Category Archives: Daily Notes

A More Livable Future

As urbanization and industrialization accelerate in China and across the globe, low carbon development and the concept of sustainability seem to attract more attention than they used to. Human induced global climate change has made it impossible for anyone to deny or even question its existence and seriousness. This summer alone has reset many climatic records. To name only a few: New York City suffered from record high temperature in late July and bashed by unprecedented Hurricane in late August. Chongqing Municipality in China has experienced one of the hottest summers in its history.

Even though Chongqing is known as one of the Chinese furnaces, local residents fans with disbelieve of the sustained high temperature. Local primary schools in Chongqing postponed their fall semester by a full week in order to avoid the heat dome.  Those climatic abnormity and subsequent results hit residents without AC and students who are returning to schools in those cities the most.

During and post Hurricane Irene, most of the public transits in New York City were temporarily stopped. The cancellation of flight and train services left many students returning from summer holiday stuck on the road. Those students do not have enough time to return to their home places given the approaching school year. Equally, it is too expensive to assume, even for a short period of time, the role of an airport resident in any part of the world. In clarification, let me reiterate their situation, many students waved their reluctant goodbyes to the caring ones and boarded various flights to continue their academic journey. At the first stop upon departing their home countries, they were told that all flights to NYC were cancelled. To some, like my poor girlfriend, the odyssey didn’t stop there. Her first stop was in Tokyo and she was being told that her flight to JFK was cancelled. So, there was no way that she could continue her journey. She was also told that she couldn’t stay in Japan, because she did not have a proper visa. As a result, she was put on a flight headed to Chicago. To the Japanese, it’s out of country out of their concerns. However, my poor girlfriend had to detour to Chicago. After spending a night there, she was once again put on another flight to DC.

After two more nights in DC, she was compelled to cancel her flight and she switched her travel plan to Amtrak. Tickets purchased, hotel checked out, and she was once again confronted with transit cancellation. Amtrak was not running due to track damages done by Irene. After spending close to a full week on the road, she finally made it to Bard. However, none of the flight companies offered any compensation as they were obligated to.  

Therefore, the inconvenience and damage done by climate change does not limit to or confine within a physical sphere. Climate change also opens up loopholes for moral and political corruption. It adds on to the list of excuses dummies breathe with.  

(To welcome and direct public criticism towards such poor service, it was Continental who refused to cover the additional costs it imposed on those poor students.)

Climate Change associated misfortunes does not limit on the road. Back in Chongqing, the unprecedented heat dome forces many impoverished local residents to crowd in the hall way and aisles of big malls to avoid the heat at the risk of being beaten by the so-called security-guard (http://www.zgkg.com.cn/minsheng/w10153799.asp).

There were news reports about lives being claimed by the historical high temperature. It goes without saying that local hospitals are packed with heat patients. 

It is the helpless residents in Brooklyn, NY; the crowded aisles in Chongqing; China; the victims of increasing climatic calamities and the lives lost at the climatic abnormity that demands better stewardship of our shared and only home planet—earth. It is no longer a mere political rhetoric, nor is it in the future tense. It’s happening as we speak.  

So why low carbon? Why sustainability?

Unprecedented climatic abnormities do not occur without any reason. The thin air hardly gives birth to a warmer planet without additional heat trapping green house gases. In order to minimize climate change related casualties and economic loss, low carbon development/sustainable development seem to be the only path that shall lead us, and many generations of us yet to come, to a more livable future.       

–by Chad Tupgon

2011-09-14

Frozen & Burnt

Friday, July 21, 2011
By Tupgon, Tudenggongbu

Today the temperature in New York City set new record. By mid day, the temperature elevated well above 39-Degree Celsius or well over 100-Degree Fahrenheit. News bulletins are steamed with stories about reporters frying eggs on the sidewalk, and heat dome griddling every street along with its pedestrians.

Coming out from the freezer-like New York Public Library, for a millisecond the heat felt good. It warmed up my body and I had a good long stretch, I even thanked whichever deity is in charge of the heat. However, what followed was absolutely unbearable, sweat broke like water balls, head span, and vision blanked out in glary.

We ran. Every few steps we rushed into a store to embrace the blessing of a cold air current. This time I complain to the same deity for not showing any mercy upon us. The cold air in building felt great. It almost felt like having a good long drink of iced water in a hot summer afternoon. However, nothing last long, after few minutes, it felt chilly and we braved out again, after few steps of progress we retreated into another store and the motion repeated itself. We were in and out, frozen and burnt.

In the subway station, the consuming heat literally pushes a person to his limit. I was counting down seconds from checking out. There came the F train. The door popped open, icy air rushed out and we were saved again.

After dozen stops, it’s freezing cold on the train. Some people started to unpack their sweaters, while others palmed their bear arms to keep themselves warm.

For the last month or so, we have sublet my Italian friend’s apartment, for which we are grateful. However, the apartment does not have an AC. When the ambient temperature reads 90 degree Fahrenheit at 2am, (Yes, it’s not a typo, I mean 2 in the morning), the room is nothing short of an oven. Upon opening the door, a roomful of steaming hot air fell upon us. We were consumed and burnt like that of the ghost rider. I have become the new ghost rider, flaming not only head but the entire body.

We stayed up late. We drank so much iced water that if everyone in the world consumed water at our rate last night, the global community would face not water shortage, but water exhaustion. We took score of cold shower, but it was still too hot to go to bed. When midnight flipped a new page on the calendar, we forced ourselves to lie down. I could feel the pulse of my temple. Beads of sweat routinely slid down on my back. It’s too hot to sleep.

A faint memory of something about aerial bed being cooler to sleep on than ordinary bed came to me and I sprang. I pumped up my aerial mattress and put a sheet over it and there I went to bed again. A few minutes later, the heat became unbearable and I put pots full of cold water around the bed and hoped the water could cool down the air by whatever little amount possible.

Five in the morning, the heat burnt me awake. I went to the kitchen and opened the fridge to lean against. The icy air was worth gold. For a second, my body cooled down and even shivered. I reluctantly return to the room and it’s simply inhabitable. So, I got up at five, first time in close to three years. I went out to stroll the deserted New York City Street, but only to find the air was unbearably hot. Global climate change is definitely at work, and it’s time for us all to wake up.

Luck or Shit

A few months back, I was walking to class with one of my colleagues. As we zigzagged through the early spring trees, an early pigeon decided to move its bowels before we break our fast. I stared at my friend (henceforth referred to as Pr) with a decent size pigeon shit sliding down her glasses. I couldn’t help but laughed at the pigeon’s precision and Pr’s good luck. However, with a convincing smile, she explained to me the cultural interpretations of encountering animal dung. In summary, shit is luck and she accepted my congratulations.

A few weeks back, as I was enjoying a sunny evening in the Union Square Park, I dozed off while reading a novel. I woke up with a pigeon shit sitting on my favorite shirt. My girlfriend laughed at my misfortune and comforted me with a similar pigeon-shit-interpretation. “It’s good luck.” She explained. Her interpretation echoed those of my colleague’s few months back and I acquiesced with their explanations. Yea, luck just hit me.

Today, with the scorching heat-island temperature, my head was spinning and as I leaned back on the walls of a tall building near Time Square, a warm drop landed on my bare neck followed by another gentle press on the top of my head. Whatever it was, it wasn’t heavy enough to press my hairs down to reach the scalp. I inspected the ambient environment and the result reads: it’s not raining; no air-condition anywhere to be seen. What else may those drops possibly be? Luck or shit?

Signs of A Rainy Day (For Meng)

Countless rain drops slide down on an otherwise lightly dust-coated window screen.
As each drop proceeds, one pushes into another, and thus creating bigger drops, whose reaction to the law of gravity enhances, as more drops merge, a pearl shaped drop dashingly concludes the journey with a sudden progression. Yes, it has been raining. Countless drops of water pearls actively skating on the window screen, and they are signs of a rainy day.

Ponds of pulsing water bodies excited upon receiving every additional rain drop and thus claiming a larger ground with the hope to unite with its adjacent ponds, and thus giving birth to an even bigger water-body and demoing the basic law of water body formation. As the saying has it “little drops of water make the mighty ocean”. Oh, yes, it has been raining, every body of water that veins the vast land, carries every sailing boat is a de facto sign of a rainy day.

By Tupgon (March 6th, on a rainy day)

As a member of the BCEP community

This is my last semester at Bard Center for Environmental Policy (BCEP) at Bard College. Instead of letting my near-graduation-anxieties dominate my remaining time here at BCEP. I decided to look back and to share with you some of my experiences as a member of the BCEP community.

Upon completing my undergraduate studies at Duke University in 2009, I–like so many others-was excited to finally take the long-waited step to go off-campus and begin making a positive change in the world-at-large. However, when reality sets in, when it’s time to shoulder the promises and to try to materialize the ambitions we so often extol in our personal statement and job cover letters, your graduation excitement subsides, and you find yourself asking “But how?” It’s one thing to decide, “I want to save the world, to cool down global warming, to patch up the black hole, to steer a whole city away from a catastrophic hurricane and to reinstall all the retreating glaciers”. Even after this dedication to an ideal of service, the question remains, “how does one go about doing all these great things”? In the absence of a concrete answer of my own, not knowing exactly how I was going to bring about my dream of preserving and promoting the environment and its biodiversity in Tibet, I decided to pursue further education.

My academic enrichment at Duke led me to understand that I need to further my education to better equip myself with skills for a lifetime of service: To people around the world in need of comprehensive advocacy, to the fast vanishing Tibetan culture and environment desperately in need of preservation, and to our planet in a time of unprecedented threats of human-induced climate change.

At BCEP, my academic works have included but were not limited to investigation of various human-induced environmental problems, exploration of cost efficient solutions, digitization of geographic information, statistical analysis of legal means to regulate environmentally destructive practices and promotion of comprehensive legislations to reduce planet-warming pollution emissions.

I also undertook a literature review on Integrated Conservation and Development Projects (ICDPs) that aims to reconcile biodiversity conservation and socio-economic development interest of multiple stakeholders in areas of significant biodiversity value at local regional, national and international level. I was involved in a Carbon Alleviation Project, which aims to replace fossil fuel powered heating and cooling systems at Bard College with Solar thermal system. Currently, I am working on my master’s thesis, which evaluates Chinese Governmental effects on grassland degradation in Tibet. More specifically, I look at the role that plateau-burrowing mammals, such as plateau pikas and zokors, play in the plateau ecosystem. I analyze the efficiency of grassland enclosure and nomads sedentarization under the umbrella Chinese ecological construction program, tuimu huancao (retire pastureland, return grassland) policy. The learning experience doesn’t stop there. In the program, we get to know each other well and have the opportunity to interact with faculty members on a regular basis.

Of course, there’s more to life at BCEP than academics. Bonfire right by Hudson River, Intramural Basketball and Soccer, and Hiking trips to some of the most beautiful wilderness areas in the Hudson Valley are only a few of the many fun things we engage in here at BCEP. More importantly, with every group project you work on, every basketball game you play, every dinner party you attend, you weave another thread in a social network that stretches to many corners of the world.

Within a few months, I will be taking yet another step to go off-campus and to join the real world work force, and I hope that it will somehow be able to compare, in excitement and enrichment, to my experience at BCEP.

By Chad Tupgon
02/10/11

The So-Called American Dream

I often see folks dozing off on the train, sweating over some tedious physical motions, and feeding on cheap take out junk food. Then I wonder, what is the so called American dream. I often see people file into tiny offices at dawn, labor throughout the day and crawl out at dusk to headed back to what is labeled as “home” – some shared cheap apartments filled with hot summer air. Then I wonder, where is the so called American dream.I often hear people complaining about the amount of work they have due, the number of bills they have to cover and how expensive it is to do pretty much anything. Then I wonder, where is the so called American dream. An elderly lady struggles to drag her luggage up the stairways, I offer to help her, but she gets alarmed and with much force pulls the suitcase towards her with a concise, “I am fine”. In my head, I answered “no, you are not. You are struggling, so why don’t you let someone to give you a hand”, but in real life, I just simply walked away with a no so obvious shrug. This is American mentality – be alarmed about any interaction with strangers. Even small kids are like that, let alone an elderly. So, I wonder, how personal American dream must be. A black guy machinegun-ed a chain of curse words at a basket ball game and ball-hog-ged throughout the whole game. Still, raps some dirty complains about the loss, I reasoned to take it easy, but he pretend to be enraged on racial difference, what the Americans call “racist view”, I simply deny: “call whatever you want, even “colorist”, because I don’t know how to be racist and you can’t accuse me of being something that I am not even aware of”. Yea, that Americans’ chronic hyper-color-sis, do not have a cure yet. So, I wonder, how “colorless” the American dream must be.

For Once, For A While, We Had It.

For once, for a while, we had it. We had what we often read in romantic novels. We shared one washbasin to wash our feet and dry each other’s feet. I know it may be bit unfair, because men’s feet tend to be bigger than women’s and thus more work for you to wipe off the water from my feet than I do with yours. But, we had it and we enjoyed it for a while. It’s fortunate, at the same time unfortunate to experience such short-lived romance. It’s fortunate, because doesn’t matter where future takes us, an invaluable memory has been lived and shall be in the record book for years ahead. At time, when life spares some free time, we can revisit these memories and relish its sincerity and genuine affection, a reason for being. At the same time, it’s somewhat unfortunate, not only for the obvious reason that it has prematurely been brought to an end, but also for the fact, we know it exists, because once, regardless of how short it may have been,
we’ve lived it. So, it’s hard to live with such a phantom.

For once, for a while, we had it. We had what every human being longs for. We belonged to each other and we were more to each other than anyone can ever imagine. We breathed each other’s present. In the absence of one another, we felt the world being incomplete. Without each other, time seems to be forever and life seems to be stagnant. Having each other meant what we lived for. We were home to each other. Knowing we were there for each other, we feared nothing, we lived through difficult time and enjoyed from our successes. Having each other meant the world being at a smaller scale, at a manageable scale, and we are the protagonist in each other’s life and loneliness could never seep into our lives.

For once, for a while, we had it. We had what would make our lives happy and content. We planned a world where you attend the flower and I would make the bread. We had mentally designed a world where we were the king and the queen. Upon stepping into the room, we could do whatever we wanted: kick the shoes aside and simply being lazy; sip on a glass of red wine, while watching the sun goes down; hold each other while we drift off to sleep and share the dream together; paint the wall in whatever color we wanted it to be and should we decide to invite a new shade of color, both put on the uniforms and be the designer.

For once, for a while, we had it. We had what every couple marries for. We had each other’s genuine accompany. We walk through every avenue, dined at every restaurant, and listened to every song together, because if there was something nice, we wanted it for the other.

For once, for a while, we had it. Hand in hand, we strolled the evening campus together knowing that we meant more to each other than the usual college hookups. When fall chilled into winter, you used to stick your ice cold hands up under my shirt and to place it on my immediate flesh. For a second, my whole body shivered, but heartbeats remained the same, because it was where you belong. When spring blossomed into summer and the sun became more than we could bear, we sucked on the same ice cream cone, and fought for the remaining crust. No sense of disgust, because we were two bodies of the same soul, two petals of the same stem, two beats of the same heart.

Thupgon (summer, 2010)
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