Tag Archives: Beijing

Weird Science and Climate Change

China Beijing pollutionLos Angeles    Photographs of Beijing are arresting these days, providing a disturbing vision of what pea soup fog almost feels like, complete with walking robots in gas mask contraptions trying to make their way about the city the best they can. Meanwhile, the headlines from Paris, where negotiators from countries all over the world are trying to parse the pollution numbers and finagle the timeline when the climate debt comes due, are little more comforting that the front page pictures from China.

I find myself equally amazed and confounded by falling factoids here and there.

For example, work is being done to develop something called “scuba rice,” which can survive being underwater for two weeks in more that might sustain a country like Bangladesh where 40% of the land area for 110 million people currently is subject to extensive flooding and tidal waves. If rice won’t work, then agronomists recommend they grow sunflowers. Think about it.

Of course, also keep in mind that other scientists note that unless somehow Earth were able to amazingly alter it’s orbital path then in a lot less than half-a-billion years the sun will get larger and hotter and pretty much fry us anyway on land and turn the ocean into a boiling cauldron. Of course that’s such a long time, it is years past the outer range of most of our imaginations, give or take a couple of hundred million years, but tempus fugit, memento mori, it still might be worth making our best effort now.

Some geo-engineers have notions for how weird science might cool down the earth somehow by triggering the formation of more clouds at the right elevations. Thin cloud “streams’ were discovered in the wake of ships. Salt particles in the right proportion could create a cloud called a “marine stratocumulus.” The technical problem for the technological Utopians is how to produce nozzles that could reliably form the right size mini-droplet that would work. Oh, and of course, there are risks when you start geoengineering, as we might imagine. Others suggest spraying Sulfur into the atmosphere because that would be even quicker and more sure fired, and would cool the earth, but only for a year or so at a time. Some naysayers warn that the cost would be stupendous. There’s also the problem, as the bankers used to say once upon a time, of “moral hazard,” by allowing governments, industries, and citizens to believe there’s a technical trick in the future that allows us to avoid all of these complicated, confusing, contentious climate problems now.

Somehow this all sounds to me a little bit like Donald Trump suggesting that we give old Bill Gates, the Microsoft mogul, a call and get him to work with us on how to shut down the parts of the internet that are most scary and stirring up mayhem around the world. Here’s a thought, rather than worshiping at the idol of unknown machines and moving to tech utopia, it seems easier to do get some backbone and civic will to crack the whip and do what we know how to do now, rather than putting our heads in what’s still left of the sand, and believing that hope is a plan



Petitioning Can Be Dangerous

Lin Ping

Reprint of New York Times article

March 19, 2012

Activist Said to Be Missing in



BEIJING —Liu Ping, a rights activist who has angered officials in China with her advocacy of free elections and support of labor and women’s rights issues, has been missing since early this month after she was detained in Beijing by security personnel from her hometown, according to an advocacy group.

Wang Songlian, a researcher at Chinese Human Rights Defenders, said Monday that Ms. Liu’s disappearance was most likely part of a wave of detentions tied to the meetings of China’s handpicked legislature, the National People’s Congress, and an advisory body, the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference. The meetings typically lead to detentions of people whom the authorities consider troublesome, in an attempt to stop those people from petitioning the government, the group said. The meetings ended last week.

Although the crackdown is an annual event, “in general the feeling is that this year is more serious than previous years,” with China facing its biggest leadership transition in a decade later this year, Ms. Wang said.

Ms. Liu, 47, who is from the city of Xinyu in the southern province of Jiangxi, sent two text messages to Chinese Human Rights Defenders on March 6, saying that she had been intercepted at a Beijing train station by a group of people working for her former employer, the state-owned Xinyu Iron and Steel Company, Ms. Wang said. Ms. Liu’s cellphone has been off since then, Ms. Wang said.

“I didn’t come to Beijing to petition, I came to find work!” one of the messages read, according to Chinese Human Rights Defenders. “They are ruthless, they are shutting me down economically! I have to put my daughter through university!”

Ms. Liu has petitioned the government in the past and she has been detained before, she said in interviews last month.

She campaigned last year as an independent candidate for a seat on Xinyu’s local congress but did not win. Her high-profile campaign helped inspire other independent candidacies around China, nearly all of which failed.

A man who answered the telephone Monday at Xinyu Steel’s Beijing offices, when asked about Ms. Liu’s disappearance, said there was “no such thing.” Pressed, he said a caller had dialed the wrong number and hung up. People who answered the phones at the Xinyu Public Security Bureau and the city’s detention center said they could not help with inquiries into Ms. Liu’s whereabouts.