Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

We CAN Change and We MUST implores June Speaker


During the past two years, President Trump has rolled back environmental regulations, pulled the United States out of the Paris climate accord, and turned “global warming” into a punch line. “Wouldn’t be bad to have a little of that good old-fashioned Global Warming right now!” he posted on Twitter in January when a snowstorm was freezing much of the country.’ His thesis is that Climate Change is a hoax created by the Chinese to adversely affect U.S. Manufacturing.

Really?

Not so, explained Wei-Tai Kwok, a member of former Vice President Al Gore’s Climate Reality Project, when he spoke to our group in June. —“Increasing levels of heat-trapping gases, such as CO2, methane, and nitrous oxide, are causing global average temperatures to rise. And China and America are the world’s worst carbon-dioxide polluters, accounting for over 40% of total annual global emissions.”

MUST WE CHANGE?

Mr. Kwok initially had nothing to do with climate science.  He had his own successful advertising company and thought nothing of the climate, other than was the weather nice enough to take his two young children to the park.  Then one weekend in 2006, his wife suggested they go see a new movie: An Inconvenient Truth.   The Oscar-and Nobel-Peace-Prize winning documentary, narrated by Al Gore, detailed the science behind Climate Change. Mr. Kwok was so moved by what he learned that he found it difficult to concentrate at work. Every day that he wasn’t doing something to help the environment was  a day he felt he was part of the problem, rather than the solution  So, after a year of struggling with this moral challenge, he decided to make a major change in his life. He sold his business, got a job working for the solar panel company SunTech Power, and became a member of the Climate Reality Project. This project, funded initially by Al Gore with proceeds from the movie and subsequent book, aims to educate people around the world about climate issues, and turn this awareness into action. Today the group consists of more than 20,000 scientists, cultural leaders, activists, and concerned citizens like Mr. Kwok, committed to building a sustainable future together.

One of the first things Mr. Kwok pointed out is that 18 of the 19 hottest years ever recorded by weather instruments have taken place since 2001, with the five hottest years being the last five years. Last summer, South Korea and Algeria set new records for the hottest days in their countries, with temperatures soaring to 103F and 124F, respectively. That same month, the temperatures were so hot in Berkshire, England, that the asphalt melted, trapping vehicles. In Shandong, China, it was so hot that a boy was actually able to cook an egg on a manhole cover. More seriously, however, thousands of people were taken to hospital, hundreds died due to global heat waves. “Every day, we spew 110 million tons of global-warming pollution into the atmosphere,” said Kwok.  This pollution comes from various sources: The dislodging of CO2 from soils, the burning of forests without an emphasis on sustainability, mining operations which rely on fossil fuels, the thawing of the permafrost in the arctic which dislodges both CO2 and methane. “But the main source of the global warming pollution, by far,” said Mr. Kwok, “Is our use of fossil fuels--oil, coal, and gas.”

Not only do the pollutants increase air temperature, but also rainfall. Mr. Kwok pointed out the science: warmer air holds more water vapor. As a result, we see more rainy days and more intense rain.  “In the US, extreme downpours are now happening 30 percent more often (every nine months rather than every 12 months) than in 1948. These downpours are also 10 percent more intense on average, nationwide.”

In fact, weather disasters have become more common and more intense.  In March, a bomb cyclone hit, causing massive flooding in the Midwest, a blizzard in Colorado and Wyoming, and produced winds up to 110mph. Just last month over 200 tornadoes touched down in the Midwest in just 13 days.  On Father’s day, 4 tornadoes touched down in Dallas.  Double the typical rainfall for June in the UK triggered flooding.  The list goes on and on.  According to data Mr. Kwok showed us put together by insurance agencies, in the 1980s there were  200 weather disasters per year. Today, there are more than 800.

Finally, Mr. Kwok spoke about ways the climate affects us—other than slowing our commute or messing up travel plans.  “Changes in the climate,” he said, “Affect our health.  Vector-borne diseases (think Zika Ebola, SARS, West Nile), heat stress, air pollution, and waterborne diseases are all influenced by a changing climate.”

CAN WE CHANGE?

Mr. Kwok believes we can change, and that China and America (who have the heaviest carbon footprints) must take the lead. He, for one, traded in his gas-powered car for electric, put solar panels on his house, and is taking steps towards becoming a vegetarian.  He also regularly contacts his elected representatives to keep them focused on climate issues. 

One of our audience members applauded Mr. Kwok’s effort to not eat meat, mentioning the devastating effects meat production has on the environment.  Producing meat uses enormous amounts of resources like land, crops, water, and energy while producing a colossal amount of carbon-dioxide –equivalent gases. Meatlless Monday is a worldwide campaign to get people to reduce meat consumption by 15%.

For those who cannot put up solar panels, Mr. Kwok explained that all of the new competitive electricity carriers in the Bay Area (PG&E, Silicon Valley Clean Energy, Peninsula Clean Energy) offer service plans with a 100% clean-energy option. For just a few dollars more each month, you can opt to get your electricity from sources like solar and wind.

So, while Mr. Kwok suggested keeping in touch with elected government officials, he emphasized the most important change maker is YOU.  Thirteen years ago when he saw An Inconvenient Truth, he was devastated. He was sure that his own children and grandchildren would witness only further destruction. Today, he is hopeful.  Hopeful that we can learn what it is we are doing wrong and find ways to change.  All it takes is our willingness to make change. One person at a time.

If you’re interested in getting trained like Mr. Kwok, look up the next session on the website: https://climaterealityproject.org/training 

If  you're interested in exploring US-China People to People collaborative projects on Climate Change, contact Dr. Billy Lee: williamslee@gmail.com.
-->



Sunday, May 5, 2019


Golden Spike 150 in a California Classroom

By Winny Lin
Co-chair of South Bay Chapter

Two years ago, our South Bay Chapter heard Dr. Shelley Fisher Fishkin speak about her Stanford project: the lives and work of the thousands of Chinese laborers who provided the muscle that built the transcontinental railroad. This group of Chinese has been virtually ignored in American history. (It is with great pleasure that I noted NY Representative Grace Meng’s recent congressional resolution proposal to recognize the Chinese railroad workers and their important contribution to the growth of the United States.)

Recently during my spring break, my husband Kenny and I visited the California State Railroad Museum in Sacramento and became even more enthralled by the fascinating story of an engineering marvel that changed America.  Then I happened to pick up a book from its gift shop, Ten Mile Day written and illustrated by Mary Ann Fraser.  It examines in detail the very lives of the Chinese workers who made the feat possible and  completed the final stretch of track of 10 miles in one day.  Sadly no Chinese were invited in the Gold Spike ceremony on May 10, 1969. 

Together these resources created in me a strong desire to find a way to share my newly acquired knowledge and enthusiasm with others.  The coming of the 150th anniversary and celebration on May 10 at Golden Spike National Historical Park, Utah made it even more compelling. I never really thought about going to Utah for the celebration, but perhaps I could find another way to participate.

Out of the blue came the perfect opportunity.  A very good teacher friend, Mrs. Virginia Alexanian, asked me to be her guest teacher on April 30. What could be better than this: to share a piece of important history with some young minds? Her fourth grade class has 30-plus talented and challenging students, but I have established a good relationship with them earlier this school year. They would be my captured audience! 

Thankfully Mrs. Alexanian agreed that a day devoted to the transcontinental railroad especially studying the Central Pacific built mainly by Chinese laborers would be very suitable. Besides California history is in their 4th grade core content. 

I selected four real-life individuals who could speak about the 6-year effort to build the railroad.  Each one would be portrayed by a student with a monologue:

Theodore Judah:
I am one of the finest railroad engineers of my days. For years I have been trying to tell anyone who would listen that a transcontinental railroad was possible given the necessary time, treasure and energy. The project would link East to West and unify the country.  
I made 23 trips through the Sierra Nevadas searching for an appropriate path for the railroad and I finally figured out the route. 

Leland Stanford
I am one of the Big Four that invested in building the railroad and the 8th Governor of California. I am also the one who drove the Golden Spike to join the rails connecting the Central Pacific and the Union Pacific railroads on May 10, 1869, at Promontory Summit, Utah Territory.  
With the money I made  and the land that I gained from building the railroad, I founded Stanford University.
(He considered Chinese as an inferior race in his governor’s inaugural address, but ironically at Stanford University nowadays there is a large number of Chinese descendants among the student population.)

Charles Crocker
I am also one of the Big Four that invested in building the railroad. When others did not believe Chinese could handle the job, I said, “Did they not build the Chinese wall, the biggest piece of masonry in the world?” Central Pacific hired 12,000-15,000 Chinese and we successfully beat the Union Pacific in the 10-mile race.

(I also wanted a female representative so I picked Hannah Strobridge).

Hannah Strobridge
My husband and I are the only ones to have an office and house on the train and I saw the project from the start to finish.  I even have a canary cage swinging on our front porch.


As the story was unraveled, the students became very excited from the dramatization and reenactment when Leland Stanford character drove in the golden spike(I brought a hammer and a 2-in long golden screw as props.) When they finally got to use their Chromebook to look for images and more details to create their own version of the story on their one-page graphic organizer. Several of their artwork,  thought processes, and reflections were quite amazing!

One girl looked on the internet and started copying some Chinese characters. At first, I didn’t get the association of that and our topic “Transcontinental Railroad”. Later, when she finished, I clearly saw that she had put the Chinese characters love, faith, happiness, in a column to describe the Chinese laborers.  How appropriate!

I also gave them index cards if they wanted design a souvenir for the celebration.  One student drew a mug and another designed a locket with a golden spike in the middle. 


I feel very blessed to have shared some of the excitement and history with Mrs. Alexanian’s class!  They learned about the key players, the route over the mountains, and how Chinese were mistreated and put in danger! One of the outcomes might be a better understanding of the phrase “Justice for all!” when they say the Pledge of Allegiance each morning!