25 August 2007

So Many Problems

The NYTimes front page article today:

"No country in history has emerged as a major industrial power without creating a legacy of environmental damage that can take decades and big dollops of public wealth to undo.
Choking on Growth

But just as the speed and scale of China’s rise as an economic power have no clear parallel in history, so its pollution problem has shattered all precedents. Environmental degradation is now so severe, with such stark domestic and international repercussions, that pollution poses not only a major long-term burden on the Chinese public but also an acute political challenge to the ruling Communist Party. And it is not clear that China can rein in its own economic juggernaut.

Public health is reeling. Pollution has made cancer China’s leading cause of death, the Ministry of Health says. Ambient air pollution alone is blamed for hundreds of thousands of deaths each year. Nearly 500 million people lack access to safe drinking water.

Chinese cities often seem wrapped in a toxic gray shroud. Only 1 percent of the country’s 560 million city dwellers breathe air considered safe by the European Union. Beijing is frantically searching for a magic formula, a meteorological deus ex machina, to clear its skies for the 2008 Olympics..."

I love the place, but I always thought that if I spent more than a year there, I would get cancer. Looks like this fear wasn't ungrounded.

Watching China from afar is like watching a teenager plunge through puberty, growing taller and faster and learning how to produce things on a large scale with the labor force of all of the cells in his body (if you can call it that)... except that this teenager is growing so fast that he hasn't yet learned how to move his limbs without breaking things. And in the meantime, his body is polluted with junk food, acne raging, immune system collapsing.

We watch it with a rush of desire to help (after all, we've been through it too) and a feeling of mixed repulsion and fear. I don't quite know how to put it, but everything going on there makes me feel awe, and a lot of fear.

24 August 2007

Waiting to graduate

A short while ago, I was apprehensive at best about graduating soon. Now, I think I've more or less gotten over my apprehension. I do love college--I know I won't find such an odd combination of ambition, collective intellect, and complete irresponsibility anywhere else. But I think I'm ready to go someplace new (and being here again reminds me that I can't wait to be able to sleep without people screaming in the hall). I can't wait to begin traveling, and I wouldn't even mind working for the most part of my "year-off." Even better is the idea that my good friend recently planted in my head: I might have the option of working for half a year while I get my applications and interviews over with, and then spending the latter half of the year in Nepal on a teaching fellowship. Or anywhere in the world, really! Oh, that would be amazing.

20 August 2007

China in Africa... who's benefitting?

"Keegan Chibuye said he had concerns about the way the Chinese managers were running the mine almost from the beginning.

“They were careless,” he said. “Safety was not their priority. Everything was about productivity no matter what.”

On April 20, 2005, Keegan Chibuye heard an ear-splitting boom that would shatter his world — a huge blast at the explosives factory.

There was almost nothing left of Vennie and Mwape left to bury. Virtually all the bodies had been incinerated. Only fragments were buried just off the main road at the graveyard built by the Chinese owners — a finger, an ear, a bit of scalp. As the 46 headstones testify, most of the workers were young, born after 1980.

Officials of the company that runs the mine did not respond to repeated telephone requests for an interview to talk about working conditions and safety at the mine. But at the Chinese workers’ compound in Chambishi, Han Yaping, who identified himself as the company’s human resources manager, said that the company hoped to help Zambia develop."

17 August 2007

End of Summer Thoughts

The test is over. Trying not to turn into a paranoid pre-med (although I might be already, as much as I try to deny it) and stay away from the forums about the test, but somehow I'm drawn to what other people are saying about it. It seems like everyone--at least, the people who go through the trouble to post online--feels more or less the same way about it. It was such a strange test, but, having no other experience, I can't ask for better or worse. Just crossing my fingers that when the scores come in September, I won't be devastated.

But onto the new and the exciting. Back to school in a week, and finding it difficult, in some ways, and yet am so very grateful, that it's actually the last year! I'm starting independent study in the fall, and haven't gotten around to reading the articles or doing the research I should be doing. It should be exciting, though. Speaking of things I should be doing, I should also be keeping an eye out for job opportunities for my year after graduation. What oh what am I going to do? I'd best not end up unemployed and living at home--because that would be a great thing to explain to an admissions officer.

I've been reading loads of books this summer--numbering around twenty or so--in an attempt to get my mind off MCAT and escape to the mini pleasures of the mini worlds I've created in my head. It's been a wonderful time, as I've been reading things from old fantasy books I read when I was 10, to Dickens and Michael Pollans' The Omnivore's Dilemma. The Omnivore's Dilemma is an excellent book, that everyone who wants to be at all aware of what they eat, and how the food industry really operates, should read. Especially anyone who is fully convinced that buying "organic" is truly doing good for animals, farms, and the environment. Of course, while it may not be a perfectly harmless alternative (nothing really is), it's probably the best option.

Well, it's back to work for now, after a brief respite. As terrible as I and everyone else might make it sound, studying for the MCAT is not that taxing--provided that you aren't at school or working full-time simultaneously. I spent a great deal of time lounging around my house everyday. It felt so entirely different from being at school and slaving away in the library. So, I guess I wouldn't be wrong to say that it's been, overall, a pretty great summer.

09 August 2007

It's Coming

MCAT test day is a week from today. Now, it's not so much a question of how nervous I am, but how sick I am of studying and waiting for the day to arrive. I hope this feeling bordering on apathy that I have for the test means I am ready!