Shanghai’s experiencing isolated showers. But will the forecast call for pain?
China scholar Li Cheng challenged the audience’s sense of hygenic urgency yesterday at the Aspen Ideas Festival when he described what might happen if everyone in Shanghai took a shower even once a week.
Atlantic Monthly journalist James Fallows summarizes:
On the environment (a huge theme in discussions of China here): when a rural dweller moves to the big city, his or her demands on the water supply increase thirty-fold. This reminds me of a statistic I heard last year in China: if the average Shanghainese resident took a shower even once a week, the city’s water supply would be used up.
In the separate morning session, A Year in Shanghai, Fallows described some of his behind-the-scenes perspectives gleaned from reporting his recent Atlantic article, “Why China’s Rise is Good for Us.”
Some of the key takeaways:
– Environmental factors will be most limiting to China’s continued growth;
– Most in China don’t seem to realize how bad the situation is. For example, the Yellow River doesn’t reach the ocean;
– Seven percent of the glacial ice mass on the Tibetan Plateau is melting each year. What will happen to every river in Asia with a decline in snowmelt?
– China is undergoing the largest mass human migration in history with more than 150 million people moving from rural to urban areas;
– The new definition of foreign aid is you save yourself.
J. Carl Ganter is co-founder and director of Circle of Blue, the internationally recognized center for original frontline reporting, research, and analysis on resource issues with a focus on the intersection between water, food, and energy.