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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on December 1st, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

The Mayor of Zhenjiang, Jiangsu Province, China came to New York City at the head of a high-level seven member city delegation. I just listened at the Asia Society in New York City to three hours of cross presentations – from the Zhenjiang side and from various US cities – New York, Chicago and Pittsburgh.

The interesting thing that while this was going on in New York City, at the same time, in Cancun at the UNFCCC Conference, cities had also the podium in respect to Urban areas in low- and middle-income nations being home to a third of the world’s population.

Many of these nations already now face the greatest global risk from sea-level rise, and changes in frequency and intensity of events such as heat waves and storms. The interesting part was that though all these problems were mentioned at the New York City meeting, the actual larger parallel events at Cancun were not mentioned at all. This spoke miles to me in what concerns Cancun, and we heard plenty of how cities in China and in the US look at climate events. The case of a deputy Mayor of Florida, who does not believe in climate change, was mentioned by the Mayor of Pittsburgh. The Pennsylvania Mayor had no problem touting that poor soul that does not realize that his city’s future is at stake.

Many of the cities experience rapid and ongoing growth and urban areas require particular attention when considering effects of climate change and related adaptation and mitigation strategies.

Zhenjiang is located between two major metropolises, Nanjing and Shanghai, and all road traffics connecting these two cities pass Zhenjiang. The railway, Jinghu Railway (Beijing-Nanjing-Shanghai), passes the city and Zhenjiang Railway Station is among the busiest passenger stations in Jiangsu, having 139 trains stopping daily. T-Trains take only 45 min to Nanjing and an hour and a half to Shanghai. By the new intercity light railway, the journey to Shanghai takes only 50 minutes.

Huning (Shanghai-Nanjing) Expressway is a major road transportation artery, connecting Shanghai and Nanjing and other cities between them, including Zhenjiang.

Zhenjiang Port is one of major ports along the Yangtze River and its water network, including the Grand Canal to Beijing, the Yangtze River, and numerous further rivers provide the city a convenient waterway for cargo and passenger transportation.

The city numbers now 3.12 million people of whom 26% are migrants from the country-side or from other parts of China. The fast development will increase the number of migrants to 55% by 2020. For all of China, the total number of migrants will reach 250 million and be larger then the population of the US.

Zhenjiang is on  an Economic & Technological Development Zone of China (ETD). The reason for this mission to New York was to have this exchange – of learning from the experience in the US and show-casing achievements and present some future programs that might benefit from cooperation with Americans. My intention is not to enlarge on the potential for co-operation that could result from the parallel presentation of nice architectural achievements by Americans. I want only to mention something that was said in half joke by Tom Murphy from The New York Urban Land Institute Foundation, Washington DC.

Tom Murphy summarized the achievements of the Chinese Mayor and compared them to the push of Mayor Daley  of Chicago, Mayor Bloomberg  of New York and Mayor  Summey of North Charleston, South Carolina. Tom Murphy was Mayor of Pittsburgh for 12 years – a time of radical change from brown-fields left by the shrinking steel industry to one of the most livable cities in the US. He said that it shows a successful Mayor is a benevolent dictator. SOMETHING REALLY TO THINK ABOUT WHEN ONE PONDERS WHY US DEMOCRACY IS FALLING APART when there is no real leadership – and what it takes to be a leader for change.

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