My Week in Beijing

Posted in: Comment, News and Updates

It began with a 17 hour journey with the turning Earth across 7 time zones: Wiltshire to Beijing: door to door.  Once there, the days were ok – the nights not.

It was rather fine weather, from a sunnyist point of view: blue skies, 19 Celcius, a cooling breeze – and the air was fine.  I say nothing of the climate, which is as mysterious as always.

As befits an egalitarian society, pedestrians don't have priority on the zebra crossings in China, but have to negotiate their passage with other users; that is with cars, buses, bikes and trucks.  It strikes me that some users, that is those travelling in steel boxes, are more equal in this enterprise than others.  The trick is to make sure you have a cyclist or two between you and the traffic while it shimmies around you.  It's much more interesting than the UK.

Sunday afternoon in the Temple of Heaven found groups of singers in various corners failing to avoid competing with each other.  It was wonderful to see (and hear), and I thought I recognised some of the tunes; 'The East is Red', that old Maoist favourite, was one, along with the more revisionist ...

'Let's hear it for a post-Marxist, neo-Gramscian inspired discourse analysis arguing for the re-articulation of sustainability to a new counter-hegemonic ‘re-imagining’ of nature'.

Yes!  NB, this is catchier than it sounds.

Here's a couple of extracts from the background papers for the Forum.  Here's a contrasting flavour:

"[In China], there are still some misunderstandings and academic prejudices towards ESD amongst researchers.  A number of principals and teachers are not motivated enough to engage in practising ESD, and their participation is not wide enough.  Due to the barriers from professions in vocational and higher education, it is still difficult to promote ESD comprehensively.  The guiding ideologies of non-formal education and informal education are too diverse to focus on ESD.  Special funds for ESD are inadequate."

... which sounds familiar.

"[Through] self-evaluation and expert evaluation of ESD implementation in schools ..., principles and teachers of many experimental schools ... have reached a consensus – ESD: A Road to Quality Education."

... which doesn't – at least outside UNESCO / HEAQAA circles.  Much more on this in other posts.

I heard with apprehension that the organisers have added explanatory Chinese characters to my carefully-constructed PowerPoint slides.  But it was all fine.  I’ll let others judge the quality of the talk itself.

The highlight of the week was a visit to No. 55 Model (ESD) high school which included a school dinner.  Schools are always absorbing, but this was a great morning which I'll say more about separately.

The week ended, if we discount another 11 hour flight / 26 hour day, with a walk on the Great Wall – a long-standing cultural 'want’.  We organised this from the UK, in the hope of avoiding visits to tourist knick-knack / kick-back emporia.  Successfully, as it turned out.

Back now in Blighty, I’ll just note that this walk was wonderful, though it was really a series of flights of steps which sometimes turned into staircases.  As I said, it was a cultural ‘want’ rather than any sort of ‘need’, and in sustainability terms, therefore, a complete indulgence.  We wore the wall away (a bit) just for our personal gratification.  And that’s the trouble with the useless Brundtland sustainable development  ‘definition’ – it has no bearing on the reality of human existence where a fulfilled life is not just about our wants.  It saddens me the degree to which Brundtland keeps getting trotted out as any sort of adequate conceptual framing of the issue.  We saw this at the Forum, but you don't have to go to China to see it – it's everywhere you go in the UK.  Inexplicable.

Posted in: Comment, News and Updates


  • (we won't publish this)

Write a response