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Sometimes you come across an article and your reaction is to say "Holy Shit!"  That was the reaction I had reading this. It brought back memories and the daunting challenges we face in confronting the global environmental crisis we call climate change.  Going from the present to the past I am encouraged and ready to shit in my pants at the same time.  

According to a Forbes article dated 5/21/13 writing about the Taihu World Cultural Forum conference which recently took place:

...The stakes for China are daunting. Consider some of the following components of her ecological unraveling: Every year, 60 kilometers or more of the country turn to desert, whilst 3.5 million square miles (some 2.1 billion acres) or 82% of the country’s primary forest has already been destroyed, and with it, an increasingly dire percentage of the 30,000 or so endemic plants (8% of the world’s total). Over 27% of China’s 6,347 vertebrates (including 581 mammal, 1244 avian and 660 reptile and amphibian species) are at risk of extinction, including the largest number of threatened primates, from rare snub-nosed monkeys of the genus Rhinopithecus to the Hainan Gibbon.

While the Taihu conference was taking place over the course of two days, cadmium-tainted rice and baby food scandals, as well as Chinese H7N9 virus human-to-human transmission prospects were making headlines. Four months earlier, Beijing – which maintains a sophisticated air quality index focusing on minute particulate matter smaller in diameter than 2.5 micrometers (the “invisible killer“) – had seen three days of the worst air pollution in the city’s documented history reaching for the first time ever, the “Orange” level of risk. Travelers to China are by now accustomed to seeing people wearing masks as particulate matter far exceeds on any given day World Health Organization recommended acceptable thresholds.

Among the salient components fueling such pollution are the fundamentally exponential GDP(s) driven by a human population explosion across the nation’s 31 provinces poised to hit between 1.4-and-(in the most sobering projections) 2 billion Chinese. Then there is the dust, and the dust storms from the deforestation largely along the North China Plain where water levels are dangerously diminishing and forests denuded. But the most obvious contributor is the nation’s vast consumption of coal.

China actually consumes nearly as much coal as the reat of the world combined.  
Coal consumption in China grew more than 9% in 2011, continuing its upward trend for the 12th consecutive year, according to newly released international data. China's coal use grew by 325 million tons in 2011, accounting for 87% of the 374 million ton global increase in coal use. Of the 2.9 billion tons of global coal demand growth since 2000, China accounted for 2.3 billion tons (82%). China now accounts for 47% of global coal consumption—almost as much as the entire rest of the world combined.
Back to the Forbes article: It ended with hope and optimism for the future.  
With an eight-part Proclamation signed by the delegates, Taihu promises to usher in what is hoped to be a new “ecological civilization” and one which Ambassador Jean-Jacques Subrenat (representing former French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin) described as the precursor for much “action” in as much as “awareness is not neutral,” or, as Prime Minister Samaras eloquently suggested, what is needed is a move from environmental protection to environmental improvement.
Dr. Roy Morrison, Director of the Office for Sustainable Development at Southern New Hampshire University predicted that
we could well hit zero emissions as a civilization within twenty years if we really set our minds and hearts to it, utilizing such instruments as a tax administered by the UN for all per capita emissions exceeding three tons."
I certainly hope that this conference, hosted by China, is the harbinger of a major change in direction in mankind's relationship with our environment.  I'm just a little skeptical and will anxiously await bold action on the part of some of the participating countries including the United States.  

Follow me below the fold for a little personal reflection on both China and Taiwan.  

As far as China is concerned I've personally been in Beijing when the air quality was very poor. That was about 20 years ago.  I loved my short one month stay in China but I'm sure the situation with Beijing air quality hasn't improved in the 20 years since my visit.  This one statistic from the Bangkok Post convinces me of this.  

Global management consulting firm McKinsey last year predicted China's passenger car market will grow an average eight percent annually to 2020, when sales will reach 22 million.
Individuals I observed while touring there I would not classify as being all that environmentally aware either.  This recent article entitled  "China is starting to get embarrassed about its tourists’ obnoxious behavior abroad" highlighted some of what I observed when I visited.
Some 83 million traveled abroad in 2012, up from just 10 million in 2000. Reports of Chinese tourists behaving badly generally include spitting, littering, ignoring traffic laws and speaking loudly. Children are another issue: reports abound of tourists letting their children defecate in public pools (paywall) and urinate in the middle of restaurants.
I've also had the opportunity to live on two different occasions in Taiwan.  First in Taipei and then later in a small place on the east coast of the island called Taidong. I loved the Taiwanese people for their friendship and hospitality.

Although Taiwan argues vehemently that they are a separate country from China, culturally they share a mutually old and rich heritage together.  But what I also gathered from my exposure living in both places in Taiwan is that they share a lot of the same habits when it comes to their environment.   And from what I observed their habits  with the environment, just like us in the United States, have a long way to go before being classified as ecologically friendly.      

While overseas I wrote a travel log to record some of my impressions and experiences.  

Thought I'd share one such entry written in 2005  about Taiwan making some environmental points in a "tongue in cheek" fashion.  I hope you enjoy it!

Written  6-18-05 (Note:  This was originally posted under my old blogging name of Road Dog)


                                             THE SCOOTER CULTURE

Every place has its unique culture - it's unique way of doing things.  You cannot begin to understand Taiwan's culture until you appreciate the tremendous role the scooter plays in Taiwanese life.

Taiwan boasts the highest percentage of scooter ownership on the planet.  They permeate every street, sidewalk, and nook and crannie of urban Taiwan.  Although technically illegal to park a scooter on the sidewalk (This very subject was featured in a full-page article in the China Post recently.) that is exactly what everyone does.

I thought Thailand had first place in putting obstructions on sidewalks to make walking next to impossible.  NO WAY!!  Taiwan has them beat by a mile!!  Everything Thailand has in sidewalks (vendors, food stalls, cars, poles, trees etc.) Taiwan has plus gazillions of scooters!!!!  You can forget about walking on a sidewalk here.  

After close observation one notices a strict code of conduct and scooter etiquette adhered to by the locals. I'm still discovering new codes every day but let me just run through the ones noted to date.

1.  Taking a scooter is always preferable to riding a bike or, God forbid, walking.

2.  Taiwanese instinctively know there is never a trip too short for your scooter.  Even if your just crossing the street you still do it on your scooter.

3.  Admiration and respect can best be obtained by driving a scooter where no man has driven before.

4.  Courage is measured by how fast one can drive down the wrong side of the street into oncoming traffic.

5.  Children riding on scooters should never be wearing a helmet.  These are strictly reserved for adults.

6.  The preferred seating arrangement for toddlers on scooters is directly in front of the driver.  This allows the driver to cradle the kid in one arm while driving with the other.  This also allows the kid to function as a bumper in case of a frontal collision.

7.  Never look before you walk your scooter backwards from the sidewalk into the street in preparation for driving.

8.  If you are near your scooter and engaged in conversation always have the scooter running.

9.  If you are waiting for someone always sit on your scooter while it is running and smoke a cigarette.

10.  In preparation for driving always start your scooter before doing any of the following:
     a.  putting on your helmet
     b.  putting on your rain gear
     c.  putting on your sun glasses

11.  Always have a lit cigarette hanging from your mouth before driving a scooter.

12.  For social recognition of your high status always walk your dog using your scooter.  Again, it is considered rude not to be smoking while doing this.

13.  It goes without saying that the more polluting and noisier a scooter is the better!

14.  Always shop from your scooter in any outdoor market.  Once again, never shut it off while shopping and smoking is encouraged.

15.  And finally, the absolute number one golden rule to remember is:  "Pedestrians never have the right-of-way!! Just like cars, who religiously practice this rule, scooter drivers also must comply.

It is important that "When in Rome you do as the Romans do".  If you're planning a visit to Taiwan anytime soon these cultural tips should help you assimilate quickly.

Scooters can easily be rented and usually come with a free pack of smokes!!

Ladies and gentleman - start your engines.  Time for me to get on my scooter (I mean bicycle - I'm so old-fashioned) and ride into the sunset.

The Church of the Holy Shitters will post articles on our holy S.H.I.T. day ( So Happy It's Thursday)  

Last week 5/30/13:  "Eco-San" - Ecological Sanitation

Next post will have to wait until mid July due to previous commitments.  Look for it July 18, 2013 entitled, "Taking the Piss Out of You!

Hoping to add some humor, provoke thought, spark debate,  deepen understanding, and shed some light on the fecal side.  

Remember:  "If we really want to straighten out all this crap we really need to think about shit." ( Shitbit by Poop John the First of the Church of the Holy Shitters)
Church of the Holy Shitters
A secular environmental religion, scientifically based, with a focus on the psychology of it all. Our ego is the culprit when it comes to dealing with climate change. We cannot save the planet. We can only save ourselves. Our current egotistical self-perception makes that prospect a dubious one at best. Meekness, humility and a realization that our shit does stink, guides us on our path to true sustainable living and climate equilibrium.

Cross posted at

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (10+ / 0-)

    If we really want to straighten out all this crap we really need to think about shit - Holy Shit.

    by John Crapper on Thu Jun 06, 2013 at 03:36:10 PM PDT

  •  Taiwan is an apt comparison, if smaller (4+ / 0-)

    I lived there briefly in the late 1980s, and it was terrible.  Near the end of my column in last month's Whatcom Watch, a similar theme:  

    Climate Change and Coal Export: Taking Responsiblity

    ... just one example of a positive trend is the growing awareness and activism in China regarding the health effects of air pollution. Not long ago, the people in mainland China were generally willing to accept egregiously bad air quality in exchange for what was presented as progress. Very quickly, that is no longer so true, as members of the new middle class discover that they cannot breathe disposable income.

    Over twenty years ago, I saw this occurring in Taipei, Taiwan, which at the time had some of the worst air quality in the world. It was just horrifying, and one of the big reasons I left there in 1987 was to avoid ingesting more soot in every breath. These days, Taiwan has very good, and continually improving, air quality.

    This very basic idea — that people in China care about their health and are starting to do something about worsening air pollution — undermines a line that we have been fed time after time. We keep hearing that China will increase their emissions of pollution, including greenhouse gases, no matter what. That line is false, and is intended for only one purpose, which is to discourage us from action.

    •  I lived there most recently about 8 years ago. (4+ / 0-)

      I didn't spend much time in Taipei but from what I saw and breathed it was not much different.  We  circled the island checking out job opportunities.  I must say I did not sense a big improvement.  The little place we were at for 6 months (Taidong) was environmentally a pretty nice place to be by Taiwanese standards.  But  in that short time we noticed deterioration.  I actually documented all the above scooter habits while living there.  Also, I always take reports coming out of China and Taiwan with a grain of salt.  They have a long history of putting stuff on paper to create the reality  they want the world to believe while in reality it hasn't and will not change.  I don't have the link at my fingertips but I remember reading the other day that China has environmentally model cities but closer examination reveals that on the outskirts of many of them are what are termed "cancer villages".  City planners just located polluting activities into one concentrated location.  

      That all being said I do think there is positive change happening in China.  

      Hope all is well up in Bellingham.  I read stuff from Lynn Olman and try to stay on top of what's going on with Cherry Point.  

      P.S.  If you haven't read Wild Swans it's a great read about China.  One of the best books I've ever read

      Hope to see you again soon.  

      If we really want to straighten out all this crap we really need to think about shit - Holy Shit.

      by John Crapper on Thu Jun 06, 2013 at 04:29:50 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Just finished reading your article. (4+ / 0-)

      You do great work!  I'm still skeptical and dubious of Chinese reality.  

      If we really want to straighten out all this crap we really need to think about shit - Holy Shit.

      by John Crapper on Thu Jun 06, 2013 at 06:26:36 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  gripes, no time to read (5+ / 0-)

    but I can still tell you that you're one rockin philosopher!

    Ecology is the new Economy

    by citisven on Thu Jun 06, 2013 at 08:22:24 PM PDT

  •  China's Changes (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    John Crapper, RiveroftheWest

    At the major Chinese Communist Party convention last Autumn, they endorsed a statement that China could not develop the way that the rest of the world has because there are not enough Earths to allow it.  It was interesting to me that they used that specific phraseology, thinking in terms of one Earth and multiple Earths.

    This may be a significant change in thinking but... it will have to lead to significant changes on the ground, in the water, and throughout the winds to make a real difference.  This will be difficult for a variety of local, bureaucratic, and procedural reasons.

    Here are my notes from a recent lecture on Chinese environmental regulation:
    Zhu Xiaoqin, Xiamen Univ Law School  and Fulbright Scholar at Harvard Law School

    More than half of China suffers from haze, smog, air pollution with particulates under 2.5 microns (pm 2.5) with most coming from transboundary emitters, vehicles, and coal
    Pollute first, clean up later and energy-intensive development models have been the norm
    In 2011 China consumed nearly 50% of the world's coal consumption, 3.8 billion tons and rest of the world 4.3 billion tons
    By 2012, China became the #1 producer of cars
    Original air pollution control and prevention law enacted in 1987, amended in 1995 but unsuccessful, amended again in 2000 focusing on SO2 and particulate matter 10, with draft amendments submitted to ministry of enviro protection in 2010.  2000 amendments included no measures on NOX, vehicle pollution, no specific air quality requirement for local gov, no regional monitoring, no public litigation
    Prof Zhu suggests enviro as a priority, prevention of significant deterioration, and include air quality assessment in evaluating local govs, enforce pollution discharge permits, set standards of vehicle source pollution, stiffer fines for violations, publicize air monitoring data, air pollution emergency procedures, permit enviro public interest litigation

    2007 China began to address climate change
    2009 has a goal of reducing CO2 emissions per unit GDP
    2011 five year plan targets lowering carbon intensity and increasing non-fossil fuel energy to 11%
    2010 low carbon province and city initiative
    2012 began pilot carbon trading in 5 cities and 2 provinces (Guangdong and Hubei)
    2013 Beijing doing carbon trading
    2012 November an expert group is drafting a climate change law
    Proposed law includes a carbon tax which will pay for renewables
    Air pollution law and climate change law will be administered by different ministries, MEP and national development and resource commission (NDRC)
    2011-2015 China will have invested $161 billion in energy conservation and emission reduction

    Q: why now?
    China is suffering from pollution and climate change, facing energy bottlenecks, seeing serious protest from people
    Q: carbon intensity is not necessarily a measure to reduce emissions?  Chinese public attitude on climate change?
    Yes, growing economy with lower carbon intensity may still result in higher emissions.
    Local govs and enterprises aware of and working towards efficiency and emissions reduction

  •  South Korean Example (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    John Crapper, RiveroftheWest

    South Korea is an example that too few are looking at.  They have adopted a Green Growth strategy which has been consistent over a number of different leaders and parties and which they are trying to export to other countries, in part with the participation of Denmark.  They believe that they can serve as a bridge between the developed and the developing world and lead people towards a combined economic and environmental regimen which provides for increasing quality of life while preserving and, possibly, expanding ecological benefits.

    Check out the Global Green Growth Institute at
    Again, good ideas but we have to see continual changes on the ground.

    •  Thanks for all the great info. I'll spend some (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      gmoke, RiveroftheWest

      time on S. Korea to see what there up to.  I was stationed with them in Vietnam and they have a way of getting things done.  They don't have the same kind of reputation for saying or putting something on paper because it sounds good and continuing the old patterns as I've come to realize about a lot of other Asian countries.  At least that is my impression from the little exposure I've had to S. Korea.  

      It is hard to fathom how people can live in the kind of pollution I witnessed in many large Asian cities and not have been in the streets a long time ago.  But then again, we have people my age that lived during and fully supported the cultural revolution in China that did such foolish stuff as killing all the birds because they were eating the grain only to discover that the insects would multiply and cause even greater problems.  

      If we really want to straighten out all this crap we really need to think about shit - Holy Shit.

      by John Crapper on Fri Jun 07, 2013 at 01:36:18 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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