June 5, 2007

Us and Them

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I’ve been living in an all-Chinese apartment complex in a very non-touristy neighborhood of Beijing for a week now (I have yet to see a foreigner within a 4-kilometer radius). My most significant observation to date has been that for a city with among the most significant environmental issues in the world, Beijing’s inhabitants are extremely efficient in their individual resource use.

Part of that is due to the economic and demographic situation here — there’s simply no room to own an S.U.V., if one even has the funds — and so the buses, subway, and taxis are used to their optimum capacity (or depending on the size of your personal bubble, perhaps even beyond that!). Just as significantly, the value that the Chinese place on food after generations of scarcity yields a society that uses every edible item to its fullest extent. Ironically, the result is perhaps the most innovative, diverse, and delectable cuisines in the world. Perhaps Cornellians can learn something from this mindful lifestyle…