Sunday, July 14, 2013

Reading recommendation:

River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze
Author: Peter Hessler
Harper Collins (2001)

An American’s Observations in China

                At first, artful prose, flowing like a river, draws readers in, and then it grips them with a sense of urgency. In River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze, Peter Hessler’s audience must experience the author’s unique take on Fuling’s local color--what he has seen and what he has felt. It’s almost as if Hessler’s words promise a firsthand account of the demise of the last specimen of an endangered species.
In fact, geographically, Fuling, in China’s Sichuan province, at the fork of the Yangtze and Wu Rivers, was an ill-fated city. Soon part of it, along with centuries of history, would suffocate under a lake created by the Three Gorges Dam. Hessler was one of a dozen or so foreigners allowed into the area in more than fifty years. As such, he would be among the few Westerners to gain a glimpse of it before the great rush of water would push the entire region into a new era.
“I had never any idealistic illusions about my Peace Corps ‘service’ in China,” said Hessler. “I wasn’t there to save anybody or leave an indelible mark on the town. If anything, I was glad that during my two years in Fuling I haven’t built anything, or organized anything, or made any great changes to the place. I had been a teacher, and in my spare time I tried to learn as much as possible about the city and its people. That was the extent of my work, and I was comfortable with those roles, and I recognized their limitations.”
Fortunately Hessler also recognized the importance of first preserving, and then sharing his impressions of the region. Perhaps he left no permanent marks on them, but they leave an indelible mark on those who vicariously join the author in his quest to understand the Chinese people, and especially residents near the fork of the Wu and Yangtze rivers.
Despite Fuling’s 200,000 population, it is a small city by Chinese standards, and the area considered rural. That is the least of the contradictions Hessler encountered.
Hessler’s students represented the region’s best, yet were not affected with self-pride. They spoke of admiration for rural culture, hard work, and the peasant’s life; yet they looked forward to a future different from their parents. “They were never suspicious of impossible tasks” writes Mr. Hessler. “The students would work at anything without complaint, probably because they knew that even the most difficult literature assignment was preferable to wading knee-deep in muck behind a water buffalo.”
A cultural plurality shows up in the writing of Hessler’s students. Aware of the suffering endured under Mao Zedong’s rule, students generally spoke well of him. One wrote, “One flaw cannot obscure the splendor of the jade.” Another defended him: “No gold is pure; no man is perfect.”
But that mindset also precluded honest teacher/student discussions if Hessler, their foreign teacher, moved to the slightest criticism of anything Chinese. As a group, his class, the region’s scholastic stars, would turn stoic. “Whenever that happened,” Hessler laments, “I realized that I was not teaching forty-five individual students with forty-five individual ideas. I was teaching a group, and these were moments when the group thought as one, and a group like that was a mob, even if it was silent and passive.”
During Hessler’s two years in Fuling, the British lease on Hong Kong expired, The Chinese government loosened its grip on the economy, encouraging a form of capitalism, and the Three Gorges Dam neared completion. Communities prepared for modernization to be made possible by reliable electric power and better control over the Yantze’s flood cycles.
But in China modernization does not mean Westernization, culturally or politically. “In the end,” said Hessler, “Fuling struck me as a sort of democracy—perhaps a Democracy with Chinese Characteristics—because the vast majority of the citizens quietly tolerated the government. And the longer I lived there, the more I was inclined to see this as the silent consent of people who had chosen not to exercise other options.”

Isn’t that an interesting perspective on what Americans call a Communist dictatorship? Read River Town to gain your own perspective of the book Kirkus Reviews described as “a vivid and touching tribute to a place and its people.”

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Carbon Dioxide

Call me a tree hugger--I don't mind. I like trees. I like the idea of not wasting our resources, and doing what I can to protect our planet for another generation to enjoy. 

I also like coal. A chunk of coal is really just a diamond that hasn't had a chance to mature, isn't it? Maybe not. I'm not a scientist. I do believe coal keeps our industries going, and I admire the miners who are brave enough to bring the stuff up out of the earth. 

My point is, to quote author Jodi Thomas, "there's a flip side to everything." So for those of us who sometimes tip-toe to avoid leaving  whole footprints on this earth, read this the article below (forwarded to me in an email by my cousin). If you disagree with Mr. Plimer's premise, you can add your voice to the many who fish for facts to prove their opinions.  -- Bernice W. Simpson

Where Does the Carbon Dioxide Really Come From?

author’s credentials:
Ian Rutherford Plimer is an Australian geologist, professor emeritus of earth sciences at the University of Melbourne , professor of mining geology at the University of Adelaide , and the director of multiple mineral exploration and mining companies. He has published 130 scientific papers, six books and edited the Encyclopedia of Geology.

12 February 1946 (age 67)
Notable awards
Eureka Prize (1995, 2002),Centenary Medal (2003), Clarke Medal (2004)

Where Does the Carbon Dioxide Really Come From?
Professor Ian Plimer could not have said it better!
If you've read his book you will agree, this is a good summary.

PLIMER: "Okay, here's the bombshell. The volcanic eruption in Iceland . Since its first spewing of volcanic ash has, in just FOUR DAYS, NEGATED EVERY SINGLE EFFORT you have made in the past five years to control CO2 emissions on our planet - all of you.

Of course, you know about this evil carbon dioxide that we are trying to suppress - it’s that vital chemical compound that every plant requires to live and grow and to synthesize into oxygen for us humans and all animal life.
I's very disheartening to realize that all of the carbon emission savings you have accomplished while suffering the inconvenience and expense of driving Prius hybrids, buying fabric grocery bags, sitting up till midnight to finish your kids "The Green Revolution" science project, throwing out all of your non-green cleaning supplies, using only two squares of toilet paper, putting a brick in your toilet tank reservoir, selling your SUV and speedboat, vacationing at home instead of abroad, nearly getting hit every day on your bicycle, replacing all of your 50 cent light bulbs with $10.00 light bulbs.....well, all of those things you have done have all gone down the tubes in just four days

The volcanic ash emitted into the Earth's atmosphere in just four days - yes, FOUR DAYS - by that volcano in Iceland has totally erased every single effort you have made to reduce the evil beast, carbon. And there are around 200 active volcanoes on the planet spewing out this crud at any one time - EVERY DAY.

I don't really want to rain on your parade too much, but I should mention that when the volcano Mt Pinatubo erupted in the Philippines in 1991, it spewed out more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere than the entire human race had emitted in all its years on earth.

Yes, folks, Mt Pinatubo was active for over
One year - think about it.

Of course, I shouldn't spoil this 'touchy-feely tree-hugging' moment and mention the effect of solar and cosmic activity and the well-recognized 800-year global heating and cooling cycle, which keeps happening despite our completely insignificant efforts to affect climate change.
And I do wish I had a silver lining to this volcanic ash cloud, but the fact of the matter is that the bush fire season across the western USA and Australia this year alone will negate your efforts to reduce carbon in our world for the next two to three years. And it happens every year.

Just remember that your government just tried to impose a whopping carbon tax on you, on the basis of the bogus 'human-caused' climate-change scenario.
Hey, isn’t it interesting how they don’t mention 'Global Warming' anymore, but just 'Climate Change' - you know why? It’s because the planet has COOLED by 0.7 degrees in the past century and these global warming bull artists got caught with their pants down.

And, just keep in mind that you might yet have an Emissions Trading Scheme - that whopping new tax - imposed on you that will achieve absolutely nothing except make you poorer. It won’t stop any volcanoes from erupting, that’s for sure.

But, hey, relax......give the world a hug and have a nice day!"