Tucker in Asia

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Where is the blue sky of China? (from the 27th, oops)

China has a major pollution problem. When we were in Beijing we visited the Summer Palace whose estate includes a small lake around the size of Golden Lake (for you in MN, otherwise it is pretty small, but could be difficult to swim across). The smog in the area prevented us from seeing across the lake. Unbelievable. There seems to be smog everywhere and visibility in the cities is never very far. The buildings fade away very quickly. As we travel across the country by train and I stare out the window every corner of land seems to be of use with a home, an apartment building, an agricultural field, or a factory with a huge pollution, I mean smoke stack. Sometimes I think that what these regions are experiencing is similar to what the U.S. experienced 50 years ago during the industrial revolution, but on a massive scale that is much more harmful to the environment. A few days ago we were traveling from Xi'an to Chengdu by train and at a small town stop I looked out the window and counted 16 smoke stacks. I'll give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that half were no longer in commission and the remaining 8 had scrubbers and filters on the top. I don't know. The past few days Justin and I hiked up Emei Shan, a sacred Buddist mountain and we didn't emerge into clean air until about 1500 meters above sea level even though we had been in the forest since 700 meters. I am told the sky is blue more often as you travel south and inland. We shall see.

I guess experiencing this smog/pollution problem of China makes me realize the importance of strict international environmental policies in order to avoid similar catastrophic air pollution effects in other areas. In some ways it is uplifting to know we live in a relatively clean air country but it is certainly discouraging to know the path that the current regime in Washington is taking us on.

Having said this, I could be wrong on where the pollution is coming from. My second theory to the industry one is the cigarette smoking. My personal polling suggests that 99% of the Chinese smoke cigarettes, and 85% of the population smoke more that two packs a day. There are more than 1 billion people in China. That is a lot of cigarettes. I think we are all in the wrong business. It is amazing to witness. If the smoking is not disgusting enough you can hang out to watch a few more minutes to witness the spitting that follows. Actually the spitting happens all the time, not just with the cigarettes, and I am not completely convinced that it is due to the cigarettes, it could be a side effect of the air pollution. The spitting here is not a simple spit of saliva; it tends to come from the back of the throat in a loud, sickening manner as though the person may keel over and die at any time.

Switching gears, the food here is quite tasty. We have tried a vast array of dishes and found most to be most delicious (although we have not ventured enough to try stomach, intestines, frog, song birds, scorpions, sea horses, ect). Some of the highlights are the Sichuan dishes, roast duck, and other names that I cannot remember. Most of it is really good. Another highlight is the good, cheap beer. I drank the cheapest beer of my life in Beijing for 2 Yuan, equivalent to about 25 cents, oh yeah, and it was a half a liter. We also found PBR, that's right, Pabst Blue Ribbon, maybe the best beer in the world, in a grocery store in Xi'an. We have pictures to prove it. They were the same price as at home.

The last couple days were spent hiking up the sacred Buddha mountain. It was quite stunning, nice to get out of the cities and into the wild (sort of wild that is). The pictures will tell the story on this one, hopefully I can take some time to figure out how to download some photos on a faster computer soon. We will be in Hong Kong within the week, that could be the ticket. Tomorrow we start the 3 day tour of the Yangtzee. Apparently the dam is finished and the water level is rising fast so the river is not as amazing as it once was but is still a great journey. I think this is all for now. tucker

I actually typed this on the 27th of April but the web page was in Mandarin and I accidently only saved and didn't publish so here it is now.


Post a Comment

<< Home