Posts Tagged 'Environment'

Velib-style Program Far Off in Seoul

jongno
SEOUL — A RACK FULL OF IDENTICAL silver bicycles caused me turn my head and pause a moment as I made hurried strides away from my office. With baskets hanging from the handlebars, they looked  utilitarian but not sturdy; the bikes’ clunky design gave off a shine of cheapness. Their frames were adorned with lettering praising the supposedly clean air of Seoul’s Jongno District, and they were locked with identical locks. Briefly considering  their proximity to the district office, I was led to an exciting conclusion — these must be public bikes!

Unfortunately, it was the wrong conclusion. I stopped by the Jongno office on Tuesday to ask about registration but ended up speaking with a man who told me the bikes were for use only by civil servants (who likely weren’t using them due to a cold snap). He lamented that a program styled after Paris’ Velib was a long way off in Seoul. While the government recently announced plans to expand the capital’s shoddy network of bike lanes (which are often used by pedestrians, roller-bladers and flippant men and women on scooters), getting together the funding to create such a program would be difficult, he said.

In sharp contrast, the provincial city of Changwon in Korea’s far south set up a thoroughly advanced bike-sharing program last year. Citizens can check out bicycles digitally, lock up at dozens of stations around town and feel safe knowing that any medical bills resulting from accidents will be at least partially covered by the municipal government. All of the bikes are also equipped with navigation systems that sit between the handlebars.

It’s great that small towns are cutting new pathways towards sustainability, but shouldn’t Seoul be leading the way? A big part of the problem is a jumbled mess of roads and merciless traffic, admitted the Jongno employee. Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon met with the head of National Geographic Channel Asia to sign an MoU on combating climate change earlier this week. But whether Oh will make any groundbreaking changes to foster a bike-friendly culture in the city remains to be seen. Certainly getting public workers to see the streets from the saddle is a step in the right direction.

World Savers Congress: Educating China on Green Travel

Bamboo forest, Sichuan. Photo by Pat Rioux.

Bamboo forest, Sichuan. Photo by Pat Rioux.

WHEN A HEAVING EARTHQUAKE leveled China’s heartland earlier this year — taking nearly 70,000 lives and leaving 5 million homeless — the reaction exhibited both the best and the worst of human behavior. Grassroots leaders organized to bring relief to those affected by the disaster, and the government functioned with surprising transparency in addressing the region’s needs. But it wasn’t long before the Party grew tired of the bad press about shoddy construction and resumed its old tack, silencing the voices of those who lost the most.

It’s not an inspiring example of either sustainability or responsibility. Yet in the rubble some locals saw an opportunity to bring out the beauty of Sichuan — to reinvigorate it and share it with the world in a way that would embody the meaning of both those terms.

Albert Ng, CEO of adventure travel company Wild China, conveyed to attendees of the CondĂ© Nast Traveler World Savers Congress two weeks ago the reality that environmental and tourism authorities faced after the dust settled: facilities, paths and roads linking the region’s nature reserves had been destroyed. Over a year of daunting reconstruction work lay ahead.

“But what is interesting is that the authorities really understood that this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for them to reshape tourism in this area,” Ng said. Previously the reserves had been geared towards one-size-fits-all tourism, he explained, the kind that chews the landscape and leaves more of an impact on the environs that it does on the traveler.

The challenge, according to Ng, lay as much in training as it does in actual building. His company has been working both with local governments and non-governmental organizations to develop travel infrastructure, and provide the tools and cultural understanding that must form its foundation.

“When we go to these remote places the local governments…believe they should be doing something right, they should be doing something responsible,” Ng said. “And we have been working with them on doing camping, doing hiking trails. They all believe in those ideas..the problem is that they do not know how to do it.”

Ng said his group’s education efforts range from discussions on how to build trails to preparing bedding and meals that will be acceptable to foreign travelers, all while protecting sensitive ecosystems and preserving local culture.

It’s a massive challenge, but one of pressing importance. In 2001, there were 89 million international travelers going to China. In 2007, the figure jumped to 132 million and has only showed signs of going up — not to mention domestic tourism.

As China fumbles through one scandal after the other — whether it be the poor construction of schools, the razing of traditional neighborhoods, tainted milk or polluted lakes — it is clear that the country needs an infusion of new ideas and dedicated individuals. The sprouting of initiatives like Wild China is hopeful, but there are also a thicket of “green” options exploding onto the scene. Mindful travelers must also educate themselves as to which are really interested in reducing the impact of their growing numbers.

This Week’s Wandering News

  • Starting out on the lighter side, People magazine made a terrific racial blunder last week when it featured South Korean pop star Rain and then accompanied the piece with a photo of actor Karl Yune — who also happens to be Asian. Oops. (via Lao-Ocean)
  • Allison Arieff asks why school buildings tend to resemble drab, prison-like institutions on the New York Times By Design blog, and talks about Waldkindergartens: forward-thinking schools in Germany that have replaced the classroom with the forest.
  • Bombings in the ancient Indian city of Jaipur left 63 dead on Tuesday, and caused the local government to enforce a curfew. The Guardian reports that a little-known terrorist group called the Indian Mujahideen claimed responsibility, and apparently had the goal of disrupting the local tourism industry.
  • Mark Massara, a pioneer of surfer environmentalism and a defender of California’s coastline, speaks with the New York Times in this watch-worthy video piece, “Planet Us: The Coastal Warrior“.
  • The SF Chronicle reports that protesters donning black hoods and Guantanamo-style jumpsuits turned out at the graduation ceremony of UC-Bekeley’s law school Saturday, demanding that tenured professor John Yoo be fired. Yoo was the chief author of the Bush administration’s nebulous policies on torture

More Windy City Eats

IN A POST OVER at Jaunted today, I talk about Uncommon Ground, a local eco-friendly restaurant chain in Chicago. Check out that article here, or see reviews at Yelp.

A Red Light, a Bicycle, a Coffin

UNFORTUNATELY, THE STORY IS nothing new — a cyclist jumps a red light, and it ends up being the last thing they ever do. But the death of 29 year-old Matthew Manger-Lynch in Chicago this past Sunday hit close to home for me. He died while competing in the third stage of the Tour da Chicago, an annual “alleycat” street race, in which friends of mine have participated in years past. Manger-Lynch, who was married and had plans to open a French-style charcuterie, was leading a pack of about 40 racers when he crossed Irving Park Road against the light. He was struck by an SUV and pronounced dead soon afterward.

Being a law-abiding cyclist in the city is dangerous as it is. You might get pinched by someone who didn’t check their mirrors, you might get slammed by some asshole with uncontrollable road rage, or you might take a header through a window if someone unwittingly flings open a door streetside. I won’t pretend I’ve waited for every light, and I’ve done an alleycat or two myself, but events like these serve as a painful reminder that every time we bend the rules we take our lives into our own hands. This isn’t a story about SUVs vs. bicycles, this is a story about a careless moment and its consequences.

My sincere condolences to the Manger-Lynch family. Be safe out there.

Read more in The Chicago Tribune.

Photo: untitled, by brownphoto. chicago.

The Grand Canal, Glaring Oversight

AS SOUTH KOREAN PRESIDENT-ELECT Lee Myung-Bak prepares to take office next Monday, the peninsula churns in heated debate over his plans for a canal that will cut through mountain ranges and stretch the the length of the country. Lee promises that the waterway will be a shot of adrenaline to wanting inland economies, though many – including myself – believe his plan is severely misguided.

Choe Sang-Hun has a video report for the International Herald Tribune here. A quote from the accompanying article just kills me — a true model of shortsightedness:

“Until now, we saw no future, no way to turn around our economy,” said Baek Young Ja, 43, a restaurant owner. “Talk about possible environmental damage the canal might cause doesn’t mean that much to me. I think more about all the engineers who will come in and eat at my place once construction starts.”

[read more]

***

TDT leaves tomorrow morning for a long-weekend jaunt down South.
Posting will resume as normal on Monday.

Everyone Wants a ‘Canal’

I GUESS IT’S NO surprise that in Dubai, a land of overflowing wealth and man-made islands, that local developers are looking to create a 75 km canal in the middle of the desert. While that not might sound as ludicrous as, say, trying to build a canal that stretches the length of a nation – it still sounds pretty crazy to me.

The above picture is taken from the blog of Kang Hun Sang, a Yonhap foreign correspondent in Dubai, and shows an artist’s fanciful rendering of what the waterway – creatively named “The Arabian Canal” – could look like.

To those who might see it as providing a viable alternative for transportation of goods into the city, Kang points out a major caveat: the “canal” is only going to be six meters deep. That means despite all the hype about this being the next Suez Canal, it’s really just another playground.


Welcome to TDT. This blog is no longer active. Read about it here.

Required Reading

Affliations


Post Calendar

September 2014
M T W T F S S
« Mar    
1234567
891011121314
15161718192021
22232425262728
2930  

Categories


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.