Words & Photos: Peter Lundström
A British man who was working with statistics once said that there are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics. While accumulating info for this article, I ran across several reports on the Greenpeace and The Guardian website containing truckloads of statistics about China and the environmental side effect of their rapid economic growth. As it turned out, after a week of thorough research, I actually knew less about global warming and greenhouse gases than what I did to begin with. We will get more into how accurate statistics can be used to bolster inaccurate arguments further on. The only hard facts I can present however, facts that weren’t found on the centre of disinformation know as the internet, are the ones about what went down at the Nanshan Open outside of Beijing / China in the beginning of January 2007.
To be able to enter in to the world’s most populated country known as the People’s Republic of China, you need to have your papers in order, i.e. a visa. Not all people are aware of this, and that might have been a major reason why a few riders were missing for the shoot following the 3-star Ticket To Ride contest held outside of the Chinese capital. A Scandinavian quartet consisting of Kalle Ohlson, Jonte Edvardson, Anssi Manninen and yours truly had all, through various degrees of hassle with embassies and consulates, acquired the correct travel documents and were now commencing on the first leg of their Asia tour. The rumours of the previous year’s contest being a complete hoot had also attracted numerous other international players such as Jacob Wilhelmson, Hampus Mosesson and Aleksi Vanninen. With time to kill, waiting for lost luggage and such inconveniences related to travel, the first day was spent at the gargantuan Beijing Hilton hotel, roaming the infinite streets of the art district and enjoying or rather enduring Chinese foot massages.
At the first glance of the Nanshan ski resort, many must have questioned the sanity of flying across the globe to try and get one’s shred on in a park completely made up of artificial snow. Not that Europe had any more snow to offer at this time, or during the rest of the 06 season for that matter. Despite this, the ski area, being the biggest in the Beijing region, had shaped a park well up to European standards. Even the snow, which was produced every night when the temperature fell, was top notch thanks to the extremely dry climate. The slopestyle contest was flawless with local and international riders and media attending to document the fifth edition of the hoopla. Hampus Mosesson took first place with a bunch of shifty-shifty rewinds (backside 9 indy, double shifty) in front of former team mate Kalle Ohlson, with Austin Smith from the US placing third in the otherwise Scandilicious final. The end of the affair was naturally celebrated with karaoke (some of the best and most extravagant performances can be found on youtube.com) and a vast array of Chinese delicacies such as cow’s stomach, chicken’s feet and sheep’s brain, all swilled down with fountainous squirts of the local brew.
The brains behind this attempt enlighten 1.31 billion Asians about snowboarding is an Austrian now living in China, Steve Zdarsky, with the help of friends. Together with Mellow Parks he put on an event that very few contests around the world can compete with in terms of being rider and media friendly: The inclusion of sightseeing trips to the Great Wall and Tiananmen Square, scheduled and well-organised shopping sprees with a complementary and completely vital lesson in Chinese haggling tactics made the week unforgettable. Being bussed around like a group of senior citizens on vacation, as us pencil pushers and shred-heads were during these two weeks, was both comfortable and somewhat disorientating. Trying to get a grasp of the sheer size of Beijing as well as an insight into the culture is perhaps a futile mission in half a month’s time. Especially when the majority of the time is spent in a snow park, which no matter what country you are in is always the same. But there are a few significant specifics that one picks up rather rapidly while in China. It seems everywhere you go, restaurants, clubs and stores are always over-staffed. This is relatively easy to understand when you find out the cost of the workforce as well as the number of citizens in the Beijing area, not to mention in the entire nation.
China is a country where snowboarding is still maturing. Actually, it’s still in its cradle. Unfortunately, for anyone in the snowboard industry out to make a quick buck out of what is potentially the biggest market in the world, as in many developing countries, snowboarding, or any other alpine sport for that matter, is too expensive for the general public. Even though food, karaoke and semi-fake luxury items are ridiculously cheap here by European standards, a lift ticket is still far from what can be considered affordable for the average Chinese worker. Nevertheless, China supposedly has over 50 million dollar-millionaires, a tiny percentage of the total population but by any other measure, an insane amount of filthy rich people – or a most promising demographic.
China is not only a huge potential market, but also a nation to where more and more companies are moving their production. The underlying reason is of course the inexpensive workforce and cheap materials. However, due to ageing/highly energy-hungry manufacturing techniques and the use of fossil fuels, the biggest loser in the expanding Chinese economy is the environment. This is when the persuasive power of numbers enters, also known as statistics. Recent news from the environmental movement might have led you to believe that China is an absolute energy-guzzler, polluting the world left, right and centre. Part of that is true, but the average Chinese person currently only consumes one third of the energy that the average European consumes and one seventh of that of an American. Should they be punished for outnumbering us? The more, the merrier, no? Apparently not, as Zhang Weiqing, minister in charge of the National Population and Family Planning Commission, stressed that China will keep its family planning policy in place to maintain a low birth level. Statistics from the commission show that China's population has been brought under control in the past 5 years. The Chinese government also insists that the greenhouse gas emissions should for any country be a multiplication of its per capita emission and its population. Because China has put population control measures in place while maintaining low emissions per capita, it claims it should therefore be considered as a contributor to the world's environment.
It seems every report tells a different story, some with positive remarks on the current Chinese governmental targets for lowering their CO2 emissions, some with darker prospects such as ever-increasing levels of pollution due to growing numbers of fossil fuel plants. However, the consensus seems to be that it is not China’s vast population who is the culprit, but all the new western industries moving their production there for profit reasons as well as an expanding domestic industry, thus upping the pressure on energy production. Is your country perhaps only meeting its emission targets due to the fact that they have moved all their industries to China? By the way, do you know where your snowboard gear is made?
So what do we do? Do we turn economically patriotic and make sure the only products we ever buy are home grown to protect the environment, but in so doing prevent development and economic growth in a country that most obviously needs it? Patrick Moore, co-founder of Greenpeace, claims that “the environmental movement has evolved into the strongest force there is for preventing development in the developing countries". Now here is a question for you that all these statistics beg: should we first concentrate on saving the environment or the people in it? Since you could afford this magazine, the chances are that your opinion might differ from the one of the billions (yes, billions) of people worldwide living under the poverty level, close to 80 million in China alone. If you want to check out how our priorities are today, log on to globalissues.org.
So what does the immediate future hold for Chinese snowboarding then? Well, they do posses two of the most essential ingredients for a bright future. The first one is parks. The one in Nanshan is now one of three impeccable parks managed by Mellow Constructions, and they are, as mentioned earlier, comparable to any decent sized European park. And we have all seen what a small park can do for a country’s professional snowboarding. Secondly, they have Steve Zdarsky to get media, riders and the resorts organised and up to par with the rest of the world. Someone with ties to Europe who can organise shindigs such as this that can show the locals what is possible in their home resort, as well as getting the local media to report on the event, hopefully making the interest in snowboarding bigger nationwide. What we can only hope for is that the Chinese economy keeps on flourishing, but in an environmentally conscious way. Hopefully this will pan out so a greater part of the population can afford themselves the luxury of being able to slide sideways down the fake-snowy slopes of Nanshan.
Articles and documentaries to confuse and baffle you about CO2 emission and the greenhouse effect. Make sure you check out the following ‘documentaries’:
Al Gore’s The Inconvenient Truth The Great Global Warming Swindle The Scam of ‘The Great Global Warming Swindle’
And reading these articles will do you no harm either.
For more information about Nanshan and the Mellow parks, make sure to log on to www.mellowparks.cn