Sunday, November 2, 2008
Yangtze River Trip
During National Week, the first week of October,we took a 4 day trip up the Yangtze River with our friend Karen Stock (art historian Fulbrighter teaching at Beijing Normal). We flew to Yichang on Monday and were taken by a guide to the ship. With 4 levels the boat appeared to be quite typical of the cruise ships traveling up and down the river. We spent 4 days cruising up the river, stopping at the Yangtze dam, taking a side trip up one of the streams in the gorges, and visiting the Ghost City before arriving in Chongqing. The scenery was beautiful, the dam huge and impressive and the entire trip disquieting. We slowly came to understand (partially, we’re sure) the massive human and environmental disruption of this project. Well over 1 million people, and 1000 villages, were moved. Entire villages were moved to cities, or rebuilt higher up. Imagine your family graveyard swept away. The tour guides offered a consistent description that the younger people tended to like the change, but the parents did not. We could everywhere see glimpses of what was under water: a small part of a thousand year old walking trail that is now mostly under water, trees that lived right at the water line (and are soon destined to be covered as the river continues to rise), markers indicating how much higher the water will go. Tens of millions of people live downstream in the flood plane, so we do not have the facts to say it was not worth the disruption. But you cannot help but pause at the scale of the change. We were very, very glad to have made the trip.