Chasing Mirages

Possibly the worst Chinese name ever, but also the most fitting

by on Dec.11, 2013, under Quickies

According to this sign placed by the government agency in charge of permitting rare earth metal extraction, the name of the person in charge of this particular mining operation is 鐘賤林.  The first character, 鐘, is zhong1 in pinyin and means “clock”.  It’s not meaningful here because it’s a surname.  The second character, however, is very rarely seen in Chinese names because of its overwhelmingly negative meaning and connotation.  (jian4) means despicable or cheap, and is often used in the epithet “賤人” which means “slut” or just a real piece of shit.  The last character, 林 (lin2), means forest.  So this guy’s name means “despicable forest”.  Fitting for a government official responsible for supervising a rare earth mine.

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Dongjiang Expedition Part 5: Rare earth hell, continued

by on Dec.01, 2013, under Posts

Ganzhou (贛州) in southern Jiangxi (江西) is known as “The Kingdom of Rare Earth“.  It is also a place where the government has tried to cut production and curb illegal mining in recent years.  A useful rule in China is that you can tell what the most pressing issues are in any locality by looking at Communist party slogans.  The one in the picture above reads (approximately) “Illegal rare earth miners are destroyers of our children’s future”.  Another one, of which I was unable to take a picture, read “Illegal rare earth mining will result in immediate torching of all excavation equipment.”

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Dongjiang Expedition Part 5: Rare earth hell

by on Nov.17, 2013, under Posts

China’s rare earth metal production is a complex issue with implications at every scale of governance, from tiny villages to international treaty organizations.  This recent NYTimes article provides a summary of the issue over the last few years.

Our journey into rare earth territory in northern Guangdong and southern Jiangxi provinces reminded me of the wild wild west I had read about as a kid – clandestine mining operations, gun battles between outlaw gangs struggling for territory and even violent clashes between artisanal miners and authorities trying to shut down illegal mines.

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Surprise! The Economist gets it wrong

by on Sep.24, 2013, under Posts

Eucalyptus monoculture "forest" in Guangxi, China

All of you capitalist pigs out there may have noticed The Economist‘s issue on biodiversity last week.  While I appreciate the attempt to present biodiversity conservation in a generally positive light to an audience that rarely prioritizes the issue, I think it is important to point out that The Economist misses its mark – by a wide margin.

Thanks to the leadership of one of my classmates (also a long-lost cousin), our grad student cohort recently submitted a collective Letter to the Editor.  I’ll let you know if that gets printed.  In the meantime, here’s my own initial, personal response.

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A curious child

by on Jun.28, 2013, under Quickies

A few baby langurs were born this year despite the instability of the family group.  This one’s about a month old.  Note that its face is not as dark as its mother’s, but also not as pale as a newborn’s would be.

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