As I surmised here first Tuesday, the death toll in Burma from Cyclone Nargis is now confirmed likely to reach 100,000, and famine and disease will afflict many of the survivors in the Irrawaddy Delta region. Aid can be sent here.
There has been a populist uprising today among truckers about gas prices. They’ve banded together at 20 mph three-abreast on Interstates to slow traffic to a halt, in protest of record prices.
They want the government to intervene, as they pay $1,000 per fill up and can’t make a living anymore.
Locations for this sort of modern day Shays’ Rebellion (crica 1780s), included the New Jersey Turnpike and Peoria, Illinois. (Though Shays, protesting agrarian debt in Massachusetts and the Connecticut Valley, didn’t want the government to intervene.)
Will it play?
Photo: “Truck driver David Santiago, of Valrico, Fla., speaks to the media
after about 50 independent truck drivers parked their rigs Tuesday
morning, April 1, 2008 in Tampa, Fla., in protest of rising diesel fuel
prices.” —AP/Jeffrey Gold/Chris O’Meara
I later learned who was responsible for the candle shrines I described in my previous blog on Wednesday (“Korean Cites Tour: Changwon”).
Both nights I stayed in Busan, there were candles in small sand pits and candle-lanterns placed as shrines in the rocks next to the breaking waves outside my hotel window, on Korea’s rocky Pacific Coast.
The second night, I came across some women who placed the candles there and witnessed their ceremony offering blessings to the gods/ goddesses of the sea (see photo). Now in their fifties, sixties and seventies, these are the last of Korea’s famed shellfish divers preparing for their sunrise dive the next morning.
Using no air tank and risking the elements whenever weather permits, the country has about 5,000 of these brave spirits left, with 3,000 of them on the southern island of Cheju Do, and the other 2,000 on the nation’s mainland.
The beachside shamanic candle shrines that have been lit in the night for the sea gods are burning down outside my window. It’s nearing time for the dawn shouting ceremony in the seaside conifer forest that has been preserved next to my hotel.
Maybe I will partake this morning.
Yesterday we visted Changwon, which wants to make itself the world’s leading “Eco-City.” Based in the south-central of South Korea, Changwon is a planned city of 500,000 modeled after Canberra, Australia. Changwon is home to manufacturing facilities or corporate headquarters of Doosan, Samsung and LG Electronics.
The city held a workshop with about 200 public officials and citizens called “International Strategic Workshop for Creating Environmental Capital Changwon” in which I and three others presented. The others were a Finnish Program Officer from UN Environment Program in Bangkok, the leader of the Learning and Ecological Activities Foundation for Children in Nishinomiya, Japan; and a “social designer” from The Hope Institute in Seoul.
Public officials, including Mayor Wan Su Park spoke, and decried how they need more citizen involvement to succeed in greening the city. Some goals they have are increased public transit (traffic is quite congested as many commute to the city from Busan and other cities), and bicycle ridership (over a glass of sweet persimmon wine the Mayor told me he rides to his office every day and requires other city workers to ride 3 times a week), as well as more innovative approaches to industrial ecology and water management.
Korea is feeling the pain of decreased snowpack runoff, many have told me, with warmer winters limiting the snow season partiallly and even entirely in some mountainous areas. Winter clothing is no longer necessary. Rivers I have seen were close to being dry, and Changwon imports its water from a distant river source.
I’ve been invited to return to work with the ultra-professional city officials (Mayor Park is a PhD in public administration) and its citizens. I look forward to having Common Current bring the city closer to its goal–with a developed landscape that appeared undistiguished from other areas of Korea I have seen, save for a miles long greenspace of “play parks” running along the freeway and main access road into the city, there appears to be unlimited opportunities for innovation.
Though I rather doubt Changwon will be building the Mongolian yurts for housing that the UN official showed us in her presentation from Ulan Bator.
In Busan, I lectured to students and professors in the urban design and architecture school at Dong-a University, and we then lunched at a traditonal Korean style restaurant on floor pillows. I was shown plans for a park one of the professors, Seung-Hwan Kim, has been pushing for in Busan for more than ten years. The lack of public open space is beginning to become a major issues in cities like Busan, where each citizen only has about 1.5 square meters versus the national standard of 6 square meters per person.
First light on my last full day in Korea: aaaaaiiiieeeeeeee!
Photo credit: ranna
Sunday, I leave on a tour of Korea sponsored by the US Department of State’s Economics, Trade and Global Issues office, to lead discussions and presentations on measuring and developing Green Cities.
It will be my first trip to Korea, and my packed schedule includes meeting and lecturing with officials from the United Nations, national government, including the Environmental Minister, mayors and other officials in four cities (Seoul, Busan, Seungnam and Changwon, “The Environmental Hub of Asia”), the Korean Land Corporation, The Korea Energy Research Institute, and professors and researchers from numerous Korean universities, including the pre-eminent Seoul National Unviersity.
Non-profits and non-governmental groups I’ll have discussions with include the Korea Green Foundation, the Green Women Federation, Green Transport and the Eco Plan Research Center.
Looks like there’s much interest in greening new development and greening existing cities in Korea. We’ll see next week how much of that interest translates into tangible progress.
I also am meeting with Cisco officials on their “Connected Urban Development” initiative, which provides PDAs with transport information in Seoul, as well as communications tools for plit projects in Amsterdam and San Francisco.
More to come while in Korea, or upon my return next Saturday.