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Why work at Berkshire Publishing?

Spine view of Berkshire Encyclopedia of SustainabilityBill Siever, who was project coordinator for the Berkshire Encyclopedia of Sustainabilitypublished in 2012, wrote this:

1. I started work at Berkshire Publishing thinking that I knew a lot about the world. I was in store for an awakening. I learn at least five new things pretty much every day, on everything from nanotechnology to environmental law in India.

2. I have had regular correspondence with authors from over 50 countries as project coordinator for the Encyclopedia of Sustainability.

3. I can’t guarantee this for you when you’re first starting out, but I never EVER run out of things to do, and the days fly by.

4. Berkshire’s a small company, so if you want to make a suggestion for how to improve something (anything), people listen.

5. Baked goods!

6. A cat!

7. Friendly co-workers!

8. Great Barrington and its surroundings are great, especially if you like to hike, bike, etc. Lots of culture in the area. Nice walkable downtown. I can walk to work. GB was named the best small town in US by Smithsonian magazine this month.

10. We cover topics that are interesting and important: China, the environment, community, etc. It’s good for morale when you feel that you’re contributing in some way to the greater good.

11. You will undoubtedly be asked to do all kinds of things that you have no idea how to do, but we’re a small company and help is always at hand.

PS: Berkshire Publishing’s cat, Magellan, and her brother, Shadowfax, are much missed. Bill himself has moved on to new endeavors, but like the many other staffers who got their start in publishing here, he made his mark on one of our landmark publications and is part of our history and our community.

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Earth Day and the Vital Importance of Greening China

As we prepare to publish volume seven of the Berkshire Encyclopedia of Sustainability, and in conjunction with our Earth Day Special for both that set and the Berkshire Encyclopedia of China, I went back to my introduction to the “Greening China” issue of Guanxi: The China Letter. Here’s a fresh version with some startling and fascinating details from volume seven, which is entitled China, India, and East and Southeast Asia: Assessing Sustainability.

The people of China are aware that they face big environmental challenges. Their leaders are keenly aware that they must find a way to harmonize (as the Chinese put it) economic development and environmental protection. And they know that the rest of the world is watching.

Experts point out the handicaps China operates under. Although China is sixth in the world in terms of total freshwater resources, its large population of 1.3 billion means that the water available to each citizen, on average, is only one-quarter what is available to individuals worldwide. In a classic example of “water insecurity,” China faces flooding as well as water shortages. Proponents of the controversial Three Gorges Dam claim that the huge dam will tame the famously flood-prone Yangzi River; critics counter that in the long run it will have the opposite effect. China faces similar hardship in terms of arable land: much of the nation is steep mountains, deserts, or dry grasslands.

Here are some statistics to consider.

  1. China has an overwhelming monopoly on rare earth metals, which are vital to the manufacture of smart phones and other electronics. It became apparent to the global economy that additional sources of rare earth metals were necessary after China, which supplies 95 percent of the world’s rare earth metals, withheld shipments to Japan after a 2010 dispute over shipping. (See “Rare Earth Metals” in Volume 4, Natural Resources and Sustainability.)
  2. China has the largest “mega-region”: Hong Kong-Shenzhen-Dongguan-Guangzhou in southern China. According to the 2010–2011 UN-Habitat biannual report State of World Cities, this mega-region had 120 million residents in 2011. (See “Cities—Overview” in Volume 7, China, India, and East and Southeast Asia: Assessing Sustainability.)
  3. China has the largest generator of electricity of any kind on Earth: the controversial Three Gorges Dam, in China’s Hubei Province, generates 20 times the electricity-generating power of the Hoover Dam in the United States. (See “Three Gorges Dam” in Volume 7.)
  4. China has the most Internet users: China had an estimated 420 million Internet users in 2010, representing roughly 23 percent of the world’s Internet users. (See “Information and Communications Technologies” in Volume 7.)
  5. China has some of the world’s worst air, according to the 2011 Environmental Performance Index (EPI). India was at the bottom of the list (number 132), followed by Nepal (131), Bangladesh (130), Pakistan (129), and China (128). (See “Beijing” in Volume 7.)
  6. China has had the first and second deadliest floods of all time: the Yangzi in 1931 and the Huang (Yellow) River in 1887, respectively. (See “China” in Volume 7.)
  7. China and India have had the largest economies in the world for most of the last 2,000 years, and only in the last century or so have they lost their dominance. (See

As we consider the way forward, we would do well to remember this Chinese saying: The best time to plant a tree was a hundred years ago; the second-best time is today.

Berkshire Encyclopedia of Sustainability
Tables of Contents, lists of contributing authors, and sample articles:
1/10: The Spirit of Sustainability
2/10: The Business of Sustainability
3/10: The Law and Politics of Sustainability 
4/10: Natural Resources and Sustainability
5/10: Ecosystem Management and Sustainability
6/10: Measurements, Indicators, and Research Methods for Sustainability
7/10: China, India, and East and Southeast Asia: Assessing Sustainability 
8/10: The Americas and Oceania: Assessing Sustainability
9/10: Afro-Eurasia: Assessing Sustainability
10/10: The Future of Sustainability 

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Chinese names in current China news

By Karen Christensen

The press has done a fairly good job with Chinese names in all the recent reporting, though I did see a few references to “Bo Bo Guagua.” But this interesting Bloomberg report goofed at one point:

Through Hitoro, Wangjiang and Wangning, who retained her Chinese citizenship, owned Beijing Jiahua Investment Consulting Co. via China Murder Suspect’s Sisters Ran $126 Million Empire – Bloomberg.

Their names should be Gu Wangjiang and Gu Wangning (or in Berkshire styling, on first use, as GU Wangjiang and GU Wangning). Unless one is trying for a tabloid effect (“Brad and Angelina”), the long form is the right one, even with sisters. Let’s be thankful that the Chinese family names are so short.

I like this Taiwanese website’s inclusion of the Chinese characters for the names used in the article. (See end for the names.)

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Chinese Firm To Build Friendship Wall between Mexico and US

1 April 2012, Great Barrington, Massachusetts—While construction slows in China, new opportunities for foreign investment and international cooperation beckon. The Northeastern Friendship Construction and Heavy Industry Transportation and Advertising Company (NFCHITAC), a division of National Pacific Patriotic People’s Southern Construction, Investing, Securities, and Commercial Services Group (NPPPSCISCSG), has been selected for the construction of what is expected to be the largest human-made object on the planet: a twenty-first-century “Great Wall” between the United States and Mexico. Berkshire Publishing Group will produce a trilingual television series, Facebook apps, mobile games, educational videos, and other high-quality content across many platforms to raise awareness and create engagement.

Artist's rendering of Friendship WallChina’s Great Wall (Chángchéng) known as La Gran Muralla in Spanish, stretches across China and was built in pieces over the course of centuries, starting as early as the Warring States period (475–221 BCE). The Berkshire Encyclopedia of China article explains that, “these walls played a role in defending China from incursion by northern steppe peoples, particularly the Mongols.” The Ming-dynasty portion is estimated at 8851 kilometers (5,500 miles), making it more than twice the length of the new Friendship Wall (Yuyìchéng ). One of the project’s most enthusiastic proponents has been presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich, who in a statement said, “I look forward to being able to see the Friendship Wall from the President Gingrich Lunar Base in 2018.”

The building of a “Great Wall” between the United States and Mexico is supported by anti-immigration activists and politicians, but the awarding of the project to a Chinese firm has introduced a new controversy to current discussions of immigration policy. Some argue that instead of providing jobs for US construction workers many of the jobs are likely to go to Chinese laborers. The project plans call for recruitment from the United States and Mexico, and US government representatives insist that the bid from NFCHITAC was unassailable. The total project cost will be financed by Chinese backers, and the Friendship Wall will be complete in five years. The project includes a significant tourist component, with “commune” villages for camping similar to those along China’s Great Wall, and the wall itself will be designed as a long-distance walking route.

The preliminary design, say architects, is highly reminiscent of Maya Lin’s design for the Vietnam Memorial, while for some observers it evokes a horizontal version of the monolith in 2001: a Space Odyssey. Alamo-style stucco was, however, deemed impractical.

As another part of the revisioning of this part of North America, the Rio Grande (Great River) will be renamed at the opening ceremonies as the People’s River (Rénmínjing ). A swimming event echoing Mao Zedong’s famous 1966 crossing of the Yangzi River is also being discussed. The initial plan calls for participation by leaders from the United States, Mexico, and China, and other countries may be invited to join. The governor of Texas is expected to take a major role. Former president George W. Bush, who was governor of Texas and whose father was chief of the Liaison Office to the People’s Republic of China, has already signaled his willingness to join the swim. For more information on this monumental project go to NFCHITAC’s official project website.

Berkshire Publishing Group and Berkshire Patriotic Committee for Press, Publications, and Futuristic Media Projects

Happy April Fool’s Day! And RT @LettersOfNote “This is the day upon which we are reminded of what we are on the other three hundred & sixty-four.” – Mark Twain