Picturing the Enemy

An interesting article appeared in BBC today.  A young Chinese man has built a significant collection of “war memorabilia” from Japanese soldiers, who invaded and occupied China prior to and during WW II.  What interests him, however, are not the gruesome “collectible” photos of beheaded civilians or bombed out cities, but very ordinary photos, many carried by the soldiers, of family and self in non-war settings.  He’s made quite a study of his collection, noting the small details of human life.

1943, Soldier with Friends. [He was later killed.]

Besides his collector’s obsession, what is in his mind as he pours through possible purchases on e-bay or from collectors or antique stores?  Why these and not something else?

“I collect these albums not to remember hatred, but to avoid repeating the same pain,” he emphasised.

“They teach us a lesson: war is cruel and there is no winner.”

He adds a small voice to those trying to counter the narrative of the necessity of war and revenge, like super dried landscape ready to explode at the smallest spark.  And doubly good for him that he says this contemplating those who very likely affected his own forebears in terrible ways.


China and Change

Eduardo Porter in the NY Times, recently focusing on climate change in his Economic Scene column, [here and here, here and here] takes a look at China, which even though it has announced steps larger than those of the US has a larger problem, and solving it will not be easy:

A coal heating plant in Beijing

A coal heating plant in Beijing

In Beijing, He Jiankun, an academic and deputy director of China’s Advisory Committee on Climate Change, told a conference that China, the world’s largest greenhouse gas polluter, would for the first time put “an absolute cap” on its emissions.

However, he soon clarified

 He was not announcing policy in Beijing. “I’m not a government official, and I don’t represent the government,” he said.

Though Porter’s article is about China, he comments on the US as well, perhaps too easily thinking it has turned some sort of corner and will, by example, bring others along.  His point, however, is that even if the US were to start sucking CO2 out of the atmosphere tomorrow, China (and India) are enormous parts of the necessary solution.

It is well known that preventing a climate catastrophe requires China’s participation: The country accounts for over a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions. Over the next 20 years, China’s CO2 emissions will grow by an amount roughly equal to the United States’ total emissions today, according to the latest baseline forecast by the Energy Information Administration, released last year.

But the scale of China’s challenge is less well grasped. It might be best understood by slicing the growth of CO2 emissions into four driving forces: the expansion of the population, the growth in people’s incomes, the amount of energy needed to produce a dollar of income, and the amount of CO2spewed for each unit of energy used.

Even assuming that China’s population does not grow at all over the next 30 years, that the energy efficiency of its economy increases at a faster pace than most developed and developing countries and that it manages todecarbonize its energy sources faster than pretty much anybody else, China would still be emitting a lot more carbon in 2040 than it does today, according to E.I.A. calculations.

NY Times; Eduardo Porter

Chinese Pollution from Making US Products Sifts Down on US

BEIJING — Filthy emissions from China’s export industries are carried across the Pacific Ocean and contribute to air pollution in the Western United States, according to a paper published Monday by a prominent American science journal.

NY Times

 Black carbon pollution from China to the U.S. each year, according to a new report. (PNAS.org/Lin et al.)

Black carbon pollution from China to the U.S. each year, according to a new report. (PNAS.org/Lin et al.)

Makes me wonder what Europe and Africa suffered during the US industrial age as coal burning and iron smelting from Pennsylvania east made the US the richest nation on earth.


More at Climate Progress

China’s pollution has been setting records recently — in December, Shanghai was hit with a week of air pollution so bad that it cancelled flights and sporting events and forced children and the elderly indoors. And last week, Beijing experienced its first off-the-charts air pollution of 2014. China has implemented pollution reduction targets and a carbon trading scheme in some major cities, but in 2013 the country also approved the construction of $10 billion worth of new coal production capacity.

An oft-cited argument against measures to reduce emissions in the U.S. is that if major polluters like China and India don’t also reduce their emissions, a U.S. effort won’t make a difference. But Davis said that the study’s conclusion that China’s emissions directly affect the U.S. proves that the world needs to “move beyond placing blame” and realize that reducing pollution is within everyone’s common interest.

“We’ve outsourced our manufacturing and much of our pollution, but some of it is blowing back across the Pacific to haunt us,” Davis said. “Given the complaints about how Chinese pollution is corrupting other countries’ air, this paper shows that there may be plenty of blame to go around.”

Chinese Embassy in SF Set on Fire

The F.B.I. is leading an investigation into a fire that was set Wednesday night at the main entrance of the Chinese Consulate General in San Francisco, the authorities said Thursday. No injuries were reported. NY Times

Chinese Embassy in San Francisco. Fire in entryway Jan 1, 2014

Chinese Embassy in San Francisco. Fire in entryway Jan 1, 2014

In China the Whistle Blower is not the Enemy of…, but Leads the People

Unlike Ibsen’s famous Enemy of the People, in which the town pharmacist blows the whistle on chemical pollutant of local “health water,” and is jeered from community conversations, the folks of China’s Ningbo City welcome the messengers of bad-news and rally to stop the bad guys from implementing expansion of a petrochemical plant.


 Officials in the coastal city of Ningbo, China, promised on Sunday night to halt the expansion of a petrochemical plant after thousands of demonstrators clashed with the police during three days of protests that spotlighted the public’s mounting discontent with industrial pollution.

 …The protests, which began last week when farmers blocked a road near the refinery, grew over the weekend as thousands of students and middle-class residents converged on a downtown square carrying handmade banners and wearing surgical masks painted with skull and bones.

On Saturday, the demonstrations turned violent when riot police fired tear gas and began to beat and drag away protesters. At one point, according to people who were there, marchers tossed bricks and bottles at the police. At least 100 people were detained, according to some estimates, although most were later released.

The project, an $8.8 billion expansion of a refinery owned by the state-run behemoth Sinopec, was eagerly backed by the local government, which has been promoting a vast industrial zone outside Ningbo, a city of 3.4 million people in Zhejiang Province. Residents were particularly unnerved by one major component of the project: the production of paraxylene, a toxic petrochemical known as PX that is a crucial ingredient in the manufacture of polyester, paints and plastic bottles. Many residents contend that the concentration of polluting factories in the Ningbo Chemical Industrial Zone has led to a surge in cancer and other illnesses.

Protesters against the Sinopec petrochemical plant in Ningbo, China, October, 2012

This is not the first confrontation Chinese citizens have fought back against local boosters and party chief’s planning chemical pollution at the expense of the population.

A PX plant was stopped in Xiamen in 2007, another was challenged in Chengdu in 2008 and  in Dalian in 2011,

More Tibetan Self Immolations

“As a human being, you try to dissuade them,” says Lobsang Sangay, prime minister of the exiled Tibetan government. “As a Buddhist, you pray for them. As a Tibetan, you show your solidarity with their reasons.” DW

On Monday, … Tibetan rights groups claimed that a 20-year-old monk Lungtok, and a 21-year-old former monk Tashi, 21, set themselves on fire in Aba prefecture of Sichuan. Lungtok died whereas Tashi was hospitalized with severe injuries.
After the self-immolations, which took place around 6pm local time, a clash broke out between ethnic Tibetan protesters and the police. The rights groups said the police tried to block the area and took away two Tibetans. According to the independent media reports, the clash left one protester dead.

See DW for more

Flood Watch

Food sent to North Korea after floods; nearly 63,000 homeless

The World Food Program is dispatching emergency help to North Korea after devastating flooding that has killed scores of people and left nearly 63,000 homeless. The emergency aid will provide flood victims with 400 grams of maize per day for two weeks, the United Nations agency said.

North Korean state media reported this week that 4,000 homes were submerged from the torrential rain that hit the country in recent weeks. Televised reports showed North Koreans paddling boats to reach people stranded on roofs and streets as vast muddy rivers.

Floods devastate China’s Shaanxi province

More than 80,000 people forced from their homes after days of rainfall cause heavy flooding in northwestern region.

Typhoon Saola Dumps Rain Lifts Tides in the Philippines

Close to 180,000 people had been evacuated from 90 towns and 22 cities, many of them crowding each other in school gyms converted into temporary shelters.

Romney Invested in Chinese Company Which Depended on US Outsourcing for its Profits

Mother Jones carries the ball through the porous Romney line….


According to government documents reviewed by Mother Jones, Romney, when he was in charge of Bain, invested heavily in a Chinese manufacturing company that depended on US outsourcing for its profits—and that explicitly stated that such outsourcing was crucial to its success.

This previously unreported deal runs counter to Romney’s tough talk on the campaign trail regarding China. “We will not let China continue to steal jobs from the United States of America,” Romney declared in February. But with this investment, Romney sought to make money off a foreign company that banked on American firms outsourcing manufacturing overseas.

C’mon Mitt~  Stand Proud!  Don’t deny this!  You believe in it!  As to the job losers, let them eat Ramen~y

Pollution: Chinese Riot; Americans Answer Opinion Polls

Copper and molybdenum are both naturally occurring elements on earth, and in our bodies.  In fact, too little of either can cause illness; as can too much.  When a giant factory comes to your town, the purpose of which is to grind, heat, combine, spin, stamp and otherwise manipulate thousands of tons of both items, you’d want to be much more than fairly certain everything was planned to a fare-thee-well.  One set of loose rivets, say, on an “air tight space” could release way more of the tiny 4 micron devils than the bodies of your children, friends and neighbors could tolerate. So the citizens of Shifang, in Sichuan province (just south of dead-center in the country) think.  We don’t know what was done prior to Tuesday, July 4, to get the facts, and be assured that facts were indeed facts, and not just corporate-government PR.  We assume frustration, uncertainty and fear reached a combustible mix not over-night but in the course of several weeks, if not months.

The Wall Street Journal, sure to be on the case where major capital is concerned, reports:

 Police in southwestern Sichuan province deployed tear gas against residents protesting a planned molybdenum copper plant in the latest case of environmental activism facing at times violent resistance from authorities.

… Details of the protest Monday in Shifang were murky. The search term “Shifang” quickly became the most-searched term on Sina’s popular Weibo microblogging service Monday afternoon, with users posting photos and videos they say were from the protest.

“Save our homes and environment for the next generation,” read one protest banner, according to a picture posted on Weibo.

According to one report:

Thousands of people — including high school students — concerned about pollution the plant would cause began to gather in front of the city government building and a public square Sunday night, and the protests turned bloody Monday afternoon after riot police moved in.

Public anger surged as Internet users circulated photos and videos of riot police using tear gas and batons to end the protests. Some Internet users said one protester had died.

“People are very upset. How could the police beat them?” said a 15-year-old middle school student surnamed Liu who did not join the protest.

While western media were reporting “cancellation” of the copper plant (Guardian, WaPo, AP) we who hold as an article of faith that human enterprise always pursues its own interests, think that cancel is too strong a word, not to say simply wrong; relocate where citizens are not so bold, buy off, pay off, give jobs, show studies, or simply wait it out all seem to be possible courses of action.

One connected fellow had this:

“It is the 4th of July — 236 years ago, America achieved independence and 236 years later, the Shifang people are fighting for their own rights and confronting the government,” said an unidentified microblogger who was quoted by Reuters on Wednesday.

“The government has repeatedly squandered the people’s patience. It is time for us to be independent.”

Meanwhile, in the United States, a recent poll shows Americans are less concerned about climate change than they were in 2007, down by about 50%.  Interestingly, while 18% called climate change their top concern, 29% say water and air pollution is number one.  Given that the EPA has been granted to leave to act on CO2 release as pollution maybe the fall off in concern isn’t THAT bad.  Bad enough, though.  Witness:

“I really don’t give it a thought,” said Wendy Stewart, a 46-year-old bookkeeper in New York. Although she thinks warmer winters and summers are signs of climate change, she has noticed that political leaders don’t bring up the subject. “I’ve never heard them speak on global warming,” she said. “I’ve never heard them elaborate on it.

While we can, and should shake up the concern of our fellows, the lack of leadership from those in elected office and have the resources to know better, is obviously an enormous problem.

Tibetan Immolations Reach 30

“A farmer became the 30th Tibetan to self-immolate in protest over Chinese rule on Saturday [17 March 2012] as he set himself ablaze and died in northwestern Qinghai province, drawing several thousand Tibetans to his funeral.

Sonam Thargyal drank kerosene and poured the fuel over his cotton-padded body before setting himself alight, dying minutes later as his body was swiftly consumed by the flames, local Tibetan sources and an exile group with contacts in the region said. He was 44.

The self-immolation occurred early Saturday [17 March 2012] at the main road near the Gangri Hotel and Thume Cultural Center in Qinghai’s Rebkong (in Chinese, Tongren) county in Malho (in Chinese, Huangnan) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture.

This is the second self-immolation in three days in Rebkong…

from UNPO

Australia is requesting permission for its Ambassador to China to visit the Tibetan areas “to see for herself the grievances” which have driven so many to such drastic protests.

Campaign for Tibet keeps an updated fact sheet on those who have died.