Results for “air pollution”
112 found

Santa Cruz notes

The town square is lovely, even though they removed the sloth for fear he would electrocute himself.  The population is friendly, the weather is perfect, and there are few sights.  Unlike in much of South America, danger is not a concern.  The small children who hang out in the central square seem to think that a full embrace of a pigeon is a good idea.

The food is excellent and yet you never hear about it.  Try El Aljibe for local specialties (peanut soup, or duck and corn risotto, with egg on top), and Jardin de Asia for Amazonian Andean Peruvian Japanese Bolivian fusion.  It is hard to find the Cochabamba version of Bolivian food that has made it over to the U.S.   The steak here is decent but not as good as Argentina or Brazil.

The taxi equilibrium is that you do not ask in advance what the fare is, because that indicates you do not know.  Be confident, and you will be surprised how little money they ask for.

If you had to pick one city to represent South America as a whole, Santa Cruz might be it.  You can feel elements of Brazil, Argentina, Venezuela, and yes even Bolivia here, all rolled into one.  The proportions of fair-skinned, mestizo, and indigenous people mirrors the Continent as a whole more than the Altiplano.  The secession movement here seems to have failed.  Amazonian indigenous peoples and Guarani are common here.

Arriving at the airport at 3:30 a.m. involves a nightmarish wait.  There is not much air pollution.  I didn’t meet a single person in the service sector who spoke English.  People in Santa Cruz seemed fairly happy relative to their per capita income.

You can study the economic development of China by visiting Bolivia.

Shanghai notes

Very good dumplings and noodle soups can be had on the streets in small restaurants for a dollar or two.  When you look further afield I can recommend Yi Long Court, a very fine Cantonese restaurant in the Peninsula Hotel.  Lost Heaven is a very good Yunnanese restaurant, get the Ti dishes, I enjoyed both branches of this place.  For Shanghai dishes, go to Jesse.

The more developed parts of Shanghai feel much more like the United States than any part of Beijing does, yet many traditional neighborhoods remain and there is plenty of good architecture from the early 20th century.  If not for the air pollution, this would be one of the best cities in the world.  It’s not that cheap, though, once you get past food and taxis.

The long, tree-lined alleys of Chinese neighborhoods have led to a superior reconceptualization of the outdoor shopping mall.

There are policemen who seem to be there to teach drivers how to back into spots using parallel parking.

For eleven years I’ve been writing about “Markets in Everything,” but here in Shanghai I transacted in one of those markets for the first time.  I went to “More Than Toilet,” a cafe/restaurant with a toilets theme.   Your chair is designed to look like a potty, and I was served my watermelon juice in a model of a urinal, with an elaborate straw, $6 for the experience.  (Who knows what I will try next?)  The food that was passing by looked horrible, like Chinese Denny’s on steroids.  I had blogged the original Taiwan branch of the place some time ago.

The luxury malls do not seem to have benches to sit down on and check your email.  But since hardly anyone is shopping in most of those malls, perhaps that doesn’t matter very much.

Assorted links

1. My quasi-debate with Greg Mankiw (Korean language account, imagine a dialogue between Average is Over and his JEP essay on inequality).  There is more here, and here, both in Korean.  There are brief excerpts in this Korean news video.

2. Robert Graboyes on supply-side innovation in health care.

3. Brasilia 1967+ Kraftwerk.

4. Trauma as a major medical issue in Africa.

5. Which are the world’s worst cities for air pollution?  More provincial than you might think.

6. Can a famous jeweller become a great philosopher?  By the excellent Oliver Burkeman.

7. Michael R. Strain reviews Average is Over at National Review.

Assorted links

1. More on the Morlocks of Singapore.

2. Who are (were) the top American communists?

3. Long profile of Leszek Kolakowski.

4. How badly are the formal arts hurting?

5. Will the Chinese attempt to clean up air pollution result in much higher carbon emissions?  And debt in China and what they are doing about it.

6. Matt Yglesias reviews Average is Over.

7. Brainpicker on Angela Duckworth and grit.

China estimate of the day

A government policy to promote coal use in Northern China has cut the life expectancy of some 500 million people by more than five years, on average.

That comes from a big new study in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences, which used a quasi-natural experiment to quantify the health effects of air pollution from coal use.

From Brad Plumer, here is more.

Beijing notes

It is a gargantuan, imperial city, and while there is always a walking path the point of walking is not always clear.  “The Middle Kingdom does Dubai.”  There is no need to tell me about all the parts of the city which do not look like Dubai, I have seen many of them, and furthermore Dubai has such parts as well.

An iPad, plus Baidu access to Chinese characters, makes it easy to ask questions of strangers.  Hardly anyone speaks even minimal English.  It is less harried than I had expected.  The sky rarely appears, at least in late July.  The contemporary art district, 798, is worth more than one visit.  I am not interested in seeing the Great Wall.  My hotel, rather than having a “Medical Devices” conference, has a meeting on “Australian Property Holdings.”

The main problems here are the air pollution, and that no one, including taxi drivers, seems to know how to get anywhere.  The rate of change is high and many people are from the provinces, so there is a real information gap.

The main upsides stem from what scale enables.  Even if you have been to many places, Beijing will manage to astonish you.

Most of all, I am struck by how Taiwan is more Chinese than is China.

Government is raising the value of a life

The Environmental Protection Agency set the value of a life at $9.1 million last year in proposing tighter restrictions on air pollution. The agency used numbers as low as $6.8 million during the George W. Bush administration.

The Food and Drug Administration declared that life was worth $7.9 million last year, up from $5 million in 2008, in proposing warning labels on cigarette packages featuring images of cancer victims.

The article is here.  If the goal is to give current people what they want, arguably this makes sense and perhaps it does not go far enough.  Death is…BAD.  If the goal is to maximize real gdp per capita, or most other macroeconomic indicators, it makes sense to value human life at replacement cost (and here) and this policy change does not make sense.  I'm not arguing for either standard and indeed I think they both lead to absurdities.  Instead the point is this: theoretical ordinal welfare economics and applied welfare economics, as represented by wealth measures, do not coincide as much as many economists like to think.  This gap becomes increasingly important as health care and safety provision increase, relative to the size of the economy as a whole.

What the Chinese have done is to neglect health care investments (until very recently) and basically maximize gdp growth.  They wanted to have fewer people anyway, so why spend money to keep ailing people around?  We find this horrible when presented in such explicit terms, and yet we admire their achievement of the end of growth maximization.

My favorite things Egypt

1. Novel: I like all of the Mahfouz I have read, but the Cairo Trilogy is the obvious pick.  Here is a very useful list of someone's favorite Egyptian authors and novels.

2. Musical CD: The Music of Islam, vol.1: Al-Qahirah, Classical Music of Cairo, Egypt.  The opening sweep of this is a stunner, and it shows both the Islamic and European influences on Egyptian music.  Musicians of the Nile are a good group, there is Hamza El Din, and there is plenty of rai.  What else?  I can't say I actually enjoy listening to Um Kalthoum, but her voice and phrasing are impressive.

3. Non-fiction book, about: Max Rodenbeck, Cairo: The City Victorious.  Few cities have a book this good.  There is also Dream Palace of the Arabs and Tom Segev's 1967.  Which again is the really good book on the 1973 War?

4. Movie, set in: Cairo Time.  This recent Canadian film avoids cliche, brings modern Cairo to life, and is an alternative to many schlocky (but sometimes good) alternatives, such as The Mummy, Death on the Nile, Exodus, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and so on.  There is Agora.  Egyptian cinema surely has masterpieces but I do not know them.  If you're wondering, for books, I could not finish Norman Mailer's Ancient Evenings.

5. Favorite food: I was impressed by the seafood restaurants on the promenade in Alexandria.  Food in Cairo did not thrill me, though I never had a bad meal there.

6. Philosopher: Must I say Plotinus?  I don't find him especially readable.

7. City: I enjoyed Alexandria, but I can't say I liked Cairo beyond the museum (much better than any Egyptian collection outside of Egypt) and the major mosques.  The Sphinx bored me.  The air pollution prevented me from walking for more than an hour and there was cement, cement. and more cement.  The ride between Cairo and Alexandria was one of the ugliest, most uninspiring journeys of my life.  The Egyptians were nice to me but I never had the sense that anything beautiful was being done with the country.  Let's hope that changes.

8. Opera, about: Philip Glass, Akhnaten.  But wait, there's also Aida, with Callas.  And there's Handel's Israel in Egypt.  Handel set a lot of his operas in Egypt, including Berenice and Giulio Cesare.

Diane Rehm is Egyptian-American but I don't know her show.  The new biography of Cleopatra is smooth but the narratives made me suspicious.  Was Euclid Egyptian?

Where should you wish to visit in a hurry?

Here is the reader request:

A friend remarked that on his trip to Cuba, the inclusion of modern buses imported from China had started to erode the charm of the vintage car culture we associate with the island. This is one factor, among many (including the possibility of the embargo being stopped), that made her travel to the island before it changed too much.

What other countries (or cities) are undergoing signficant change and will be presumably very different in a few years from now? Which ones would you travel to if you had the chance now before they underwent that change?

Here is my list of places to visit in a hurry:

1. Cuba

2. Bali, Laos, and Cambodia, which are all losing traditional culture.

3. Any wildlife or game reserve.

4. Yemen (maybe too late already?)

5. Tibet and possibly Bhutan

I can't bring myself to put North Korea on that list.

Here is my list of places which will only get better to visit:

1. China (air pollution will diminish, reading MR might become easier)

2. India (pollution will diminish, sanitation will improve)

3. Greece (someday will be cheaper)

4. Canada, New Zealand, and Australia: they don't have much old stuff anyway and what they do have will be preserved.  The U.S., in contrast, was interesting in the 1950s (or the 1920s) in a way these places were not and many aspects of that period are being lost. 

What suggestions do you have?  Iraq definitely belongs to one list or the other, we just don't know which.

The world’s 25 dirtiest cities

Here is the article, here is the top of the list:

1, Baku, Azerbaijan

2. Dhaka, Bangladesh

3. Antananarivo, Madagascar

4. Port-au-Prince (pre-quake?  I believe they are now uncontested #1 or will be soon.)

5. Mexico City

Most of the rest are in Africa.  If I did the ranking, Mexico City would do much better than number five, since air pollution isn't as bad as the lack of sanitation in cities such as Conakry (a mere #19).  And why does Bangui (CAR) get such an idyllic photo?  Nor does Google offer up any nasty photos of the place.

Hat tip goes to the essential Rachel Strohm, Twitter feed here.

My preferred exile

A loyal MR reader requests the following:

If you were exiled from the United States and had to go live semi-permanently in some other country, which country would you choose?

Another reader asks:

Let's say you had enough cash (would 10 million do it?) and needed to disappear. Where would you go? Option one, you only spoke English. Option two, you could endow yourself with any language(s) you wished.

Secondary question: would 10 mil be enough?

$10 million would be enough, thank you.  Toronto or even London would be obvious choices but then it's not interesting so let's restrict it to the non-English speaking world.  And I'm assuming the choice is for me alone, otherwise it boils down to how altruistic I am.

I pick either Berlin or Cologne, the latter for its central location in Europe.  In either city there would be plenty of art and music, lots of smart people to talk to, access to other good locales, and the near-certainty of public order, yet with bearable winters and good health care.  The key question between the two would be whether I need my Germany to be on the Rhein and conquered by Romans. 

Germany may seem like an odd choice but I prefer northern Europe yet don't want a small country or a very cold country and England is out by assumption.  The Mediterranean world would not be grundlegend enough for me, not for permanent residence.

Buenos Aires and Mexico City would be tempting, and more fun than Deutschland on any given day, yet I couldn't bring myself to pull the trigger on either one.  I can't stay up late (B.A.) and I don't like horrible air pollution (D.F.).  As much as I enjoy seeing the children and the families, the Spanish-speaking world is best to roam through. 

Asia has too much population density for my taste.

Would I really rather live in Braunschweig than Barcelona?

Is there a silver lining for Mexico?

To be sure, tourism to Mexico is devastated and the country will suffer many economic problems (yes, real business cycle theory still is relevant these days).  But is there any upside?

I hesitate to speak too soon but I'm actually somewhat impressed by how the Mexican government, at least at the national level, has responded.  There have been many failures of Mexican health care systems at local levels but keep a few things in mind: a) some of the problems lie with citizens who won't go see doctors, or who won't go see non-shaman doctors, b) too many Mexicans self-administer antibiotics, and c) when there is so much air pollution it is harder to discover flu cases, especially in the midst of flu season there.  Nonetheless Mexican reporting systems seem to have discovered an unusual flu fairly promptly.

Once the national government discovered what is going on, they acted decisively and without undue panic.  There has been very little denial, a common feature in the early stages of health crises (how long was it until the U.S. government acknowledged AIDS?).  No one is treating the Mexican federal government like a banana republic or a basket case or thinking that the Canadian government would have done so much better. 

Am I wrong?  Could this episode in the longer run bring Mexico closer to the community of developed nations?  Might Mexicans now be more likely to self-identify with a government that is at least partially competent?

Time will tell.

Assorted links

1. Property rights and air pollution

2. Pirate headlines (humor)

3. 2666, the perfect book review (now that I’ve read the book)

4. Update on the quest for the Netflix prize, interesting throughout

5. Triumph of the small countries; Israel just displaced Armenia for top position in the Chess Olympiad; Russia and the United States lag behind.  The standings and major contestants are here.

Pay-As-You-Drive Car Insurance

The new issue of Democracy: A Journal of Ideas (registration, but easy and free) is very interesting.  Here is one proposal, from Jason Bordoff:

Drivers who are
similar in all respects–age, gender, driving record–pay roughly the
same premiums whether they drive 5,000 or 50,000 miles per year, even
though the likelihood of a collision increases with each mile. This
“all-you-can-drive” pricing scheme imposes significant costs on
society: more traffic accidents, congestion, air pollution, greenhouse
gas emissions, and dependence on oil.

the effect of PAYD on miles traveled and gasoline
consumption would be significant: a 6.5 percent reduction under
conservative estimates, and others suggest the reduction could be as
high as 10 percent. To put that in perspective, it would take an
81-cent-per-gallon increase in the gas tax to achieve a 6.5 percent
reduction in miles driven.

Monitoring costs seem workable, at least in principle with computerized odometers, so why don’t companies do this? 

China estimates of the day

Pollution is more globalized too:

Bruce Hope, a senior environmental toxicologist at the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, estimates that global sources contribute 18 percent–more than four times the local share–to Oregon’s air pollution.  Increasingly, the ozone on the west coast will be determined by China.  In California, for example, some researchers believe at least one-third of California’s fine particulate pollution–known as aerosol–originates from Asia.  These pollutants could potentially nullify California’s progress on meeting stricter Clean Air Act requirements.  In May 2006, University of California-Davis researchers claimed that almost all the particulate matter over Lake Tahoe was from China.  The great irony is that these pollutants are mainly due to the burgeoning demand of U.S. and EU consumers for cheap Chinese goods–which is driving the Chinese economic development.  Some estimates cite that 7 percent of China’s CO2emissions are due to production of U.S. imports.

Here is the source, the pointer is from Robin Hanson.  Concerning the last sentence, if you haven’t already seen it by now, here is Hal Varian’s piece on where the iPod is made.