerged pedestrian area
Didn't look easy

I briefly met part of the cleanup team, and many of them appeared to be proud of their work. One person even asked me to take a group photograph.

Ten workers, some with brooms made from tree branches, posing for a photograph
The second woman from the right made the request.

They probably don't get as much positive attention as they should. But their work will mean the flooding's effects here will soon be forgotten, and people will be able to once again enjoy not working next to the river.

people sitting on a stone railing next to the Xiang River at night
A more typical scene at the riverside pedestrian area