SHANGHAI — This morning, I traveled from the airport in Shanghai to the garden city of Suzhou, China with my life and traveling partner, Micki (a/k/a Mrs. Damato). We are here to visit with our good friend, G.Q. Zhao, a retired editor of China Building Waterproofing Magazine (CBW).
While here to visit our friend, we will also do some business. We will be visiting the magazine office tomorrow to catch up on the roofing and waterproofing industry in China. I’m also anxious to hear more about the recently-unveiled 13th Five-Year plan. The big news is the change in the official limit of one child per household to two. I know from some acquaintances here that the rule has been relaxing for several years; I am looking forward to the spin some regular Chinese folks will put on it as well as that of some of the officials we will meet.
The CBW office is co-located with the Chinese Institute for Building Waterproofing. The official name of the Institute is much longer, but this gives a basic description. More on that in a future post. We will visit the Institute and magazine office tomorrow.
So just a few words on this two-hour bus ride. It took around two minutes before we noticed the first building topped with a solar panels. Then, a few short miles later the industrial area gave way to seemingly endless towers of residential housing. Most every residential building, with the exception of the older structures, has a solar collector for hot water. I have often wondered why we in the U.S. have never adopted broader use of the sun for heating our water (and homes).
I know all the arguments (ugly, costly), but wish we would take the long view. When I look out the window of this bus and see how bad the air is here, I wonder how much worse it would be if they had to burn more coal to heat their water. Hard to imagine it getting much worse. Electricity is very expensive here in nearly every way imaginable. It’s costly to buy and the health impacts are immeasurable. We have our share of bad air days in my hometown, but I pray it never gets this bad.
It may take generations for the Chinese to change their infrastructure to clear the air in the large cities. I believe they have the will to do it as well as the resources, including a now expanding population.
There are a lot of things to learn on this little bus ride. The public transportation system is really robust. The roads are decent and well maintained. The MAG-lev train that just zoomed by is really sexy. We had our choice of taking a cab, bus, or train the 70 KM from Shanghai to Suzhou. We chose the bus because it was easy and inexpensive. We are reserving our train ride for another day; perhaps a ride up to Wuxi.
That's about it for now. I’m going to return to gazing out the window of the bus at the incredible sights traveling from one area with a population of around 20 million to the sleepy little town of Suzhou (population in the area is only 12 million or so).