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Ecology,Holiday,Wine,Wine Business

Chinese New Year: Year of the Ox

新年好 ~ Happy New Year to all of my Chinese friends!

Today, January 26, 2009, is the Chinese New Year’s Year of the Ox.

This Spring Festival is a also known as the Lunar New Year by people outside of China. In today’s blog posting, I’d like to send out a few word of inclusion from the American wine world to the emerging Chinese one. It’s fascinating to me that the second largest recorded world demographic of readers for this blog is from China. That may be influenced by Weiguo Kong, a Chinese wine blogger who used to aggregate this blog onto his Chinese blog sites, but currently only links. I believe that he set the stage for my having a Chinese audience. I deeply respect that aspect of the Internet, and know that this has given a special voice to me, one that allows for me talk directly to those in China who are the influencers. China’s interest in wine is growing rapidly, and so with a bit of luck these key people will have a voice in shaping their future world of wine.

To those of you who have a passion for wine, my Chinese New Year’s wish to you is… 您創造酒您的世界,請考慮環境 (TRANSLATION: As you create your world of wine, please consider the environment.)

I mention this, because I’m a product of being born in Lewiston, Maine, a community that was created as a result of America’s Industrial Revolution. Factories built the town, and it was also factories that again changed the landscape of that community, when they shut down and moved to China.

[I have a family member who was one of the first American executives to be given the job of  going to China to set up the factory. He never said why he quit so early on in the process, but I can only imagine – knowing what we now know – what put him quickly over the edge.]

Why was there a move to china?

In the 1960s, with the advent of the Counter Culture’s demands for a cleaner, healthier environment, factory owners – who had not only had enough of labor union demands for greater salaries for their workers, but also were fed up with the new regulations for cleaner air – were forced to consider their option. In their decision making process, that became world options, versus just moving from one state to another.

I clearly remember (if indeed it was “clear,” from the smoke being thrown into our air) the smoke stacks spewing their chemical pollutants into the air, as I’d walk to and from school. Big clouds of grayish, white  smoke pushed upward into the air, forming its own cloud systems. As a child born into the town, I had no understanding that that wasn’t a good thing; however, once the ecology movement began, what I could see before quickly become revealed with the names of those chemical pollutants. These factories were dirtying the atmosphere; not just the air that the citizens of Lewiston, Maine were breathing, but also the air of the world as it rotated on its axis.

In our short sightedness for cleaner air, everyone became a nimby (Not In My Back Yard). If not in my back yard, then what was the alternative? Third world countries became the answer for these factory owners, far away from labor unions and governmental regulatory agencies that had set up the following for American workers:

  • Children protected from being exploited. (My grandfather told me that he used to walk seven miles to work each day, then he’d walk home again at night after a 10-hour work day. This began when he was only eight years old. As a result, he only had a third grade education; however, he went on to own his own real estate agency, and gave us a summer home on Sabattus Lake, a place where my brother is still residing on that beautiful waterfront.)
  • A reasonable workweek program of 40 hours a week.
  • Over-time program, so that if workers did want to work over 40 hours, they made much more money in the process.
  • Holidays to be part of a paid program, rewarding workers for their loyalty and hard work.
  • Two weeks of paid vacation each year. (The factories would completely shut down for two weeks during the 4th of July holiday period. Everyone went off to Old Orchard beach and played in the Atlantic Ocean, on the boardwalk, and built sandcastles.)
  • The government set up standards of control, that regulated how much pollution could safely (?) be put into air. (This put shoe and fabric manufacturer owners over the edge; one factory after the other began to shut down. Those whose families had worked within their brink walls, now had to move or reinvent themselves. It was a mess that’s still going on today in other cities throughout the US, like Detroit.)
  • Medical benefits for their workers. (What a concept!)

These are the things that you’re currently missing, my dear Chinese friends. This is what the world business owners are  doing to you, as you walk into your new year.

I was inspired to write to you, when I watched CBS’s 60 Minutes program called, Following The Trail Of Toxic E-Waste.

It now occurs to me that this post will most likely be censored once published. Perhaps it will make its way through to a few people before it’s shut down, though. I’ll be able to check on Weiguo’s blog to see if it’s been pulled from his blog roll listing, and let you know, once I know.

According to that program, US electronics are being dumped in China (being referred to as E-waste), from computers and other electronic equipment coming from who else?… The United States of America. Our garbage, instead of being managed as a new business for dealing with the hazardous waste in this country – where it’s created, is simply being shipped on large barges to China. The E-waste contains Carcinogenic known toxins, including lead, cadmium, chromium, Poly(vinyl chloride), according to Alan Harshkowitz, Senior Scientist at Natural Council Resources Defense Council. This is the fastest growing component of a municipal waste stream in the world.

Please, Chinese government, consider your corporate and social responsibility and sustainability… The sooner you realize that not allowing for this activity, the sooner it will not only be better for your citizens, but it will also be safer for the sake of the world and the children that are to follow. It’s possible, if you want to manage this waste, to have the companies sending it to you to build the kind of facility that will turn hazardous waste into one that can safely be stored. Once no one will accept this waste, the sooner the US businesses will be born in order to deal with it, in ways that will benefit all of humanity.

MANTRA: Where there is a problem, this is also a solution, we just have to make the effort to find it.

For anyone displaced by the current economic conditions, here’s your new path, if you have the passion, are intuitive enough to follow your heart, and innovate enough to figure out how to get there.

Wuhan, China: Red lanterns closeup
Image by Fozza via Flickr

So, back to your vineyards and wine being produced by your vines in China… It is the same consideration for the environment that crosses all borders and boundaries. Consider the world image above. It is a small globe from space, and shows that we’re all one people, living on one sphere. We’re all interconnected on a fragile planet. The sooner we all realize that we must respect Mother Nature, the longer our children’s children and their children will have to enjoy this world, and the wines created for a more civilized society.

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2 Responses to “Chinese New Year: Year of the Ox”

  1. Weiguokong says:

    A great post! Happy chinese new year to you!

  2. Jo says:

    Thanks, Weiguo,

    I was really impressed that your link to this blog wasn’t censored on your Website by your government, given the nature of the post.

    The older I get, the smaller the world seems to be. What seemed infinitesimal as a child is now just a dot, as an adult. What is dirty in my neighborhood, only has a spin of the earth to become dirty in yours, in half a day’s time.

    People really do have to care a bit more than they do. We are what we consume and what we leave behind to fertilize or to destroy.

    May the Year of the Ox bring more social consciousness.

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