Saturday, June 21, 2008


When we flew into Hong Kong, I was treated to a panoramic overhead view of the city. I got a real sense of the place, even before we hit the ground, and everything else about the city was framed in that context. Today we flew into Shanghai, and I was hoping for a similar experience - unfortunately visibility here is about 4 blocks due to the perma-smog that has developed here over the past few years. As we walked around the city my, eyes began to sting, and I wondered how the citizens could stand it. Then I suddenly understood - (warning, non-PC statement ahead) It beats the heck out of being poor.

These guys are firing up a coal power plant on the average of something like every five minutes. In the next couple years they will pass the US in total carbon emissions, and right now the yearly increase in carbon dioxide emissions from China is more than the yearly total output from the UK! If I seem a little more knowledgeable than usual, it's because I just finished a wonderful little book by Nigel Lawson (
Regarding this and other climate change issues. I don't have a lot of certainty about whether the Earth is heating up due to carbon dioxide emissions or other human activities (living with uncertainty, for better or worse seems to be one of my strong suits...), but Nigel expressed a couple of ideas I agree with but never hear mentioned:

1. We humans are pretty darned good at adapting to new circumstances, particularly slow environmental ones. Most of our energy ought to be aimed at how we adapt and thrive in response to any global climate changes. If the world warms up, some places (cold ones) will prosper, and some (hot/coastal ones probably!) will suffer, but on the whole it may not even be a net loss.
2. If Carbon Dioxide emissions really are the key, we're already screwed, because no matter how many Prius' we drive around, China and other developing economies make small reductions in the Western world irrelevant. What's more, even if we could convince them to drastically cut their CO2 emissions, we would be essentially condemning a huge percentage of the world's population that would otherwise prosper to continued abject poverty, and the accompanying misery, disease, etc. It's a pretty dicey ethical argument.

Anyway, check out the book, it is the first relatively sane and pragmatic writing I've read on this topic for a while. (Fran, it's by a British guy!)

So is the pollution worth it? It seems hard to say no, given the alternatives. Anyhow, sorry you had to sift through that. On to some pictures!

We rode the world's only magnetically levitated (mag-lev) train in from the airport, top speed 430km/hr (267mi/hr). Yowsers. Allen said it's a 30 min cab ride in from the airport, which we covered in about 7 minutes.

One refreshing policy in China - no trumpet players allowed.

In Culinary News (seems to be a popular subject)
Allen ordered some raw meat on an extremely hot block of stone - kind of like the opposite of cold stone creamery. You just turn it until you like the look of it, and away you go! I had the vegetarian version which was basically a mushroom the size of a football. Good times! The entrees were about $13-17, but compared to wages here, that is quite a ritzy meal.


Pete and Rosie said...

Too bad probably the majority of (rural) China is STILL very poor.

Is that one of Allen's books?

Pete and Rosie said...

I actually read the review in the Economist and Allen happened to have it with him.