Here we go round the prickly pear
All was quiet on our western front. And eastern. In fact every front was conspicuously quieter than it should have been that evening, given the season in question. The air did not smell of sulfur and carbon and chlorine, or vibrate gratuitously with the report of recreational ordnance. Fireballs of blue and yellow and green did not rain down on balconies, or ricochet off buildings, or bounce upon the roofs and bonnets of cars. The ground was not sprinkled with the red, singed paper tesserae that decorate the sidewalks on Chinese New Year. The Year of the Horse arrived with a sprightly cantor, not thundering gallop; and the collective din of the annual snap, crackle, and pop was less of a bang than a whimper.
As early as the first week of January, it was clear that festivities would be much gentler on the ears than they have been for the past decade. First, there was the conspicuous absence of the firework vendors who each January appeared out of nowhere and materialized at certain intersections and stretches of sidewalk. Then local news networks had begun asking citizens if they planned to celebrate the New Year with fireworks. Cherry-picked for broadcast or not, most citizens whose soundbites made the five-o’-clock news said “no,” citing both environmental concerns (air quality, noise pollution, litter and waste disposal) and worries about accidental injury or damage. Happily, “golden-hour,” reportage of the public spirit showed harmonious accord between the Old Hundred Names and the latest policies and advisories from relevant ministries and public security agencies. And sure enough, there were few bombs bursting in air, and less of the rockets’ red glare.
Smaug the Dragon
China’s cities became the focus of international interest (again) last autumn when images of urban skies and reports of frighteningly poor air-quality appeared in virtually all news media outlets. The promulgation and enforcement of firework bans fit nicely with the trending narrative, and the success of the policy initiative says a great deal about how the social inertia of cultural folkways can in fact be steered in new directions. The fact that the public will was not at extreme variance with the will of those in the North who craft Diktate minimized flashpoints¹.
Neighborhoods weren’t the only places that were quieter this holiday season. The emergency rooms of urban hospitals experienced a significant downtick in admissions, thanks mainly to fewer firework-related injuries.
Xinhua made the connection explicit in a news item of 15 February:
Sales of fireworks and the number of people injured due to fireworks setting off in Beijing have dropped significantly during this year’s Spring Festival holiday, which began on Feb. 10… A total of 165 people were injured due to fireworks setting off during the same period, down 22 percent from the previous year… No death or cases of eyeball extraction were reported...²
The China Real Time Report of The Wall Street Journal was among the English-language news-agencies to pick-up the item, though China Daily had reported earlier in February that firework-related injuries in the nation’s capital were, “down 33.89 percent from last year³.”
If slightly less-toxic air is a good outcome, fewer injuries are great ones. Among the people sure to be happiest about the data are the authors of the 2012 paper, “Prognostic factors and visual outcome for fireworks-related burns during spring festival in South China.” Conclusions include the recommendation that, “Laws should be passed to forbid the personal use of fireworks in China, and public education on the sale and use of fireworks should be increased⁴.” That very year, Xinhua reported:
Tongren Hospital has received 1,128 patients with fireworks-related injuries since Beijing removed its ban on fireworks during the festival in 2006. Nearly 30 percent of the patients are youngsters...During last year’s  holiday week, the hospital treated 206 patients with firework-induced injuries, 178 of whom suffered eye injuries. The youngest was only two years old⁵.
But children were not the only beneficiaries of the new policies regarding the sale of fireworks and the enforcement of ordinances pursuant to their private use. Front-line hospital staff likely avoided injuries of their own, too.
Aggravated assault against nurses, doctors, and hospital workers became talking-points outside China when major news outlets like The Atlantic gave column inches to the phenomenon.⁶ “Violence against healthcare staff is not new in China,” writes Yanzhong Huang. “It has been a topic of media concern since the early 1990s.”
National Public Radio, the broadcast brain-trust of American intellectuals, covered the same ground at the beginning of November 2013 (“In Violent Hospitals, China’s Doctors Can Become Patients”)⁷while Bloomberg was quick off the mark in responding to the March 2012 murder of a young internist at First Affiliated Hospital of Harbin University. In that commentary, Adam Minter undertook to explain why, “Violent Crimes in China’s Hospital Spread Happiness.”⁸ China Radio International (CRI) turned to the topic later that May 2012.
Scholarly concern for “hospital violence” in China (yiyuan baoli 医院暴力, or yi’nao 医闹in colloquial spoken Mandarin) is, as Yanzhong Huang points out, not new. ⁹ In 2006, authors sounded the alarm in the Hong Kong Medical Journal. ¹⁰
The historical development of both phenomena - criminal assault upon healthcare workers in China, and its position in the international news-cycle - are subjects worthy of further enquiry. What we have not seen so far, though, is interest inthe possible connection between the outcry from Chinese doctors in international English-language medical journals, and the decision to ban fireworks. And that just might be the real story.
Where there’s smoke, there’s fire…and probably mirrors, too
In 12 May 2012, The Lancet published, “Ending violence against doctors in China.” ¹¹ More than one year later, on 16 August 2013, The Wall Street Journal chimed-in, ¹² as did USA Today on October 24. ¹³ The May 2012 paper in The Lancet was cited in a 1 November 2013 commentary in the British Medical Journal (“Ending violence against doctors in China” ¹⁴ ), which was followed by a 23 November 2013 article again in The Lancet (“Appeals from doctors to end violence”). ¹⁵ The copy in both The Lancet and the BMJ was written by Mainland doctors working in Chinese metropolitan hospitals, and their sense of urgency is clear:
Within only 10 days in October, seven consecutive incidents of violence against medical personnel took place in Chinese hospitals, three doctors were killed and ten medical staff were injured. This recent wave of assaults on medical staff has led to widespread discussions on Chinese social media. Anger, fear, despair, and even hatred are common among doctors. Chinese doctors are under tremendous stress [ibid.].
Back to fireworks. The first mention of municipal bans on fireworks filtered into the media aquifer with Xinhua’s 12 December 2013 item, ¹⁶ which was run in the American edition of the China Daily (“Beijing to ban fireworks if new year turns foggy”) on 13 December 2013. ¹⁷ News that Wuhan would, in fact, prohibit the use of fireworks was reported by China Daily on 20 December 2013. ¹⁸
But the connection between fireworks and smog was not the only aspect of fireworks that was transparently of interest to the government.
On 22 November The Wall Street Journal reported that, “Fireworks Are Newest Target of China’s Austerity Drive.” ¹⁹ The article, based on a Central Discipline Inspection Commission report, ²⁰ suggested that, “the ban on gifts of fireworks, which can cost as much as 1,000 yuan ($164) a box, may be aimed at shutting down one more avenue for corruption rather than discouraging enjoyment of an ancient Chinese invention.”
“Shutting down one more avenue for corruption,” maybe. But these early government discussions about reducing civilian access to fireworks might have been part of a plan to make stealthy inroads on the phenomenon of hospital violence – under cover and against the backdrop of the domestic and international hue and cry about air pollution. ²¹
The West’s “Violence”
“The West,” if we may for a moment generalize and over-simplify, regularly criticizes China for (inter alia) the nation’s Yeti-sized carbon footprint. Rarely, though, are the long knives drawn for Chinese traditions and folkways. Fireworks add to the air pollution problem, but few China-hawks would go so far as to call upon the Chinese to discourage, “enjoyment of an ancient Chinese invention.” Allowing civilians to detonate fireworks en masse once or twice a year will make air quality acutely worse in the short-term, but banning the use of fireworks during the Chinese New Year will not do much to make air quality chronically better in the long-run.
What enforcement of the new policies did achieve, however, was less acute strain on accident and emergency units at hospitals during the holiday period. Because the fireworks bans reduced the number of burns and other fireworks-related injuries, there were fewer emergent-care outpatients clogging the arteries of a system that is under duress; and whenever emergent-care user-density is thinned-out, the likelihood of an aggravated assault resulting in the injury or death of front-line hospital staff drops too.
Beijing is thus in a position to announce this March - two years after the murder of the intern in Harbin - that indications for yiyuan baoli for the first two months of 2014 are positive. Simply by eliminating opportunities for predictable injuries, they reduced also opportunities for strife, conflict, and agitation in the ER. Given the outcry in the pages of The Lancet and the BMJ, such an encouraging statement from Xinhua is very likely, if not inevitable. After all, the phenomenon now has its own Wikipedia page (“Violence against doctors in China”). Not a good sign. ²²
Maybe there is in fact no connection whatsoever between this year’s firework restrictions and last winter’s concerns, from inside and outside China, about “hospital violence.” But despite the environmental impact of fireworks, and both the risks and foreseeable injuries and damage actually caused by fireworks, there’s still a lot to be said in favour of allowing the masses to celebrate Chinese New Year with them, and the government was very brave to try and clamp-down on such a beloved tradition. It is, after all, very eusocial and ethno-patriotic, enjoyed by rich and poor, urban and rural residents alike. It is a reaffirmation of the unity of Chinese culture – or at least, a public affirmation of belief in the ideal of such unity. Taking away from the people of China the freedom to enjoy an “ancient tradition” is risky business. That’s why the anti-pollution rationale is so weak: Why make the mob miserable, or risk head-on confrontations with civil disobedience, when everyone knows that a fireworks ban won’t make a dent in the air-quality problem? But arming doctors with pepper-spray is not a mark of a harmonious society, or of scientific development, or of expanding moderate-well-off-ness. ²³ And that is an issue that needs to be handled adroitly. And fast.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Chinese rarely think about or talk about baoli (“violence”) or qinlve (侵略, aggression) as problems in their own right, as problems in and of themselves – not in the way Western Anglophones do. For Chinese language-users, to start doing so would require a formidable conceptual adjustment in respect to Chinese ideas of both, “violence,” and, “victimhood;” conceptualizations, which themselves are not easily facilitated by Mandarin. It is therefore a very bad sign that the community needed to and in fact did neologize (yi’nao) to vouchsafe and secure new references to a troubling if old phenomenon.
Over the past 25 years, American scholars (social and behavioral scientists mainly) have succeeded in redirecting discussion from the crimes of assault and aggravated assault, to a discussion of violence itself. The author who deserves much of the blame (though most would say: credit) for this is James Gilligan. In his 1981, Preventing Violence, Gilligan states:
I will use the terms disease, illness, and pathology to refer to any force or process within an organism or species that tends to bring death or disability to the organism, or extinction to the species. Violence in all the forms just mentioned is, by that definition, a manifestation, form, or symptom of pathology or illness, at least as much as cancer and heart disease are… [V]iolence is a manifestation of disease… ²⁴
Gilligan and others, in the course of a single generation, have foisted upon Anglophones an entirely new concept of what violence is – viz., that Violence is a phenomenon in its own right, one which, in order to be understood, must be abstracted from the concepts of crimes and/or torts – viz., trespasses against the person – and abstracted even from the concepts of right and wrong. Those who have followed Gilligan to the outer limits of his absurdity (and there are many) currently argue that Violence is indeed – and not just metaphorically or analogically - a kind of disease-entity, something that is best understood with epidemiological paradigms and models and should be addressed in earnest by public health experts. ²⁵
This reconceptualization of Violence is philosophically very problematic, and for China to buy into it is positively dangerous. China has heretofore lacked the victim-culture we find throughout the English-speaking world; and to reiterate, this is one of the reasons why there is in China so little conversation about either Violence Itself or Aggression Itself as “problems” endemic to human beings and our societies. In spoken-Mandarin, one rarely uses the adjectives baolide 暴力的(violent) or qinlvede 侵略的 (aggressive) to describe people or their actions. ²⁶ The guy who puffs-up his chest and gets in-your-face might be shenjingbing or you maobing (colloquially: crazy), or guofen, or erbaiwu (excessive, or out-of order); but neither the individual nor his actions are likely to be described in everyday spoken Chinese as baolide, mengliede (猛烈的), or qinlvede.
But when Chinese doctors write ²⁷ about the crime of aggravated assault (specifically as perpetrated against medical personnel) for international English-language publications, they or their translators have little choice but to describe the situation and to express their concerns in terms immediately cogent and friendly to the reigning Zeitgeist of contemporary English-language culture. Inevitably, they thus present themselves as a new class of victims, whose victimhood is to be understood according to the English-speaking world’s latest concepts of “violence.” But whereas the simple fact is that Chinese doctors as a class are increasingly becoming the targets of some individual Chinese malefactors, the English-language rhetoric of Violence tells the narrative differently: All Chinese doctors are potential victims of the Violence Itself which lurks in Chinese society, and which is now seeping its way into the hospitals. That’s a mischaracterization of the phenomenon, but it plays into the hands of Western observers who have a knack for connecting Violence Itself with (inter alia.) human rights issues.
And in any case, given the historical association between the concept of Violence Itself and both class-struggle and social unrest, ²⁸ China’s leaders have very good reason to want to nip in the bud both problems: assaults perpetrated against hospital staff, and the misbegotten meme of “violence” and all its muddle-headed conceptual accoutrement.
Look again at some of the English-language headlines:
Violence against healthcare staff is not new in China (The Atlantic)
In Violent Hospitals, China’s Doctors Can Become Patients (NPR)
Violent Crimes in China’s Hospital Spread Happiness (Bloomberg)
China trying to stop patients from killing doctors (USA Today)
The least contentious of these is the USA Today headline, which is accurate if lurid, while Bloomberg deserves credit for not shying away from the fact that these assaults are crimes.
This is important. The new English-language concept of Violence aims to be non-judgmental and non-prejudicial as to whether the author of the act was right or wrong in using force or the threat of force. Violence Itself – tout court – is wrong, though this is now meant to be implied by and is taken as intrinsic to the very concept of violence. This linguistic sleight of hand is achieved only by equating Violence Itself with wrongfulness, and shunting to one side the actual human perpetrator and judgment of him or his actions. And the West has become excellent at not judging – or, at not-judging.
This, of course, is a cul-de-sac of folly. If a patient assaults a doctor, we can describe it as an act of violence. If the patient is then tackled by security personnel and forcibly manacled, that too may be described as an act of violence. From either a moral or legal point of view, however, the two “acts of violence” are not the same; but the new paradigm shift downplays or eliminates the importance of that distinction. Once upon a time (fifty years ago, roughly), the problem was the wrongful, harm-causing behavior, some of which happens to be both criminal (and/or delictual) and “violent;” currently, the “problem” is violence as such – disembodied, rarefied, and almost spectral or paranormal.
Nonsense, of course. By spinning the sow’s ear of a violent act (like an assault) into the silk purse of a pathogen or disease entity, Violence Itself can be addressed without being critical of the people who actually do harmful things wrongfully, or without burdening such people with responsibility for their actions which, of course, misses entirely the point, and the real problem: people who intentionally or recklessly cause wrongful harm have done something wrong. There’s no question of whether or not they should be judged; we’ve judged them already. That’s why a “violent” assault with a deadly weapon is a crime, but a constable’s “violent” disarming of an armed malefactor is not. ²⁹ (Like, ni-hao?)
Hence the subtle but unfortunate implications of The Atlantic headline, which removes reference both to the human agents who do the assaulting and to the fact that these assaults against doctors are crimes. NPR, meanwhile, shifts the entire weight of violence to the clinic – violent hospitals. The fact of human malefaction disappears altogether, and we’re invited to contemplate doctors as being victimized by violent hospitals, another manifestation – another incarnation! – of the specter of Violence Itself.
This is a path both Chinese citizens and their leaders do not want to travel. Western scholarship’s current conception of Violence is intellectually bankrupt, the whole field of “violence studies” a dud, and rhetoric of “violence” part of the very problem scholarship is supposed to be solving.
Or perhaps the rhetoric of violence isn’t a dud. It’s more like an A-bomb, where the fallout from which is deadlier than the blast.
¹For those who make a living scrutinizing China for signs of “development” (read: Western liberal bandwagonism), the correct induction is: not every engine of social change need be combustible. The eardrum-friendly arrival of 2014 was, if you will, the gunpowder plot that worked without becoming incendiary.
²http://blogs.wsj.com/chinarealtime/2013/02/15/fireworks-sales-eyeball-extractions-plummet-in-beijing/. See also: http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/chinese-new-year-2014-china-urges-firework-ban-it-grapples-smog-crisis-1434407http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/01/29/us-china-pollution-idUSBREA0S0CE20140129http://thediplomat.com/2014/01/shrouded-in-smog-chinese-officials-consider-a-firework-ban/
⁴J Burn Care Res. 2012 May-Jun;33(3):e108-13. doi: 10.1097/BCR.0b013e3182335998.
⁹Nor are they confined to China – Google-search “hospital violence” and you’ll find a great deal of literature from the US and UK addressing the same issues.
²¹The smog of 2013 had already been making headlines. The Huffing Post drew their reticules upon the issue on 21 October 2013, which is when Reuters covered the topic. The Washington Post was right behind them. And while some of the worst days (pollution wise) of 2013 were indeed in December – topical chatter on Weixin and Weibo peaked that month - the off-the-charts PM figures for December 2013 might not be chief reason for the new fireworks ordinances.
²²http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Violence_against_doctors_in_China. Put in the context of international media reporting on assaults against Chinese hospital staff, the creation date is telling: 2 November 2013. Note that we are to read “Violence against doctors” differently that we would read “Mothers against drunk driving”, or “Physicists against nuclear war”.
²⁴Gilligan J (1981) Preventing Violence, p.16, p.17 (emphasis added).
²⁵See for example see http://live.reuters.com/Event/Gun_Violence_A_Public_Health_Crisis, and http://harvardmagazine.com/2013/01/gun-violence-and-public-health. See also http://stevenpinker.com/pages/frequently-asked-questions-about-better-angels-our-nature-why-violence-has-declined.
²⁶Jiating baoli (家庭暴力) “domestic violence”, is another import, one which has been trending for a while now. But so far, native-speaking Chinese language-users do not fear or worry about baoli, “Violence”, in the generalized way many English-speakers do. An interesting point of comparison is, or may be, with the differences of semantic import between the English-language concept of allergy, and the Chinese concept of chaoguominganbing (超过敏感病, literally, “excessive-sensitivity disease/sickness”). The scope of guomin (“excessive sensitivity”) includes but is broader than the scope of “allergic”. This is why Chinese who are “excessively sensitive” to alcohol describe their condition (or: their own idiosyncratic relationship to alcohol) with the same word they would use to describe a nut or penicillin allergy. Wo dui X you mingan (我对 X 有敏感) – “ I in respect of X (alcohol, peanuts, etc.) am excessively-sensitive”. This is conceptually different from (and has different implications than) the English statement “I am allergic to X”. It is interesting also that, where an English speaker might distinguish between assertive and aggressive, and claim that Jones was not merely assertive but “was aggressive” or “acted aggressively”, the Chinese would be much more likely to say that Wang is guofen, or that Wang’s action was tai guofen – excessive or too excessive. Both mingan and guofen imply standards, limits, boundaries, thresholds, etc., to which something (a sensitivity, an action) is compared. In the new paradigm, neither ‘aggressive’ nor ‘violent’ allow for that. Both “aggression” and “violence” – and bear in mind that these are noun-forms of the useful adjectives aggressive and violent – are (following Gilligan et al.) diseases, or symptoms of diseases. As such, “aggression” and “violence” are deviations from health, not from standards of right and wrong. This tactical semantic wizardry requires a very particular and controversial (or at least: debatable) definition of health, and is an offense to the sensibility of everyday English, which allows that something may be intelligible and correctly described as both ‘violent’ (boxing, rugby, fencing) and not-wrongful, violent and not wrong, violent and good.
²⁷暴力 and 侵略 and their adjectival cognates are less uncommon as written words.
²⁸The first academic paper in 20th century American scholarship to even have the word ‘violence’ in the title is Adams TS (1906) “Violence in Labor Disputes”, Publications of the American Economic Association, 3rd Series, Vol. 7, No. 1 (February 1906), pp. 176-206. It also uses the word “violence” in the first paragraph more than any other scholarly paper in English had up to that time. This was then followed by a number of works which demonstrate clearly how a new concept of violence was taking place in the context of the rise of organized (unionized) labor – see John Haynes Holmes (1920) Is Violence the Way Out of Industrial Disputes?. Throughout the 20s, 30s, and 40s, English-language scholarship addressed a number of topics which today seem familiar – juvenile delinquency, the effects of comic books, television, and film upon children, etc. Few of these works frame their concerns in terms of “violence”, or even mention violence, a word which is in fact absent most of the inter-war and post-war literature dealing specifically with international aggression, strife, peace, war reparations, etc. “Violence Itself” does not in fact become an object of broad scholarly concern until the late 1960s, beginning in earnest with the papers in The Journal of Philosophy, Vol.66, No.19, these being from the Sixty-Sixth Annual Meeting of the American Philosophical Association (2 October 1969). The contributions to this issue of the Journal of Philosophy were an attempt to respond philosophically to the militant disturbances and the student protests at Columbia University and elsewhere, and the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, once again demonstrating that the idea of Violence Itself was born in the crucible of civil unrest. In the prior century, the word “violence” was used most often in connection with the weather and natural phenomena, Biblical literature, the emancipation of slaves in the ante-bellum South, attacks upon African Americans in the post-bellum South, the conflict between labour and capital, and crime. The word rarely occurs in descriptions of either the War of 1812, the American Civil War (or the works of Stephen Crane, by the way), or the macabre works of or review of the macabre works of Poe. Crime reporting in The New York Times uses the word “violence” with increasing in the years after the Civil War – noting, obiter, that the first US daytime armed bank robbery took place in 1866, which was the same year the ASPCA was founded. Hannah Arendt’s On Violence appeared on shelves in 1970, but her work is best regarded as a contemporary continuation of a Continental tradition going back at least as far as Hegel (Philosophy of Right, 1820) and Marx, in which “violence” is understood in the context of political activity (and not: political activity addressed in the context of violence, as it is today). In Arendt, the word “violence” refers mainly to force or to power, but not specifically to the character of wrongful-harms or wrongful harm-causing – that is, to those things typically designated crimes. It is not to be wondered at that On Violence followed hard on the heels of proletariat revolutions around the world, the dying gasps of colonialism, and the worst of domestic riots associated with the Vietnam War protests and the Civil Rights Movement. So when, exactly, did “violence” start to become contemplated in the West as a phenomenon in its own right, as a “disease”, as a health issue? The Seville Statement on Violence was issued in 1986, but even here the enemy was not war, intraspecific atrocity, or even Violence Itself, but what its signatories thought was the strong determinism of EO Wilson and sociobiology, which seemed to them to doom Mankind to war in perpetuity. The date we are looking for is 2002. That is when the WHO – despite over half a century of grand and grandiose declarations – finally issued a report on “the problem of violence.” The project’s house-of-cards foundation was laid by those scholars took up residence on Gilligan’s island – vide World Report on Violence and Health – here: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/pr73/en/. We are left, at last, with an innocent and simple question, one which scholars are either unwilling or unable to answer: If “the problem of violence” had been in plain sight since the dawn of human existence, and has forever been one of humankind’s most intractable problems, why then did it take so long for anyone to write about it as a problem – that is, as a problem in and of itself? And with a world lately bathed in the blood of the Holocaust, why did it take the scholars and the researchers of the last half of the 20th century another two decades to discover Violence? Was the Armenian genocide, the massacre in Nanjing, the continued lynching of African Americans in the post-bellum South, the two world wars, Nazi atrocities, the Korean War, and Vietnam not quite violent enough? And if violence is in fact (and not just by stipulation or hypothesis) a disease, disease entity, or symptom of disease, why did the UN’s global hygiene secretariat wait 40 years to issue a report on the subject?
²⁹See R v Billinghurst  Crim LR 553, Newport Crown Court: Judge John Rutter: June 12 and 13, 1978. The case concerned the reasonable limits of consent to the risk or prospect of experiencing intentional physical harm-causing in sport, insofar as such harm was or should have been reasonably foreseeable to a consenting athlete and participant. The ruling makes clear that while rugby is a contact sport, and that sometimes in rugby players do in fact throw or trade punches, consent to participation in a rugby match is not or should not be taken as consent to be either punched or assaulted in a manner which is or should be considered properly outside the scope of fair and reasonable play. The court so held, citing public policy as a principal or determining factor. The language throughout, though sometimes less than unequivocal, allows and in fact insists upon the intelligibility of making and sustaining a distinction between non-wrongful “violence”(rugby is a contact sport, it is rough, and may be described as “violent”) and wrongful-violence (the nature or kind of aggression which would lead or cause a player to punch another player is unacceptable, and to punch another player would be to manifest to an inappropriate degree aggression, and so or thereby commit a wrongfully-violent act. There’s a great deal of literature on the subject which tackles the rational of violenti non injuria fit in the context of sport and rough play (Yes. I said “tackle.”). The relevance of this body of literature to “the problem of Violence” seems not to be widely acknowledged or appreciated.
The weather is getting hotter and hotter, what beats escaping the summer heat with a refreshing splash in the pool?
But have you ever thought of a question: How much urine is there in the pool?
Let’s talk about that today.
Blogger Mark Rober spoke with a couple of scientists to find out the average amount of pee in a swimming pool. The giveaway is the amount of artificial sweetener in pool water. And the unmistakable pool smell.
Mark sampled private pools and public pools four times and sent the samples directly to a laboratory for inspection
Mark visited Lindsay Blackstock, a PhD student of analytical and environmental toxicology at Alberta University to learn about her ingenious method for measuring the amount of pee in a pool by looking at the concentration of an artificial sweetener called Acefulfame Potassium, it’s commonly found in processed foods and fizzy drinks. This is commonly found in urine because it passes straight through the body undigested.
They looked at samples from some pools in his area to determine how much pee was in them and he conducted an experiment of his own to see what was the cause of that "classic pool smell". He also presented average amounts of pee in large pools as well as an equation to determine how much pee is in your own pool.
In fact, you can also get the results by measuring the amount of urea in the pool, but urea can also come from human sweat, and sweat is very common in pools, so you cannot tell how much urea actually came from pee.
Before the results of the experiment came out, Mark learned a big "secret"!
It took about an hour for the mass spectrometer to detect the results. When Mark waited, Lindsay also told him an amazing fact...
Adding chlorine into a pool can disinfect the water because it kills harmful bacteria, viruses and microorganisms...
However, there is also a big disadvantage! Chlorine for disinfection reacts with urea in the pool to form trichloroamine, that’s why you may smell it when you enter the indoor pool. It is actually the smell of trichloramine, which is the of urine and chlorine, not just the smell of disinfectant water.
To prove this, Mark personally tested it. He prepared two 5 gallon buckets, and filled them with pure water, then added four times the recommended concentration of chlorine for that volume of water to both buckets, and then added a little urine to the bucket B.
After 3 days of waiting, it’s time for the truth.
Bucket A still smells like water even with four times the recommended chlorine concentration, while bucket B smells like a swimming pool. The only difference is that bucket B has a small amount of pee in it. The smell reminds us of summer vacations in a 5-star hotel’s pools or water parks. It turns out… it’s just pee.
The classic pool smell doesn’t sound like a big deal, but the problem is it’s kinda bad news for both your lungs and your eyes.
If your eyes are really red after swimming for a while, that’s because of the trichloroamine from the pee, not the chlorine. Trichloroamine also causes asthma, in fact, studies show that asthma is more likely to occur among lead swimmers than any other high-level athletes, which now make sense, because Michael Phelps admitted to always peeing in the pool and he says everyone does it too.
In Lindsay’s research, she sampled 20 public swimming pools and 10 public hot tubs. The average concentration of sweetener for the public pool was 470ng/L , and 2247ng/L for the public hot tubs.
So what about Mark’s samples? The concentration of artificial sweetener in his friend’s backyard pool is 69ng/L. Although it is much lower than the average, it equals just under a gallon of pee. Mark's hot tub has a slightly higher concentration of artificial sweetener at 103ng/L.
In another set of samples taken by Mark in a public pool and hot tub, the concentration of artificial sweetener is 27ng/L for the pool and 335ng/L for the hot tub, respectively.
Those numbers are much lower than the average levels of the 30 samples that Lindsay collected, which leads Mark to believe that the water has been completely replaced recently.
If you want to estimate the pee in your pool, Mark came up with a simple equation after talking to some professionals and the equation depends on the number of people.
numbers of swimmers × 1.2 = gallons of pee
If you think they pee more than average:
numbers of swimmers × 2 = gallons of pee
If they are more disciplined:
numbers of swimmers × 0.5 = gallons of pee
An Olympic pool would contain over 130 gallons of pee.
While some people swear by the health benefits of drinking urine, which is sterile, taking a gulp of the stuff in a swimming pool is not a good idea.
Urine contains many nitrogenous compounds such as urea, ammonia, amino acids, and creatinine. These compounds can react with disinfectants (e.g., chlorine) in swimming pools to form disinfection byproducts (DBPs).
Although considered a taboo, 19 percent of adults have admitted to having urinated in swimming pools at least once.
So be cool, don’t pee in the pool!
If you are interested watching Mark Rober’s research video, go on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S32y9aYEzzo
The city has been rainy and wet for a month, and you wonder when is this going to end. When the rain stops, it’s time for the heat, and voilà, summer is here. It gets hot and humid in Hangzhou, but there are places nearby you can go to enjoy a cooler environment. These include the islands, mountains, lakes and rivers in or near Hangzhou, and the local water parks.
01 - TONGLU -
Luci Bay 桐庐-芦茨湾
Luci Village is situated on the bank of the Fuchun River and is located beside the Longmenwan Scenic Area in the south of the Yangtze River. The village of Luci has a beautiful landscape with a wealth of rural tourism attractions such as Luci Tutu and Yanlingwu Orchard. Luci Village has a long history and profound cultural heritage. This is the hometown of the late Tang poet Fang Gan. In the village of Luci, there are relatively complete ancient buildings such as Chengong Temple and Linggu Temple with historical and traditional features, ancient lanes, old bridges, and ancestral halls.
There are plenty of water entertainment projects to play. Pick a sunny weekend, bring your water gun and swimsuit, and go have a thrilling rafting or water skiing. If you don't want to go into the water, rent a bicycle to go around the lake, 50RMB for pedal boat for unlimited time, the price is very affordable. Or you can bring a small basket to dig bamboo shoots, pick some raspberries, wild vegetables and herbs. Take a bite on that ice cold watermelon, or ask for a cup of Luci black tea on the way to the mountain is also very good.
- TONGLU -
Yaolin Wonderland 桐庐-瑶琳仙境
During the Olympic season, visitors coming to the Yaolin caves can watch the live broadcast of the Games while cooling off in the caves. Yaolin Wonderland is a group of limestone caves formed by corrosion through the ages. With stalagmite and peak stones in fantastic shapes and colors as well as murmuring streams, pools and cliffs, its halls are interconnected with passages and chambers.
Yaolin Wonderland stretches 1km in depth and covers 28,000 sqm. It ranks second on the list of the newly developed natural scenic sports among the Forty Best Tourist Resorts in China. It was also awarded as one of the Ten Best Tourist Resorts in Zhejiang province.
In the spacious fourth to sixth halls of Yaolin Wonderland, 300-odd immortals from more than 20 myths and legends, such as Nuwa Patching the Skies and Houyi Shooting Down the Nine Suns, are displayed through lifelike modern audio-animatronics, complementing the beauty of the stalagmites in the other three halls of Yaolin Wonderland and adding a touch of mythology.
02 - DEQING -
Moganshan, part of China’s Moganshan National Park, about 1 hour by private car southwest of Shanghai, the lush mountain has long been the stomping ground of high-profile politicians (a list that once included Chairman Mao), foreign missionaries, Chinese gangsters, and well-heeled expats.
Thanks to its elite clientele and countryside appeal, the area has been dubbed the “Hamptons of China,” though visitors will have to trade a sandy coastline for rolling tea plantations and restored 19th-century mansions. Even without the beaches of Long Island, the draw is clear: It’s the kind of place where you can wander through tea plantations by day and sip French wines in a private cellar late into the evening. After a busy week of work in Hangzhou, where temperatures hover around 38 degrees in the summer, Moganshan provides cool mountain air and a blissfully wide-open itinerary.
There are a few places we recommend you to stay, simply search: Le Passage, naked Stables, Solvang Village Boutique on www.morehangzhou.com
03 - JIANDE -
Xin'an River 建德-新安江
Listed with the first group of national scenic spots ever adopted, the city of Jiande is described as a bright pearl along the golden tourist route from Zhejiang province to neighboring Anhui.
The Xin'an River attracts thousands of visitors from both home and abroad every year. Linking Yellow Mountain at its headwaters and Thousand-Island Lake at its lower reaches, the river winds among high mountains.
Due to its splendid landscapes, the river is renowned as a gallery where water meets mountains. Xin'an River is famous for its clear water - in summer or winter, its riverbed can be clearly seen. The temperature of the river remains 17 degrees through the whole year, and the fog on the river is also a wonder.
And forget to try the local specialty: Fish Head!
04 - LIN'AN -
West Zhejiang Grand Canyon 临安-浙西大峡谷
West Zhejiang Grand Canyon is located in the City of Lin'an in western Hangzhou. The canyon is one of the famed landscapes in western Zhexi. There are 4 main sightseeing areas: Jiamen Pass, White Horse Cliff, Zhelin Waterfall, and Laodui Brook.
From White Horse Cliff, you can see a landscape that includes waterfalls, brooks, and cliffs. At Jiamen Pass, you experience rafting or you can enjoy walking along trails through the canyon. At Zhelin Waterfall, you can see Yansheng Waterfall and Longmen Waterfall, the waters of which are exceptionally cool. An important feature of Laodui Brook is a display of cultural activities there.
- LIN'AN -
Qingshan Lake 临安-青山湖
Qingshan Lake is a manmade lake 4-5 kilometers to the east of Lin'an. Lined with metasequoia trees, the Lake makes a unique view. There is also a barbecue court and a small playing ground where you could go parachuting on the water. The best way to appreciate the views here is by boat. Tickets are available at Qinshan and Shenghe, two piers at the south bank of the Lake. You may board and alight at the same pier. There are two types of rides, with one taken on boats painted in the style of classic pleasure boats, and the other on yachts.
05 - LISHUI -
Songyang Ruoliao 丽水 - 松阳箬寮
Songyang County is located in the mountains of southwest Zhejiang and has over 1800 years of history. This is a famous city of provincial history. Historically, it was the economic center of Chuzhou (today's Lishui), and it has many historical relics, including the domestically and internationally famous Yanqing Temple Pagoda. The many cultural sites here also include the Huang Courtyard, the “Ming-Qing Neighborhood,” and the Xiongdi Jinshi (“Brothers Who Passed the Imperial Exam”) memorial gate.
The Ruoliao Primeval Forest is located in Songyang County. It is a small canyon between Lishui Mountain. The cool climate, dense vegetation accompanied by waterfalls and streams make the original forest a good place to escape the heat. The main thing here is to experience the farmhouse music, listen to the sound of the stream, breathe the fresh air and enjoy the fun of nature.
Lately, Shanghai citizens have been busy learning how to sort their garbage.
Overnight, all the garbage bins in Shanghai's major residential complexes disappeared! Residents can now only dispose of their garbage at designated garbage disposal points which are locked up during most of the day.
Each resident will be allocated with a time to dump their waste and a designated station within their vicinity, where they can sort garbage into bins.
The daily time for garbage disposal is regulated:
7am - 9am
6pm – 8pm
(Slightly different for different places)
Garbage must be sorted, otherwise the penalty will be between 50RMB-200RMB.
After the garbage bins were removed, some residents took garbage to work, some dumped them on the street late at night.
"On July 28, 2018, the garbage bins were removed. Although there was a lot of publicity previously (to educate the residents), the complex was like a big garbage dump the day after." Shi Jingjing, secretary of the party branch of the Fushi residential area in Minhang District, Shanghai, recalled, “After the garbage bins were removed and the designated garbage bins put in place, most residents, especially the elderly, found it easier to sort their garbage." Shi Jingjing said, "But some of the young people do not follow the waste classification rules. Some people throw garbage into the street trash can outside the complex. Some people take the garbage with them to throw in the garbage bins where they work.”
“In the vicinity of street shops, there will be a lot of unsorted overnight garbage in the morning.” said Wang Junxiong, head of the business department of Shanghai Jiangchuan Environmental Sanitation Comprehensive Service Co., Ltd. “The urban management, law enforcement, and other departments have their off-duty hours, some merchants would throw the unsorted garbage on the street in the evening. Even if they were discovered, the punishment is not hard enough.” In some communities, in order to find the owner of the ownerless garbage that was thrown away, the residents’ committee officials even went through the garbage to look for clues.
Garbage Disposal Service!
So some “smart” people have developed a new business:
Ms. Chen said she goes out early and comes home late every day. Garbage disposal is scheduled at certain times of the day, which gives her a headache. After all, some people are busy.
Fortunately, some people started to provide garbage disposal services at the complex where she lives. She only needs to leave the sorted garbage at her door. At 9am every day, someone will come to take them to the designated garbage disposal point. The cost is 1RMB each time and 30RMB a month.
Waste sorting is just beginning. It will be a long journey for a big country like China. Apart from enhancing garbage storage sites, local environmental agencies are aiming to resolve garbage overflow in the districts of Jing’an, Changning, Yangpu, Fengxian, Songjiang and Chongming by the end of 2018. Other districts will follow suit next year, and it is expected that a fully conceived national system - including the enforcement of garbage fees - will be in place by 2020.
Starting from June 21st, the Yellow Dragon Stadium Station will no longer operate. There will be two locations where you can get a bus to Shanghai Pudong Airport. The journey takes about 3.5 hours and the ticket cost is 120RMB. Here are the details:
To Shanghai Pudong Airport
(390 Tiyuchang Road体育场路390号)
5:30am, 6:10am, 7am, 8am, 9am, 10am, 11am, 12pm, 1pm, 2pm, 3pm, 3:50pm, 4:30pm, 5:30pm
From Hangzhou East Train Station
5:55am, 6:45am, 7:35am, 8:35am, 9:35am, 10:35am, 11:35am, 12:35pm, 1:35pm, 2:35pm, 3:35pm, 4:25pm, 5:05pm, 6:05pm
We also collected information for how to get to Xiaoshan Airport. Here are the details:
Bus to Xiaoshan Airport
(390 Tiyuchang Road体育场路390号)
Stops at: Bus station at the junction of Pinghai Road and Yuewang Road 平海路岳王路口公交车站 (You can purchase your ticket at: 平海路杭州市职工国际旅行社内)
First bus: 5am
Last bus: 9pm
Every 15 minutes from 5am to 5pm.
Every 30 minutes from 5pm to 9pm.
From Chengzhan Train Station
Inside of Chengzhan Train Station Bus Station 城站火车站汽车客运站内.
Add: 12-8 East Huancheng Road 环城东路12-8号
First bus: 5am
Last bus: 9pm
Every 30 minutes.
Hangzhou Eastern International Business Center, South Haida Road 海达南路杭州东部国际商务中心
Stops at: Shengtai Kaiyuan Mingdu Hotel 盛泰开元名都酒店
7:15am, 9:30am, 10:30am, 12:10pm, 1:40pm, 3:10pm, 4:30pm, 6:15pm
From Hangzhou East Train Station
Every 30 minutes from 5:30am from 9am.
Every 15 minutes from 9am to 9pm.
Overseas Business Park, 368 Liuhe Road 六和路368号海外创业园
Stops at: Ramada Plaza Riverside Hangzhou (华美达大酒店), and Jiangling Road Subway Station (江陵路地铁站)
6am, 7:30am, 8:30am, 9:30am, 10am, 11:20am, 12:30pm, 1:40pm, 2:50pm, 4pm, 5:20pm, 6:40pm
From Future Science and Technology City
Hangzhou Future Science and Technology City Overseas High-Level Talents Innovation Park杭州未来科技城海创园
6:40am, 7:35am, 8:40am, 9:25am, 10:20am, 11:10am, 12:30pm, 1:20pm, 2:20pm, 3:20pm, 4:20pm, 5:25pm, 5:55pm, 6:40pm
From Xixi Wetland
Longshezui, Xixi Wetland 杭州市西溪湿地龙舌嘴
8am, 10am, 12:20pm, 3:30pm
From Lake View Hotel
2 West Huancheng Road 环城西路2号
9am, 11am, 1:20pm, 4:30pm
From Hangzhou Terminal
(3339 East Desheng Rd. Jiubao Town 九堡镇德胜东路3339号)
6:40am, 7:40am, 8:45am, 8:50am, 9:10am, 9:40am, 10:10am, 10:40am, 11:20am, 12:10pm, 12:50pm, 1:30pm, 2:05pm, 2:35pm, 3:20pm, 4pm, 4:35pm, 5:10pm, 5:50pm, 6:30pm, 7:10pm, 7:40pm, 8:20pm, 8:55pm
From Hangzhou North Bus Station
(766 Moganshan Road 莫干山路766号)
5:15am, 6am, 6:45am, 7:40am, 8:10am, 8:40am, 9:20am, 10am, 10:40am, 11:30am, 12:10pm, 12:40pm, 1:20pm, 1:45pm, 2:30pm, 3:10pm, 3:50pm, 4:20pm, 5pm, 5:40pm, 6:20pm, 7pm, 7:40pm, 8:20pm, 9pm, 9:40pm, 10:10pm
From Hangzhou South Bus Station
(407 Qiutao Road 秋涛路407号)
6:20am, 7:20am, 8:20am, 9:20am, 10:30am, 11:30am, 12:30pm, 1:30pm, 2:20pm, 3:30pm, 4:30pm, 5:30pm, 6:30pm, 7:30pm, 8:30pm, 9:10pm
From Hangzhou West Bus Station
(357 Tianmushan Road 天目山路357号)
6:20am, 7:20am, 8:20am, 9:20am, 10:30am, 11:30am, 12:30pm, 1:30pm, 2:20pm, 3:30pm, 4:30pm, 5:30pm, 6:30pm, 7:30pm, 8:30pm, 9:10pm
We recommend you this platform to book your bus ticket. Not only can you buy tickets for the airport shuttle bus, but also to other cities as well. You can use your passport to purchase tickets.
To Come Back from Xiaoshan Airport
The shuttle buses of Hangzhou Airport usually take an hour to the city center and around 50 minutes to Xiaoshan District. To buy tickets, go to Gate 14, Arrival Hall, on the first floor of the domestic terminal.
China has been making efforts on waste sorting or waste recycling for decades, but there are still many problems yet to be solved. Eight cities including Beijing, Shanghai, Nanjing and Hangzhou were considered national pilot cities for garbage sorting in 1998. Twenty years on, their efforts have not achieved the desired results. According to the People's Daily, the failure of garbage classification was due to three reasons: a lack of awareness from residents, misconduct from garbage workers and insufficient financial support.
According to a survey released by the Ministry of Ecology and Environment research center, 63.7 percent of people surveyed believe that the reason why they fail to sort the garbage is due to the lack of classified waste bins in their residential communities. 59.6 percent of people blame their behavior on the failure of city garbage disposal services, which mix all garbage together, leading people to think that there's no point in sorting.
Other reasons include that the residents don't know how to sort; they have no sense of accomplishment; they think sorting is complicated, exhausting and few people around them do it.
First Penalty in Hangzhou for Garbage Classification
On May 30th, 2019, Hangzhou Jianggan District officially imposed penalties for the classification of personal waste.
On the morning of May 30, Mr. Zhang, who lives in Caihe Street in Jianggan District, signed his name on the “Administrative Punishment Decision”. Jianggan District City Management Office fined Mr. Zhang for 50RMB because the garbage was misplaced.
Mr. Zhang became the first person in Hangzhou who was not properly sorting garbage and was subject to administrative punishment.
Shanghai Will Be the First City to Enforce Garbage Classification
Yes, starting from July 1st, 2019, Garbage Classification will be officially implemented in Shanghai!
Shanghai is going to be the pioneer city for waste sorting and recycling, which makes it the first city in China to publish harsh regulations on garbage sorting and recycling. The government has put out a list of categories for sorting waste including recyclable, hazardous, wet and dry. It also specified the punishments for individuals and companies that break the rules.
Fines for individual mixed garbage will be up to 200RMB
Fines for companies, organizations, and complex mixing of garbage will be up to 50,000RMB
For individuals, authorities will fine a maximum of 200RMB (about 29 U.S. dollars) for mixing the garbage, while companies and organizations that are in charge of garbage sorting, transporting, processing and management will be fined a maximum 50,000RMB (about 72,357 U.S. dollars).
The regulation will come into effect on July 1 and was passed by the people's congress of Shanghai municipal city on January 31, 2018.
Basically divided into four categories: Hazardous Waste, Recyclable Waste, Household Food Waste, and Residual Waste. Check out the colours and Chinese below:
These four categories are the major ones. How do we distinguish them? We explain each category for you, let’s start with Recyclable Waste.
Paper, plastic, scrap metal, glass bottles & containers, magazines, books & cardboard, clothes, fabric, toys, take-out or food delivery packaging
This is where your plastic bottles and containers go, unless they are dirty and can’t be cleaned, in which case, they go in the Residual Waste (干垃圾) bin. Pour out the liquid before you throw your drink bottles or food containers away. Rinse them with water and squash them. You’re doing the sanitation workers a huge favor by reducing the size and weight, and giving them a bit of dignity.
Cosmetic brands such as Kiehl's, Origins, M.A.C, Shiseido, and Innisfree can take your returned containers and reward you with small samples and membership points.
Household Food Waste
Food waste, expired food, shells & husk, dead plants, Chinese medicine
Anything type of food waste belongs in this category. The chicken bones from last night, the shells from your favourite spicy crayfish, shrimp, or crab, the plant you bought three months ago and is now dead, grape skin, fruit peels… but leftover milk or yogurt should be poured directly into your sink.
Most organic food waste belongs here, except things that are hard to break down, like big bones and coconut shells, which go in the Residual Waste (干垃圾) bin. Remember to remove the plastic from anything you put in these bins.
Anything else goes to Residual Waste.
Bottles or cans that are dirty and can’t be cleaned should go in the Residual Waste (干垃圾) bin. Things like face mask packaging, nail polish bottles, cotton sticks, toothbrushes, towels, used tissues, tampons, diapers, cigarette butts, plant pots, plastic wrap, yogurt or milk bottles (you need to empty the bottle first). Clean food packaging goes to Recyclable, dirty and used packaging goes to Residual Waste.
Waimai containers are incredibly hard to recycle, even the paper-based ones. These containers are often lined with polyethylene and tainted with food residue so they are very unpopular among garbage collectors -- it’s not worth their effort to wash them or separate the liners. The same goes for disposable coffee cups. This is a problem.
So here are the four steps we suggest you do. First, separate the clean paper/plastics and dirty containers. Leftover food →Household Food Waste Bin (湿垃圾); dirty containers →Residual Waste (干垃圾) bin; Clean bags → Recyclable (可回收物) bin.
Used batteries (rechargeable batteries, button batteries, batteries), paint cans, waste lamp, paint buckets, pesticides (there are residues that need to be sealed in advance and then disposed of), expired or discarded drugs, and other hazardous materials.
In newer residential areas, they are usually right next to the other bins, in red or with a red label. If you don’t have one in your neighborhood, talk to your local neighborhood management about options for disposal. That’s kind of mafan but we all need to do the best we can.
If you are wondering how many garbage bags you should have at home to handle daily waste, we have an idea for you to try.
More Options for Recyclable Waste
For books, Duozhuayu (多抓鱼) is great for selling and buying second-hand books. Funded by Tencent, Duozhuayu has a system that verifies and estimates the value of your books, and they will collect the books from you free of charge.
For clothes, take them back to the store, or take them to H&M. Clothing shops Uniqlo, H&M, and Zara all provide recycling services for used clothes from their own shops; H&M even accepts clothes from other brands.
Social enterprise Feimayi (飞蚂蚁) is at the forefront of online textile recycling in China and provides a free collection service for more than five kg of clothes. Also funded by Tencent, like Duozhuayu, it’s accessible via desktop and WeChat mini-program. Find the QR code by scrolling down on their website. Basic Chinese is needed to navigate the app and fill out the form.
Aihuishou (爱回收) is China’s largest platform for recycling and selling second-hand electronics. They have offline stores in shopping malls throughout the city.
Xianyu (闲鱼) is Taobao’s second-hand marketplace. Although not desktop-friendly, you can sell almost anything there. The platform is super active due to its sheer size. There is an amazing, incredible, wonderfully efficient and hugely profitable Buy & Sell section here.
Green Initiatives offers transparent waste management for e-waste, paper, and textile waste. They also have recycling bins at URBN hotel, Element Fresh, and many other private and public collection points around Shanghai. For home pick up, Feibao, a social enterprise that works with Green Iniatitives offers recycling service through WeChat.