Friday, April 27, 2007

Beijing Olympics: Making Rain, Angering Governments

I read a fascinating article today that connects to yesterday's book review of The Worst Hard Times, by Timothy Egan. During the worst years of the Dust Bowl, the drought-stricken region saw many individuals who purported to be rain makers--people who could shake the moisture from the sky. Many would collect money for their services and simply skip town. Others, like Amarillo-based Tex Thornton, would launch dynamite into the clouds hoping to explode the clouds and release their rainfall.

Apparently the Chinese are also working on how to artificially cause rain. I have previously written about China's air pollution problems, which I experienced first-hand in Beijing. One morning in Beijing, we headed out after a long night of rain, and some locals told us that we were very lucky to get to see blue sky. Well, given the high chance of rain during the Beijing Olympics next August, the Chinese hope to artificially trigger the rain early to avoid rain during competition. Moreover, they hope to cause the rain in order to clean the air.

Let's just hope they are more successful than Tex Thornton.

On a side note, the Beijing Olympics are set to be a very big deal for a variety of unusual, political reasons. In fact, the most contentious Olympic torch relay in history is already in the works. China wants to run the torch to the top of Mount Everest in Tibet as well as through Taiwan. Taiwan, which has never accepted China's stance, is livid about the plans. The run to the top of Everest has caused controversy of its own. Many around the world do not accept China's occupation of Tibet, and, after visiting Tibet, it became clear that most ethnic Tibetans do not accept the continued Chinese occupation of Tibet. The plans to run a torch up Everest has already sparked protests landing several US climbers in jail.

Beyond the political message, others oppose using Everest for a political statement. After all, the mountain is called Chomolungma by the locals, "Goddess Mother of the World," and climbers engage in a "puja ceremony" before climbing to ensure that their climb is blessed religiously. Moreover, this season the Chinese have sent a large team up the North side of Everest to test the viability of a torch placement. In the process, the team has taken extra large campsite areas with armed guards stationed to protect the gear. These "preparation" efforts destroy the sanctity of the mountains and really taints the climbing experience for the north side climbers this year . . . climbers who are very well aware of other misdeeds by the Chinese military in the Himalaya region . . . typified by the massacre at Nangpa La near Cho Oyu last year.

This blog intends to keep an eye on these developments. China is a fascinating place, and these games give an opportunity to spotlight the good and the bad.

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