October 11, 2013 11:22 am
When was the last time you took a trip to Chinatown? You might want to head there soon, because they might not be around for much longer. According to the Asian American Legal Defense and Education fund, Chinatowns all over the United States are being squeezed into smaller and smaller areas due to gentrification. At Wired‘s Map Labs blog, Greg Miller breaks down this break-down. Based on the maps, Boston has it the worst:
According to Census records, the percentage of the population that claims Asian heritage in Boston’s Chinatown dropped from 70 percent in 1990 to 46 percent in 2010. New York and Philadelphia’s Chinatowns did not see big change either way by that measure during the same time period, but in all three cities the proportion of homes inhabited by families and the proportion of children in the population dropped considerably. To Li that suggests that multigenerational immigrant homes are breaking up — or moving out.
To figure out the composition of these Chinatowns, volunteers went out and surveyed what types of restaurants, businesses and residential properties were in the area. Restaurants in particular are good barometers for a neighborhood’s service to immigrants. In other words, more Asian restaurants means a more robust Chinatown. But as the survey found, other restaurants and shops are moving in quickly.
The very existence of Chinatowns are a product of discrimination—immigrants created these communities to live in because they were excluded from pre-existing ones. And that tradition continues today, according to Bethany Li, author of the report. But with pressure from condominiums and high-end shops from all sides, many Chinatowns are slowly shrinking. While communities are fighting back, Li’s report says that without help they’ll be pushed out again:
Without the fights against unfettered development led by members from groups like the Chinese Progressive Association in Boston, Chinese Staff & Workers’ Association in New York, and Asian Americans United in Philadelphia, these Chinatowns would likely contain even more high-end and institutional expansion. City governments removed and replaced working-class immigrant residential and commercial land uses in each of these Chinatowns.
Bonnie Tsui at Atlantic Cities breaks down what some of those actions might be:
What’s to be done? Recommendations include allocating public land and funds for low-income housing development and retention at a more reasonable proportion to current high-end development; supporting small, local businesses to offset rising rents, given the symbiotic relationship with residents; prioritizing public green spaces; and engaging community organizations, residents, and the larger satellite communities to maintain Chinatowns as shared cultural history and home to working-class immigrants.
For many, Chinatowns are an attraction to a city, and many cities boast about their robust cultural neighborhoods. But they might not be around for much longer.
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October 10, 2013 3:20 pm
China is facing a space problem, not only for its living residents but also for its dead. While the U.S. currently has around 50,000 cemeteries, China only has about 3,000, Quartz points out, and they’re quickly filling up. Within six years, experts project that the country will run out of currently allocated space for burying people, according to Want China News.
As a result of dwindling supply for millions of aging citizens, plot prices are shooting up. One prime spot in Shanghai sold for $3.5 billion earlier this year, Quartz writes, while the average burial real estate goes for around $15,000. Prices are climbing each year, and one company that owns and manages graveyards has decided to go public, with a rumored IPO of $200 million to be announced immanently, Quartz reports. On the other hand, Want China Times reports that another company was caught selling $48 million’s worth of grave plots on the black-market.
To try and alleviate the situation, the government provides incentives for those who chose to get cremated instead of buried. Quartz:
The Chinese government has even started subsidizing sea burials to compensate, paying Shanghai residents 2,000 yuan each to scatter ashes over Hangzhou Bay. For the past few years, some city governments have also pushed so-called tree burials, in which a person’s ashes are placed in a biodegradable casket and interred next to a tree. But cultural pressures tied up in Confucianism and conspicuous consumption keep Chinese families demanding traditional burials in prominent plots.
China may have the world’s largest population, but the country is not alone in its burial woes. More than half of England’s graveyards are projected to enter into max capacity in the next 20 years, the BBC reports, leading some planners to suggest re-using old graves. On a smaller scale, some cities face similar problems. In New York, soon “virtually no amount of money will secure a final resting place in the heart of a city that is fast running out of graveyard space,” the New York Times writes, and “fashionable” final resting places, such as Massachusetts’ Provincetown Cemetery, are likewise facing space constraints, according to Boston.com. Given these circumstances, mushroom burials are looking more and more appealing.
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October 9, 2013 12:22 pm
Demographers have long noticed that, when times get tough, there’s a conspicuous uptick in the number of baby girls versus boys born. Cultural factors like selective abortions do not explain the trend; evolutionary biology might. Discover explains the theory supporting a female-heavy population during trying times, first outlined by a biologist and mathematician in 1973:
The Harvard-based pair theorized that as the physical condition of a female declines — if she’s nutritionally deprived, for example — she’ll tend to produce a lower ratio of male to female offspring. Evidence of the theory came from red deer and humans; in both species, adverse conditions in the mother’s environment during pregnancy are correlated with a shift toward female births.
Under normal circumstances, mammals such as ourselves tend to naturally lean towards male-dominant birth rates, with boy babies accounting for about 3 percent more births than females. This is likely because men, whether animal or human, have higher death rates than women, Discover writes. Biology is automatically correcting for that loss.
However, that ratio naturally changes during difficult times, such as during a long-term famine.
Under certain conditions, biologists say, an imbalance favoring female births can improve the reproductive success of an individual organism. Trivers and Willard argued that the strongest and most dominant males of a species were far more likely to leave offspring than weaker males, while virtually all females would reproduce. According to this so-called adaptive sex ratio adjustment hypothesis, healthy mothers were better off producing sons, who would likely be fit and go on to reproduce, whereas mothers in less prime condition would benefit more from daughters, who would reproduce regardless of their low health status. The strategy allowed a mother to “maximize her eventual reproductive success,” the two wrote in their seminal paper.
Real-life disasters have created data that support this idea. During China’s Great Leap Forward, around 30 million people died from starvation. The rate of male births also declined. One recent study of demographic data from 310,000 Chinese women during that time found that the male birth rate remained low up to two years after the famine ended, Discover reports, adding that similar findings held true for post-Communist Poland and during times of famine in Portugal.
The mechanism behind this finding, and what it takes to trigger this decline, however, are harder questions to answer. One study, Discover reports, found that males during pre-embryonic development have lower rates of survival than females when a mother’s blood sugar levels are down, so it could be that the selection pressure happens after conception.
As for the amount of stress required to trigger the bias, some researchers say a period of a few months, for example, would not be enough. A study described by ScienceNOW did not find any impacts on babies born during the Dutch famine, which lasted seven months. Others, however, argue the opposite. One Columbia University researcher published a paper showing that women who fast during Ramadan and conceive during that time have significantly more female than male babies, ScienceNOW writes, implying that a mother’s nutrition in fact has a very immediate effect on her baby’s gender.
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October 7, 2013 3:35 pm
As more people than leave China to visit far away places, Chinese tourists have developed a bad rap among the international community, The New York Times reports. Among the grievances, voiced from Thailand to Paris to New York, are Chinese tourists’ tendency to spit, to speak loudly indoors, and to have no concept of how to form or respect a line. Specific recent transgressions that sparked outrage both domestically and abroad include Chinese tourists inadvertently killing a dolphin and a Chinese youth carving his name into an ancient Egyptian relic.
Lately, the Washington Post writes, China has become more self-reflective about this problem:
Chinese Vice Premier Wang Yang has criticized the “uncivilized behavior” of his countrymen when they travel abroad, which he says has harmed the nation’s image. He blamed the “poor quality and breeding” of the Chinese tourists.
In an attempt to find concrete means to alleviate some of the common complaints about Chinese tourists abroad, the country approved its first tourism-related law in April, which came into effect on October 1, CNN reports. The law includes 112 articles, some of which address shady tour operators within China, but including others that speak to Chinese tourists abroad.
Tourist behavior is even singled out in a couple articles of the new law.
Article 14 states: “Tourists shall observe public order and respect social morality in tourism activities, respect local customs, cultural traditions and religious beliefs, care for tourism resources, protect the ecological environment, and abide by the norms of civilized tourist behaviors.”
To make the new law more digestible, China’s National Tourism Administration issued a 64-page pamphlet on how to behave abroad, complete with cartoon-illustrated dos and don’ts. Kotaku reports a few of the suggested points of etiquette, including:
- Don’t aggressively ask locals for pictures with you.
- Don’t assault any animals.
- Don’t shout in public.
- Don’t show your bare chest in public.
- Don’t hoard the public facilities.
- Flush the toilet after use.
- At a buffet, please don’t take everything in one go – they will be refilled.
- Don’t relieve yourself in public.
NBC News elaborates on a few country-specific subtleties the pamphlet covers:
Other snippets of advice were country-specific. The guide warned Chinese visitors to Germany to only snap their fingers to beckon dogs, not humans, and that women in Spain should always wear earrings in public, or be considered effectively naked. Visitors to Japan were advised to avoid fidgeting with hair or clothes in restaurants.
For better or worse, mainland Chinese tourists are likely here to stay. Last year they became the top tourism spenders, dropping $102 billion in destinations around the world, the Times reports. The Washington Post adds that, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce, Chinese tourism in the States is expected to grow by 232 percent between 2010 and 2016.
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September 30, 2013 10:55 am
In China, giant hornets have killed at least 28 people. And while this might sound like a B-list horror movie plot, it’s very real. In addition to the people who’ve died, more than 400 more have been injured or chased by the angry insects.
The culprit behind the attacks, the Asian predatory wasp (Vespa velutina) and the Asian giant hornet (Vespa mandarinia), are the world’s largest of their kind and can grow up to two inches long. The Asian giant hornet is also known as the yak-killer or the tiger-head bee, and it’s quarter-inch long stinger delivers a tissue-damaging venom, described by a Tokyo entomologist as feeling “like a hot nail being driven into my leg.”
Normally, these hornets live in rural parts of Asia, though they still manage to cost a dozen or more fatalities per year in China. This year, however, that number is more than doubled. Entomologists speculate that the exceptionally warm weather in China allowed the hornets to proliferate. ThinkProgress reports:
This summer, China suffered through massive heat waves, breaking records in places like Shanghai, Changsha, and Hangzhou in July, and affecting 700 million people through August. This has lead to dozens of heatstroke deaths, and, now, increasingly aggressive giant insects.
Climate models suggest that vespa velutina is more likely to invade areas of Europe where there are higher densities of beehives, as well as large areas of the Unites States this century.
As Quartz reports, farmers and people taking strolls through the woods aren’t the hornets’ only victims, either. They are also fond of attacking and killing honey bees. In Japan, native bees have developed a defensive strategy: they “cook” the predators by surrounding it and “engaging their flight muscles, raising their collective temperature beyond what hornets can withstand,” Quartz says. The placid European and U.S. honey bees, however, have evolved no such strategy.
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