Monday, March 31, 2008

Cursing a Green Streak

We're learning lots of new stuff every day. For example, yesterday we learned that most Chinese would prefer to have a daughter to a son (regardless of whether or not this is now true, the fact that they're still missing the point on so grand a level still leaves me scratching my head). We were also taught that the government here is doing many, many things to help protect the environment.

Most of the people in our group have commented on how delicious the myriad vegetable dishes have been at our meals. They have been - delicious. It's small wonder, as historically, the Chinese diet has been mainly vegetable based, since meat was too expensive to eat for anything other than special occasions and holidays. However, as the expression goes, "there are two sides of the coin": With China's economic boom, the growth in income and opportunity has created an increased demand for meat. Now, with that increased demand, China is experiencing what the US went through after WWII; farmland is disappearing, cities are growing, and there is new reliance on petro-chemical fertilizers to grow more crops in less space. All of this in a country already facing a clean water crisis.

I know how I am, dear ones, so I'll be good and rein in the ranting. I'll try to skirt around my soap box. Especially since, being a meat-eater myself, I can't really frown disapprovingly on an entire people who are only following in our footsteps and trying to vary the (add more?) protein to their meals. I'm just sayin'...

I'm writing this update from our Yangtze River cruise ship. Talk about welcoming in a new era! This cruise is the reason we took this trip. By 2009 the Three Gorges Dam will be completed and this valley, where people have lived for 5000 years, will be gone forever. Along with two species of fish [probably - due to almost-certain extinction]. This is the largest engineering project ever undertaken. I'm not certain what the financial cost is, but the government insists that it is worth it in both lives saved from flooding and the amount of "clean" energy produced. Both of these points are scientifically refutable.

As mentioned, there are two sides to a coin. I could launch into a philosophical argument about preserving culture and history and species, or - on the flip side - it's not hard to tow the party line and see that some of what they say is valid. You can probably guess which side I tend to favor...

But then again, yesterday I had a shot of some sort of medicinal wine made out of starfish and seahorses and lizards. Probably endangered. So there we go with that coin thing again.

Yesterday (in addition to drinking spirits culled from scaly creatures), we visited the Terracotta Warriors Museum. I should note that these were, in fact, "Terracotta Warriors" and not "fine terriers" as Zach kept calling them. Zach the celebrity - or didn't we tell you? I've never seen an episode of "Entourage" in my life, but I have to imagine that traveling with this curly-haired blonde boy is pretty much the same, minus the quality parties and free blow (wait, what? Hi Dad!). In many places (Xian and the museum, in particular) we haven't been able to walk 5 feet without people wanting to touch him, hold him or photograph him (often all three). We're trying to be as polite as possible, but for Zach's next tour, we're charging Eagles prices...

(The Warriors, by-the-way, are absolutely unbelievable. But this hour of internet is running me about $10 (US), and after 6 hours of travel, the gentle rocking of the cruise ship, and my little worried rant about the terrible international fallout we're going to face because 1 billion people are eating more "Babe," I'm beat.

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