Juliana’s China Trip – Update 1

Sep 6, 2009

Land use and Public Participation in China

I landed in Shanghai on Saturday after a long flight. I am one of four prople in a land use and public participation delegation in China. We are here to present workshops, meet and discuss issues, and visit important land use sites.

The public participation project was organized by The National Committe on U.S. China relations. The National Committee is a private, non partisan, non profit organization dedicated to exchange, education, and shared learning. Our delegation includes a law expert in condemnation, an expert in public participation fr a public agency, and an expert in land use law. I’ll talk more about them later.

Our route to China took us over Maine, Qurbec, Northern Canada, Northern Russia, Mongolia, and down to Shanghai. My last night in Washington was a blur of approving invoices and monthly reports, sending off meeting summaries for finished projects, draft agendas for meetings in September, and proposals to support a climate change project and a forestry collaborative. So it is not surprising that as I looked out my plane window I tried to imagine what the land look like, what the demographic changes would be, and what people below would be doing in a future shaped by different climate. Flying up the rocky Eastern North American coast I tried to see the storms, rising sea levels, and warmer weather. How would people in the resource dependent economies below respond? As we crossed over snow and ice I pictured inland seas, lakes, rock. And little towns in warmer inland areas.

Then my imagination failed me as we flew over Irkutz and Ulan Batar. I realized that I couldn’t fantasize their new globally changed life without some vague idea of their lives now.

We flew for hours then over Mongolia without seeing any sign of villages, fields, or roads. My eyes closed and I fell asleep wondering how global climate change would affect the dry rocky terrain below me. I woke up over China seeing dams, towns, fields, and factories. My global change visions faded as my excitement grew. Global climate change is just the latest challenge. Human beings create a wide variety of economic, natural resource management, and social systems. I hope to hear some new ways to think about our challenges and my work. I also hope that my knowledge, skills, and experiences are helpful to my Chinese hosts as they address social, enonomic, and ecological challenges.

Juliana Birkhoff

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