Wednesday, 23 January 2019

This Is Lawrence – The Traveling Classroom – Sustainable China

This Is Lawrence – The Traveling Classroom – Sustainable China
06 Aug

Sustainable China is a program that looks at the connections between this triangle that we describe as the three C's: the connections between commerce or economic development, environmental conservation, and cultural preservation and cultural heritage Taking that idea and exploring it through the lens of contemporary China is a really interesting way to explore a complicated, multifaceted challenge

So we start in Shanghai and we always start in Shanghai We have for the last few trips because Shanghai is such a nice entry point for China, especially for students who don't have quite as much travel experience, or experience in China because Shanghai feels very Western It isn't like standard study abroad just because you have three months of extensive researching and trying to get to know the cities as best you can with what you have in a place called Wisconsin, and then all of a sudden you're transferred, and you're put in this different part of the world You're just running around and it's crazy and you're trying to apply everything that you learned, but the same time, there's so much learning that you're doing as a global citizen We went from there to Wuxi, which is an hour train ride, still in the Shanghai metro area

We go from Shanghai through Suzhou to Wuxi and never really leave the city at all Wuxi is a story of potential growth, and maybe potential growth not realized A typical day involved a lot of traveling So what wouldas long as we're there we're getting up early Days started regularly early in the morning We would typically have a morning agenda and an afternoon agenda, as long as we weren't going somewhere else I think the most important thing I really took from sustainability of Wuxi was

you're writing a paper and you're like "how am I going to figure out if it's sustainable" and I thought "Oh, I'll just look at the city as a system of inputs and outputs" as like, you know, economically what comes in and out What causes pollution? How much pollution is there? Simple factors of inputs and outputs and see if it's sustainable you know hopefully we get a net product of zero or something like that, and then you get to a city and you realize "Wow that doesn't really work at all" Like every place we went and every place we saw and every person we met was a factor in an incredibly complicated system that's almost beyond statistics

Like there's no way to actually track everything about sustainability So Guizhou province is thewe flew to the southwest part of China to way Guizhou province to the capital city of Guiyang, which is the home of our partner institution, Guizhou Normal University

It also is the capital city of China's poorest province The city I studied was Guiyang I'd been there before and so I had some preconceived notions of what the city was like But in our Sustainable China, the class before the trip, I got to dive more into the history of the city, the economics, which I don't know much about in general, and try to see how like all those things work together The environment, the economics, the amazing diverse culture they have, and figure out you know how does sustainability work? Is there a way to mesh these things in a in a happy medium? Guiyang was our home base for a few days and was a springboard for multiple day trips outside, including one overnight trip to Hongfen Lake, where we stayed in a hotel on the shores of the water source for the city of Guiyang and looked at village level projects to reduce pollution before it enters the lake

Our class had one of the like premiers, one of the Dean roll, whatever you want to call it, students She was the cutest little girl She had come up and for us about her school in English, you know, and she was kind of a star achiever, you know? So she was very very excited to play, especially when Helen agreed to be Simon in Simon Says We were experiencing a China that's not always accessible to outsiders and a lot of that is due to the connections that we have through Guizhou Normal University, through professor Ren and Wang Xiao Mei, and others, which let us, for one of the only times on the trip, get outside of the major urban areas Shenzhen is this fascinating story, fascinating answer to a question of what you would do if you could build a city of 15 million people from scratch

How would you do it? Shenzhen was my favorite by far Shenzhen felt the most like China Shenzhen felt the most like a Chinese city

They're the, you know, poster child for the new China, and I actually took my skateboard with me to China I ended up doing what ended up being about a 20 mile trip across Shenzhen I got to go right as the sun was starting to set across this beautiful city where parts of it looked like boulevards out of LA God it was just, it was beautiful It was magnificent

One of the things that makes Shenzhen so interesting is that although it's new, there are still these echoes of the past and I wanted to make sure we got to see some of that because it's going to be gone soon Wending your way through monolithic altars to glass and steel, you suddenly find yourself at a sort of cramped niche that is the remains of the fishing village, and our friend, the friend of the university, was taking us through Basically we just had to charge through, we just went through and it's all sorts of things being sold, largely like livestock and some parts of animals that I didn't know existed, and to get 20 people in a line snaking through this narrow loud busy maze, labyrinth, it was a miracle that no one ended up getting lost and I'm pretty sure, if I heard correctly, people are commenting on what strange ducks we were Because of course, you have 20 people who clearly don't know what they're doing, meandering through a space that is designed for people who know what they want, know what they're going to get, and get it very quickly Hong Kong is another one of these international cities

Hong Kong's our exit point We have wonderful alumni connections in Hong Kong, which lead us to amazing resources of information and presentations about Hong Kong's history, Hong Kong's development, and Hong Kong's future You know, when I was in China I was trying to think, you know, what am I getting out of this? This is an incredible experience, but where is the true benefit of it for me? And it didn't really strike me until I was coming back to like a couple of my other environmental studies classes, and I was like "Oh you know, in Hong Kong they do this, or when I was in Shanghai this is how it was" It's kind of one of those things where it's the world experience and seeing how different countries function, and how they're different, and how they're the same, and how you can just relate that back to a conversation you're having with someone who maybe hasn't left the country, or who definitely hasn't been to China before, and it's the way that you're able to bring your experience across the globe back to Appleton, Wisconsin

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