Thursday, September 20, 2007

On Environmental Pollution: Remembering a Month in Linfen, China, for a Baha'i-Inspired NGO

In a post reflecting on environmental pollution Iguana remembers spending a month in Linfen, China, at the invitation of Baha'is. -gw

I was randomly browsing the Internet during my lunch hour when I just happened to see a report about the 10 most polluted places in the world. I clicked on it and flipped through some initial pictures and reports until I stopped dead in my tracks. You see, one of these underprivileged places just happens to be the very city I spent a month in last year: Linfen, China.

Racing through my memories gradually brought back images of darkened noon-time skies, masked faces bustling around town and billowing smoke stacks littering the countryside like post-modern trees. ...

"By the end of this year, the city of Linfen plans to shut down 160 of 196 of its iron foundries and 57 of 153 of its coal producing plants. Small, highly polluting plants will be replaced with larger, cleaner, more regulated facilities."

One thing is to read these words on a screen, another is to drink that water and breathe that air. I did that for a month but many of the friends I left behind there have done it all of their lives, and continue to do so.

I spent a month training English teachers at the invitation of a Baha’i inspired NGO that specializes in education for development. I had lived in Chinese culture as an adolescent, but I hadn’t remembered the warmth and brightness of the people that I experienced during this visit. I made a lot of special friends, very astute and sincere people. As you can imagine, I also experienced a lot of culture shock, especially with the toiletless bathrooms and the general absence of children. Aside from these, most of the culture shock I experienced was the good kind that made me reflect on my own culture, and question it. ...

All of these memories make it harder for me to swallow that this admirable culture flowers under such oppressive air contamination. The current economic growth imperative, increasingly driven by western influence, needs to be rethought to include and celebrate all of the cultural aspects that make these people so unique and wonderful. Otherwise, they will soon clash, and the growth imperative, at least as it is currently conceived and practiced, doesn’t stand to lose.

Iguana, "Linfen China," Iguana Journal

{Re-posted with permission}

1 comment:

Cui said...

how's that city now? Any coming back?