Environment Forum

China’s cities see clean air, water as magnet for investment

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Nanchang is one of China’s “second-tier” cities. With 5.04 million people, its population is nearly twice the size of Chicago’s. There are few places here where you can get some fresh air, but in the middle of the high-tech national industrial zone on the fringes of this sprawling city, the provincial government has carved out 4.5 square kilometers of wetlands around Aixi Lake for preservation.

The park, which was set up in 2007, features young trees planted in rows, parallel to the new high-rise apartment buildings that sprout up along long blocks in Nanchang. The paved road running though the park is smooth, and divided into one lane for bicyclists and a second for electric golf carts. Wooden signs encourage passersby to “enhance environmental awareness” while construction cranes and new towers rise in the distance. It feels more like a nature theme park than a conservation site.

Like Beijing and some of China’s larger cities, Nanchang suffers from severe air pollution as a consequence of economic development. During a recent visit to Nanchang, the banks of the Don River, which snakes through the city center, were dried up because of a lack of rain and heavy construction activity. The level of particulate matter in the air registered at hazardous levels. The city’s skyline was barely visible amid heavy smog.

Despite this, local and provincial officials want people to know that the city and the province aspire to be known as much for protecting the environment as for achieving strong economic growth. Nanchang set a target to cut its carbon emissions per unit of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to 48 percent below 2005 levels by 2020, more than the national target of 40 to 45 percent.

Lan Wensheng, director of the information for the foreign affairs office of Jiangxi province, said a cleaner environment would make the region more attractive to foreign and domestic businesses. On my visit to the city’s 231-square kilometer high-tech industrial zone, officials said the center has air quality monitoring systems and that Aixi Lake will become a sanctuary for migrating birds.

Disasterology 8: A panda baby boom, five years after Sichuan earthquake

For survivors of Superstorm Sandy in the U.S. Northeast, the Sendai tsunami in Japan and the massive earthquake in Chengdu, China, the scars of disaster are still palpable. I’m part of a group of journalists brought together by the East-West Center in Hawaii to see how the people and environments hit by these catastrophes are faring, one year,  two years and five years later. We began our tour on Sept. 29. Here are the other posts in the series:

This has been a bumper year for giant pandas at the Chengdu Research Base: 17 babies born, including a rare set of triplets and a set of twins. Fourteen survived as of October 12 and nine of those shared a playpen in which they mostly napped, the picture of adorable peacefulness. #gallery-2 { margin: auto; } #gallery-2 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 33%; } #gallery-2 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-2 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */ Panda1 Panda2 Panda3
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In truth, there are pandas almost everywhere you look at the Chengdu research center in the northern suburbs of China’s fourth-largest city. That’s a hopeful sign, five years after a magnitude 8 earthquake devastated the Wolong Nature Reserve, arguably the most important panda preserve on the planet and home to many of the 1,600 or so giant pandas in the wild.

Disasterology 7: Earthquake-scarred Sichuan village reimagined as tourist hub, memorial

For survivors of Superstorm Sandy in the U.S. Northeast, the Sendai tsunami in Japan and the massive earthquake in Chengdu, China, the scars of disaster are still palpable. I’m part of a group of journalists brought together by the East-West Center in Hawaii to see how the people and environments hit by these catastrophes are faring, one year,  two years and five years later. We began our tour on Sept. 29. Here are the other posts in the series:

Come to the village of Yingxiu and see the elaborate carved gateway, the food stalls, souvenir shops and credentialed performers dressed as a cheeky monkey and a cuddly panda. It is the quintessential tourist town, ringed by mountains and at the confluence of two rivers. You also can leave the main street to see this community’s past, when the clocks stopped at 2:28 p.m. on May 12, 2008.

Disasterology 6: Signs of commerce return to “The Town That Disappeared”

For survivors of Superstorm Sandy in the U.S. Northeast, the Sendai tsunami in Japan and the massive earthquake in Chengdu, China, the scars of disaster are still palpable. I’m part of a group of journalists brought together by the East-West Center in Hawaii to see how the people and environments hit by these catastrophes are faring, one year,  two years and five years later. We began our tour on Sept. 29. Here are the other posts in the series:

As shopping centers go, the Minamisanriku Sun Sun Shopping Village is minor: a fish monger, a beauty parlor, a vegetable stand and a florist, along with a few other stores. The people who run the shops live elsewhere since their homes were destroyed by the 2011 tsunami, and the areas that flooded are still not considered safe for residents to return.

Business is not exactly brisk on a lovely October morning, but the fact that there is business at all is significant. Minamisanriku has become known as “The Town That Disappeared” after the March 3 tsunami swallowed the broad valley where schools, homes, offices and the city’s disaster mitigation building were located.

Disasterology 5: When the high ground isn’t high enough

For survivors of Superstorm Sandy in the U.S. Northeast, the Sendai tsunami in Japan and the massive earthquake in Chengdu, China, the scars of disaster are still palpable. I’m part of a group of journalists brought together by the East-West Center in Hawaii to see how the people and environments hit by these catastrophes are faring, one year,  two years and five years later. We began our tour on Sept. 29. Here are the other posts in the series:

The school children in Minamisanriku knew what to do in case of a tsunami: run as fast as they could up the hill to the Togura middle school, perched more than 40 meters, or 131 feet, above Shizagawa Bay. This wasn’t high enough when the waves rolled in on March 3, 2011.

The waves were 10 meters (32 feet) high at sea, but reached more than 50 meters (164 feet) when they slammed into the land in this part of Japan’s beach-and-mountain fringed east coast. The tsunami created a swirling whirlpool in, around and finally, on top of the school, according to Sachie Shijo, a native of Minamisanriku and a volunteer now with the non-profit group Peace Winds, which is helping the town to recover. The water came from the landward side, as well as from the sea, Shijo said through a translator. It was everywhere.

Disasterology 4: Disaster Candy in Japan


For survivors of Superstorm Sandy in the U.S. Northeast, the Sendai tsunami in Japan and the massive earthquake in Chengdu, China, the scars of disaster are still palpable. I’m part of a group of journalists brought together by the East-West Center in Hawaii to see how the people and environments hit by these catastrophes are faring, one year,  two years and five years later. We began our tour on Sept. 29. Here are the other posts in the series:

A fair featuring cartoon frogs and rhinos, baskets of toys to trade and hands-on crafts might sound like the answer to a parent’s prayer on a rainy weekend. But this was a fair with a difference: the annual Bo-Sai Expo in Tokyo, an event meant to prepare young families for disaster.

Two-and-a-half years after the 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear accident that devastated parts of Japan, hundreds of kids showed up on Oct. 5 and 6 at the Gas Science Museum and an adjacent upscale shopping mall for the fair. Strangely enough, it wasn’t grim.

Disasterology 3: Learning to shout after the Fukushima disaster

For survivors of Superstorm Sandy in the U.S. Northeast, the Sendai tsunami in Japan and the massive earthquake in Chengdu, China, the scars of disaster are still palpable. I’m part of a group of journalists brought together by the East-West Center in Hawaii to see how the people and environments hit by these catastrophes are faring, one year,  two years and five years later. We began our tour on Sept. 29. Here are the other posts in the series:

On the afternoon of March 3, 2011, Japan’s public television network NHK was broadcasting a session of parliament live when warning chimes and a bulletin flashed across screens: “This is an earthquake early warning,” an announcer said. “Beware of a strong earthquake … The Tokyo studio is shaking right now.” When the picture switched to the studio, the announcer continued to speak in a calm voice. This was common practice, meant to avoid causing panic.

That changed after the 3/11 disaster, which included an earthquake, a tsunami and the nuclear power plant accident at Fukushima. Now, news presenters may shout their warnings, said Takehiko Kusaba, director of of media strategy and cooperation in NHK’s news department. Shouting, he said, can save lives if it helps people evacuate quickly. The language can be uncharacteristically harsh for Japanese television, as tough as a simple, “Go away!”

Disasterology 2: hard questions for Breezy Point homeowners a year after Sandy

For survivors of Superstorm Sandy in the U.S. Northeast, the Sendai tsunami in Japan and the massive earthquake in Chengdu, China, the scars of disaster are still palpable. I’m part of a group of journalists brought together by the East-West Center in Hawaii to see how the people and environments hit by these catastrophes are faring, one year,  two years and five years later. We began our tour on Sept. 29. Here are the other posts in the series:

Breezy Point, Queens, New York:

Of all the New York oceanfront communities that Sandy devastated, Breezy Point on the Rockaway peninsula took some of the hardest blows. Breezy Point, a peninsula on the southern shores of New York City, suffered not just from rain and flooding from the storm surge, but also a fast-moving fire that destroyed 125 homes. The storm knocked down another 230. One year later, the neighborhood is struggling with the aftermath and hard questions about how sustainable it will be after the rebuilding.

Disasterology: Storm warnings that work — a lesson from Sandy

For survivors of Superstorm Sandy in the U.S. Northeast, the Sendai tsunami in Japan and the massive earthquake in Chengdu, China, the scars of disaster are still palpable. I’m part of a group of journalists brought together by the East-West Center in Hawaii to see how the people and environments hit by these catastrophes are faring, one year,  two years and five years later. We began our tour on Sept. 29. Here are the other posts in the series:

Even big storm warnings must get personal if they’re going to do any good. Few people know that better than Jason Tuell, director of the Eastern Region of the U.S. National Weather Service, which includes nearly all of the swath that last year’s storm Sandy cut when it came ashore last October.

People in the path of a storm don’t want technical data about storm surges and wind fields, Tuell told journalists participating in our fellowship on disaster management. “What people want to know is, right now, where I’m standing, when is the water going to hit my toes, how deep is it going to get and when are my feet going to be dry again?”

from The Human Impact:

What’s the climate friendly way to go on holiday?

 

Before you pack the bags for this year's holidays, it's worth considering how you're going to get there - and how much of a problem that might create for the world's climate. Turns out there's some unconventional wisdom from scientists - and if you can stand a little company, a road trip might be greener than you think....

What’s the climate friendly way to go on holiday this year?

Turns out the answer is much the same whether you live in London, Los Angeles or Lagos – and it doesn’t necessarily mean leaving your car at home.

New research by the Centre for International Climate and Environmental Research in Norway and the Austria-basedInternational Institute for Applied Systems Analysis tracked the climate impacts of various ways of taking trips of 500 to 1,000 kilometres (300 to 600 miles).

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