Nanpu Suspension Bridge "I t's like magic," Samuel Dabinett tells me as we sip cocktails in the 87th-floor lobby (yes, the lobby is on the 87th floor) of his extremely swank skyscraper hotel. "I live on the other side of the water down a small lane that completely feels like it's France." dabinett, a manager at the landmark Park hyatt shanghai, resides in the treelined French Concession an area that was once the centre of shanghai's criminal and revolutionary underworld, but now, thanks to its gardens, fields and public spaces, is probably the greenest and healthiest part of the city to live in. and, yet up here, as I peer out over the city from the hyatt's panoramic windows, I see something that looks decidedly less rosy: smog. a suffocatingly heavy smoke hangs above the city, diffusing the sun's light and effectively obviating all visibility. It's hard to imagine anything further from France. over the past decade, China's largest metropolis has industrialised like no other, overtaking singapore as the world's busiest container port to become the new asian boomtown. The city was long a byword for pleasure-mad, cosmopolitan extravagance thanks to its gambling centres, gang-run brothels and opium dens. but these days, the excesses of the Jazz age in shanghai have led to an excess of the post-nuclear era: pollution. Which made shanghai an apropos choice to hold China's first World expo last year. OvER-ThE-TOP ExPO With the aim of making it the only show in town for six months, the Chinese government invested some 30 billion euros in the expo project nearly double the amount dished out on the 2008 beijing olympics. Two square miles of downtown riverside property were razed; 18,000 families were relocated; 270 factories were moved; 6,000 new hotels rooms were built; new metro lines, new roads, new parks and a new international airport terminal was built; and 189 countries were invited to join in the party. and it worked: by the time expo closed last october, more than 73 million people had walked through the gates. While the olympics aimed to bring China to the global stage, the over-the-top expo was intended to bring the global stage to China. but this colossal PR stunt touting China's modern successes was about more than just engendering patriotic pride in the tradition of grandiose immediately and the number of air particusocialist nationalist projects. expo had a late matter more than doubled from the day message. With the tag line "better City, better Life," expo sought to re-examine the prior. on May 4th of this year, the number of pollutants reached "hazardous" levels. relationship between person, city and The air quality here is so severe here that planet, tackling urban development challenges such as population explosion, traffic shanghai's bureau of environment statistics has turned to measuring pollution with congestion, environmental pollution and comparisons to cigaresource shortages. rette brands, indexing The message was that a NUMBER Of STUdIES levels that include urban citizens need to "silk Cut" and "Marlbecome aware of their havE ShOWN ThaT ThE boro Lights." and urban ecology, proChINESE aRE INTERESTEd pollution is just one of moting the use of the many problems renewable energy IN BEING GREEN. the city faces. a sources and striving recent United nations to build low-carbon environment Programme (UneP) report eco-cities that encourage and support expressed strong concerns over shanghai's sustainable lifestyles. noble enough. high level of dependency on coal for elecbut did the message translate? and, tricity, safe disposal of waste and lack of more importantly, does shanghai given its exponential growth and maniacal levels safe drinking water. of industrialisation have any chance of SUSTaINaBLE ChaLLENGES ever going green? To learn more about how easy it ain't at the moment, the obstacles to such an being green in China, I sit down for breakenlightented future are daunting. a study fast with 25-year-old american-born by the shanghai Family Planning Research Institute found that pollution in the city has Victoria Hajjar, marketing manager for URbn, one of shanghai's most successful effected a dramatic rise in male infertility, small hotels and China's first real sustainwith sperm counts dropping some 12 per able brand. "Many big brands in China cent since 1987. once expo was over, don't think that sustainability will sell," compulsory measures to reduce air polluhajjar tells me, "but a number of studies tion that included halting work on conhave shown that the Chinese are interstruction sites and curtailing production in ested in being green because they see this factories to reduce dust also ended. during as their environment. once the bigger almost all of expo, shanghai's level of brands such as Coke and nike start marairborne pollutants maintained a "Good" keting greenness as a positive trait, it will rating. but on november 1st, the day after really take off." expo closed, the skies hazed up almost SEPTEMBER 2011 BLUE WINGS 29 ENG
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