I first visited China in 2008 to research Internet and mobile phone use for environmentalism, but it was also a means for me to win a debate with a classmate from Shanghai. The first time we met in Fall 2007, she said that China “was just another country”, not a superpower in waiting. Conscious of those that use China as an excuse to increase US military budgets and the plethora of books about rising China, I had a hard time believing her. Yet it is a second comment, that sticks with me now, talking about a prominent American scholar of China’s environmental problems, my classmate from Shanghai said “I don’t think she cares about China.” I think what has happened is that I gradually care more and more about China and its people. As I write my dissertation on how Chinese understand their role in shouldering environmental problems, I increasingly look for ways to do research that is interesting and significant for the Chinese I meet every day and not just the scholars back in the United States. This blog then reflects some of the lessons and experiences I gain along the way.
TACOMA - Last week I toured the new Bullitt Center that opened this year in Seattle, billed as the greenest commercial building in the world, one of twenty buildings in the world right now that seeks Living Building certification set down by the International Living Building Institute (website).
BEIJING - As I sat in my apartment, my lungs had this horrible feeling, and for maybe the first time living in Beijing I had a feeling of not wanting to go outside, not wanting to expose myself to any more of the air pollution. As I sat on the couch contemplating going to refill my water jugs, a 100 yard walk away I saw that the air pollution was reading over 700 for the US Embassy and was even off the charts for the Chinese Ministry of Environmental Protection. A reading of 300 or more would be a state of emergency in the United States.
BEIJING – When I was designing my research for my dissertation, I put together a model or ideal type that consisted of three processes: Chinese youth learn about climate change; figure out one’s responsibility; take action as able and willing. Yet carrying out my research, focusing on responsibility was awkward to say the least. As this blog cites below, there are various Chinese and foreign governments and organizations asking about one’s responsibility, but when one finishes the questionnaire and returns to one’s daily life the story can be somewhat different.
BEIJING - Recently the headlines read that the CO2 emissions of China may actually be 20% greater than previously thought, essentially equal to adding the emissions of #5 emitter Japan to China’s total (see article). The difference lies in how the central and local government authorities measure energy use as a means of calculating greenhouse gas emissions.
BEIJING - I woke up at 6am this morning to discover that my main Gmail account was sending out emails to all of my contacts. I quickly tried to change the password, and discovered that I couldn’t because Gmail takes you first to a plus.google.com domain, and all “plus” sites in China are blocked. I did an SSH tunnel just to change my password, something usually reserved for the times when I want to sneak a peak at Facebook or Twitter.
BEIJING - About a week and a half ago a co-worker sent a message in Chinese that army vehicles were spotted in east-central Beijing near where I used to live. That day and the next rumors swirled, in no part due to the fact that Bo Xilai, the Mayor of Chongqing, the largest city in China had recently been dismissed. In subsequent days there have been articles in a multitude of news sources about Bo Xilai, following earlier articles about Wang Lijun, his dismissed police chief who created news by fleeing to the United States Embassy in the nearby city of Chengdu.
BEIJING - A little less than two weeks ago was International Women’s Day (IWD). I thought I would dedicate that day’s two English classes to discussing issues related to IWD and the situation of women in China. It was not until two weeks ago sitting in my office in Beijing that I realized that IWD is a day when people actually do things, like giving gifts. For my friend and her colleagues in Beijing it meant working half a day.
BEIJING Last month while home for Christmas I attended a ninetieth birthday party for my Grandma with family and friends. Like others returning from China I went through that process of trying to explain the unexplainable fascination with China. Yet more than once I sensed a certain fumbling for questions from my interlocutors, it was them for a change struggling to small talk, not me.