Archive for April, 2015

Changzhou WWT

Thursday, April 23rd, 2015

Prof. Zhou (in red) with HNC students

It’s always great to get out of the classroom, to visit real-world facilities…. & so I was especially pleased when Professor Zhou Yuanchun invited me (and other ERE professors) to join her on a visit to a wastewater treatment (WWT) plant in Changzhou. Professor Zhou, whose research at Nanjing University specializes in water quality issues, teaches one of our key ERE courses at HNC entitled ‘Global Environmental Fundamentals.’ We’ve coordinated our teaching, however, so that her course focuses primarily on “green” and “blue” environmental concerns (i.e., agriculture, food security, forestry & water), while my complementary course addresses “brown” ones (i.e., energy, pollution, urbanization and infrastructure, etc.). [My other HNC course this Spring semester is entitled ‘Economic Instruments for Pollution Control.’]

We were also accompanied by Professor Roda Mushkat, an HNC Resident Professor of International Law, who is teaching a course entitled ‘International Environmental Law and Policy.’ Her teams have been doing exceedingly well this year in international moot court debates…. & so I very quickly learned not to argue with her about environmental topics — or about anything else, for that matter!

Prof. Mushkat braving the elements….

On our way back to Nanjing, Prof. Zhou treated us to a very nice (& filling!) lunch featuring Jiangsu specialties…. and on that trip we also passed by a power plant that had the right idea (i.e., blue skies, & puffy white clouds) — even if its plume didn’t quite match such an emissions ideal. It reminded me very much of the similar (painted!) blue skies & white clouds I had seen at the Venetian in Macau (see the December 2007 posting; no French post-modernists in evidence on this plant tour, however!).

German visitors

Tuesday, April 14th, 2015

Anni, Janosch & Jana

I was very pleased to have two German visitors here at HNC – well, three really, when you consider their daughter Anni…. who pretty much stole the show amongst both students & faculty! I first met Dr. Janosch Ondraczek when he was an intern at the UN in New York – and we’ve stayed in touch over the years. Janosch went on to get a Master’s degree at University College London with a thesis addressing European experience with price vs. quantity policy mechanisms for renewable energy – and he recently completed his doctorate at the University of Hamburg, with another interesting piece of research addressing solar energy in Africa.

I was obviously anxious to have him describe that work to my ‘Challenges in the Global Environment’ class at HNC, which address the problems of energy access (i.e., energy poverty) as well as other major energy/environmental topics. If you have a really good memory, you might remember Janosch addressing a similar class of mine at U. Penn (in an April, 2008 posting). Janosch works at PwC, and you can follow him on his own blog at: Earth, 53N 35′ 0.41″, 10E 0′ 44.72″.

Janosch’s wife, Dr. Jana Stoever, is similarly an environmental economist who has worked at the World Bank, and now does research at the Hamburg Institute of International Economics. And so of course we took the opportunity to tap into her expertise on this visit as well! As the formal guest of HNC, she presented a lecture entitled ‘Environmental Regulation and Sustainable Business Performance,’ which described on-going research into the Porter Hypothesis (which suggests that businesses subject to stringent environmental regulation will become more innovative and ultimately more competitive).

Little Anni managed to get by without an HNC speaking engagement…. but by the end of the visit, it seemed that her Mandarin was just about on par with my own.

Taiping’s Heavenly Kingdom

Tuesday, April 14th, 2015

Hong Xiuquan

Fully ten separate dynasties over China’s long and illustrious history have considered Nanjing their capital (the city’s name itself means “Southern Capital,” just as Beijing means “Northern Capital”) –- and certainly one of the strangest to Western ears is that of the Taiping. Hong Xiuquan was a Christian who considered himself the Son of God (he thought of Jesus as his older brother) – and unfortunately his attempts to overthrow the Qing dynasty resulted in one of the deadliest periods for Chinese citizens. Occurring at approximately the same time as the American Civil War, this little known (outside of China) struggle resulted in perhaps thirty times as many deaths – somewhere on the order of twenty million people died during the civil strife.

I’ve recently finished reading a fascinating and extremely well-written book that attempts to make sense of it all: Autumn in the Heavenly Kingdom: China, The West, and the Epic Story of the Taiping Civil War by Stephen R. Platt, a history professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. That subtitle makes clear that this was not the “Taiping Rebellion” – an anodyne phrase later used in the West to convey an uprising against the legitimate government – but rather a full-blown civil war. He also makes a strong case that the western powers – principally Britain & the US – made a rather unfortunate decision to support the wrong side. Worried about existing trade at established treaty ports and holding strong sway over the existing Qing government, the West was not inclined to support the Taiping side – despite their modernizing, trade-oriented and Christian proclivities. Instead, they helped to crush the uprising…. only to forestall an inevitable Qing collapse by about half a century, leading to a much more volatile (and ultimately anti-Western) country.

I’ve taken the opportunity over recent weeks to visit the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom History Museum, as well as the Presidential Palace (site of Hong Xiuquan’s palace, and later Chiang Kai Shek’s KMT headquarters). Platt’s book brings it all vividly to life — & I wonder if he might be another David McCullough, Doris Kearns Goodwin, or Barbara Tuchman in the making?