Your address will show here +12 34 56 78
Environment
As of 2015’s concluding months, China’s air pollution problem has been hitting the headlines, serving as a constant reminder of its persistence and severity. Although 10 cities in China had been issued red alerts December last year, and announced unsafe for citizens to remain outdoors for prolonged periods, Greenpeace’s 2015 data reveals that PM 2.5 levels (particulate matter levels from coal combustion) in China had in fact dropped by 10%. Premier Li Ke-Qiang was also said to be waging a “war with pollution”. Despite this unexpected reversal, most of the major Chinese cities maintain dangerous levels of smog and air quality. So, after all, is China in the process of improving air quality to meet international safety standards, and what are some of its measures due to be implemented in the near future? To nobody’s surprise, as the world leaves 2015 behind and prepares for the dawn of 2016, Beijing’s smog levels also strike an all-time high, resulting in streets to be cleared and gas masks to be pulled out. China’s pollution problem has remained a tenacious one due to excessive coal-burning in local factories and power plants. The multiple red alerts and smog-filled photographs issued last year are grabbing more international attention than ever. However, following Greenpeace’s 2015 report revealing China’s improving air quality, China had announced its termination in the constructing of new local coal mines within the next three years, as well as its plans of closing down up to 1,000 mines in correspondence to its persistent pollution problem. China’s coal ban and declining coal consumption is a heavily persuasive progress in its journey to cleaner and safer air.   What are some of China’s measures for improving air quality? It has been revealed that China had devised multiple plans to keep smog levels in check, which are possible reasons behind the decreasing levels of particulate matter. Apart from the central government’s efforts to decrease pollution levels, provincial governments in China are also warming up to join the pollution resistance, and this was an ongoing process since 2014. The Aviation Industry Corporation of China presents flying parafoil drones: unmanned bots with wings and chemical parachutes that are equipped with particulate-clearing technologies. These drones will be tested in major Chinese cities, and are useful resources for surveillance, disaster relief, and as an integrated tool in agriculture. Furthermore, the central government had been encouraging its citizens to abandon their cars, and to replace them with riding bikes and walking, as well as implementing 25-year environment laws and tax breaks to boost the market of eco-friendly green cars. If China had all these proposals under their belt, the process of relieving pollution and improving air quality should be a quicker and more effective one than it is at the moment. Why have red alerts for hazardous smog levels been issued all over the country, even after these measures have taken place? The Diplomat states that China still “faces problems in implementing and enforcing these proposals”, pinpointing its improper operating of pollution control units and realized difficulties of catching and convicting non-compliance scattered nationwide. The Tianjin explosion that happened last summer would be a case on point, as it had created a leakage of toxic cyanide chemicals that infiltrated a populated residential and commercial area in the city. Within the warehouse, discrepancies in the storage content reports were noted by Tianjin’s State Administration of Work Safety, and authorities did not find out what the warehouse contained until after the incident. Greenpeace’s data conveys that China has been making progressive efforts that led to a perceivable drop in its PM 2.5 levels last year. It is clear that although China has theoretical ideas and measures since 2014 to lower pollutant levels and clear the atmosphere of smog and dirt, implementing them would require rigorous efforts, intricate organization, as well as increased funding.
0

Society

Songs of the Wasteland  is an epic musical work –creation of Vancouver-based musician and teacher, Renia Perel–anda presentation of the Vancouver Academy of Music (VAM), falling on the eve of the UN Holocaust Remembrance Day, January 26.   A chamber ensemble of VAM faculty and leading Vancouver musicians will perform the piece to share a true story of survival and pay tribute to the millions killed and lost during the genocide.

The story of Perel is one of  relenting hope and courage. Born in Poland in 1929, Perel and her older sister Henia started their journey in Southern  Poland in 1941, it was the last time they saw their mother at the train station and  eventually arrived in Canada in 1948 from Germany. The sisters were  the only survivors in their family — both parents and young brother were killed, as well as other relatives.

The Nazi genocide included the mass murder of 6 million Jews and an additional 5 million non-Jews.

‘My music is my way of sharing my painful memories with the world. I hope that by sharing these memories with you, together we will find a way to heal the wounds of yesterday and bring hope for a better tomorrow,’  Perel has said about her work. Perel’s opus made its debut at the Chan Centre in 2010. Four years later, she approached noted cellist and VAM’s executive director, Joseph Elworthy to bring the piece to the stage again. Vancouver-native Elworthy was already familiar with the piece and some of the cast, and had harboured the desire to perform it live. ‘Then by sheer coincidence Renia Perel approached me and said she had a long-standing record of working with community and arts groups throughout Vancouver, (…) and it became clear that the point of collaboration was definitely Songs of the Wasteland — a very important piece of music,’ Elworthy said over the phone. After a meticulous  preparation, Elworthy explains things fell into place scheduling the concert –just before the UN International Holocaust Remembrance Day (Jan 28). Elworthy, who played the cello for the  Vancouver Symphony Orchestra for 12 years, will also play in this performance. The chamber work includes seven musicians: VAM faculty members Elworthy (cello), Robyn Driedger-Klassen (soprano), and the concertmaster at the Vancouver Opera Orchestra, Mark Ferris (Music Direction and violin), and  Mark Fenster (baritone), Francois Houle (clarinet), Lani Krantz (harp), and Kozue Matsumoto (koto). Songs of the Wasteland is a song cycle divided into two sections. The first From Tragedy to Triumph, ‘In terms of thematic direction is about remembrance and pain for those who lost their lives in concentration camps’. Elworthy explained. ‘Musically is somber in mood and character.’ It opens with Psalm 23: Verse 4 ‘Yea tho I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me”. The piece draws on  elements of musical and linguistic     fragments of pre-WWII European Jewish culture. Towards the second part  ‘Survival’, a metamorphosis takes places, turning into a more personal theme, entitled ‘Songs of Life’. ‘We got from talking about the Holocaust –which is a universal subject to something that is incredibly  personal –that is Renia’s account of her love for her late husband’. The koto, a Japanese traditional stringed instrument, is also present in the second part. It symbolizes the gratitude to the Japanese Consul Chiune Shuguhara, who helped to rescue  thousands of Jewish people during WWII.   Boris III, Bulgarian Tsar, who  prevented the deportation and killing of  48,000 Bulgarian Jews, is also honoured. The piece concludes with ‘Jerusalem’ that represents salvation and hope and ‘a desire for peace.’ The soprano and baritone sing mostly separately –the baritone plays the role of the cantor in a synagogue, infusing  religious overtones. Meanwhile,  the soprano’s songs are more secular in nature — they are about ‘the emotional reality of the Holocaust and, then later on , the experiences of (Perel’s)  love for her husband Morris (Perel)’. Elworthy points out that this piece is not only important for its profound and historical content, but as well serves the VAM’s to attain its mandate — to promote ‘the importance of music in form of the examined life and the enrichment of life’ amongst its 1,400 students. ‘We believe that productions such as Songs of the Wasteland will bring credibility to our belief that our own personal lives can be transformed through music.’ Setup On the other hand,  Elworthy describes  the staging as  minimalist and austere. A large screen will accompany the cast with scrolling names of Holocaust victims, part of the Vancouver Holocaust Memorial. Along with the vocalists, six teenaged candle bearers –three girls and three boys — will stand on the wings on the stage symbolizing next generation’s hope, leadership and power. In addition to the night show on January 26 (Koerner Recital Hall at the VAM,  7:30 pm)  the VAM will offer a performance earlier same  day for high school students. For more information visit: http://www.vancouveracademyofmusic.com  
0