Chinese Commentary on Their Water Projects

“Do not impose on others what you yourselves do not desire.” This is Confucius’ version of the Golden Rule, and the writer quotes it when talking about the ubiquitous Chinese water diversion projects.

I was surprised at how openly critical this piece is – but it’s written for the English version of the paper, so may it didn’t run in the Chinese version.

via Myriad water diversion projects suggest rapid degradation of local environment | Shanghai Daily.

Myriad water diversion projects suggest rapid degradation of local environment | Shanghai Daily



Norwegian salmon farm offers bounty for escaped fish | Al Jazeera America.

The world’s largest producer of farmed salmon is offering a $90 bounty for every recaptured fish after possibly thousands of farmed Atlantic salmon staged a jailbreak from their 127,000-fish cage in Norway, further endangering the wild salmon population and concerning those who prefer the wild variety for health reasons.

Apparently farmed fish escape on a regular basis, endangering the population of wild fish.  The farmed variety can spread disease to their wild cousins.  The Environmental Defense Fund says salmon farming is a cause of pollution, chemical use, parasites, and disease.

The salmon-farming industry has been blamed for decades for problems with their fish,  Many escape every year.  And these fish often test high in contaminants such as PCBs and other carcinogens.

So why is there so much farming going on?  Because people want to eat it and

wild salmon are growing scarce: Divided among the world’s population, wild salmon could provide only a single serving for each person per year.


Stairway to heaven?

Daily chart: Stairway to heaven | The Economist.

Although Mt. Everest is the most well-known of the 8000m+ Himalayan peaks, it is not the most deadly to climb.

Everest’s smaller and less well-trodden Himalayan sisters tend to be much deadlier. For every three thrill-seekers that make it safely up and down Annapurna I, one dies trying[.]

The chart from the Economist tracks summits and deaths on the world’s highest peaks.  Everest is definitely the most popular peak to climb.  In fact, it’s so crowded that people are complaining.  Nepal used to limit the number of permits, but not any more.  Anybody with enough money can hire guides to drag them up to the top.

National Geographic has an article in the June issue that deals with the crowded conditions on the Everest trek.  Not only does the crowd put people at risk, it is also causing pollution in a pristine, and fragile, environment.

Daily chart: Stairway to heaven | The Economist

Photograph by Mark Jenkins

Years of garbage clutters Camp IV, left behind by the 4,000 or so climbers who’ve passed through over the past 60 years. Although efforts to control pollution and haul out refuse have seen success at Base Camp, abandoned tents, food waste, empty oxygen bottles, and other types of junk continue piling up at higher elevations. Camp IV is at 26,000 feet.

Will Nepal limit the number of people allowed on the mountain?  Probably not, according to the article.  Climbers and their guides spent almost $12 million there last spring, with $3 million of that going to the government in permits.

Many people have put forth ideas on how to make things better, but nothing has happened yet.  Hopefully the government of Nepal can gain control of the situation, and restore some sanity to the “Stairway to Heaven.”

Photograph by Andy Bardon          A crowd of climbers slog up the Lhotse Face, heading toward Camp IV, last stop before the summit.

The Price of Cotton

The Aral Sea, Before the Streams Ran Dry : Image of the Day.

This image, from 1964, shows the Aral Sea as it existed for millenia.  In the middle of the vast arid region of Central Asia, the Aral Sea was an oasis of wetlands, water, and islands fed by snowmelt in faraway mountains.

Beginning in the 1950s and 60s, the former Soviet Union begin to divert the rivers that feed the sea for agricultural purposes.

The dams, canals, and other water works were built in order to transform the desert into agricultural fields for cotton and other crops. The Aral Sea has been slowly disappearing ever since.

As the crops flourished, the sea began to shrink.  The large cities surrounding the sea, which were home to large fishing industries, were left stranded several miles from the shore and eventually were abandoned.

The increasingly salty water became polluted with fertilizer and pesticides. Blowing, salty dust from the exposed lakebed became a public health hazard and degraded the soil. Croplands had to be flushed with larger and larger volumes of river water. The loss of the moderating influence of the Aral Sea made winters colder and summers hotter and drier.

Now just 10% of its original size, the sea is virtually gone.  What will the future hold?  If the surrounding countries allow the rivers to run free again, will the sea recover?  Will it be too polluted to support life?  How will the agricultural communities that depend on the river water survive as their land grows too salty to support crops?

Driving Up Pollution

from the NYTimes

and the Truth about Cars

  • 700,000 new cars[that] have hit Beijing roads this year
  • The city will license only 240,000 new vehicles next year
  • a car density of only 210 per thousand in China’s second most populous city
  • average in the U.S.A. is more than 800 cars per thousand.
  • China, proud consumer of more than half the planet’s cement

Because the pollution is so bad, and the roads are so crowded, Beijing is limiting the number of license plates it will issue next year.

Watch the Al-Jazeera video for the scoop on cars and the incredible pollution in Beijing.

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