Lamont Weekly Report, July 15, 2011

I had a smooth, non-turbulent flight back from Beijing on Monday, after an interesting 2-day conference on sustainability at Renmin (People's) University. The link between China's economic growth and CO2 is indisputable, but at least China's latest 5-year plan (the twelfth) is trying to "bend the curve," so to speak. Reality has set in, though. Fleets of bicycles have given way to electric scooters, and private cars have taken over the ring roads. What used to be a 30-minute ride from
the airport now takes 90 minutes or more. Ridership on the Beijing subways is actually decreasing. While you no longer see freight cycles carrying coal bricks through the hutongs, coal use is increasing. Nuclear plants are popping up, driving up the commodity price of uranium. But solar power panels and solar water heaters are everywhere, and China is probably leading in building windmill parts. China's development goals are monumental (and so is the public architecture),
and I get the feeling sometimes that the rest of the world is just along for the ride.

While in Beijing I had the chance to visit with Geng Xiao, the head of Columbia's Global Center in Beijing ( Geng is leaving soon to head up a think tank in Hong Kong, but the Beijing office is being renovated and has a support staff.  The Global Centers are designed to be a regional base for appropriate projects, and could leverage existing expertise to create new initiatives. Lamont is inherently global - and international - and these global centers could be a useful resource for us. I will try to organize some sort of discussion as schedules
allow, but if you're interested in more info now, let me know.

Award time! Suzana Camargo was honored with a special citation by GRL editors for her manuscript reviews. And Arlene Fiore has been awarded a Macelwane by AGU. Our colleagues have garnered enough heavy metal in the last few months that some sort of party is now in order. Stay tuned.

The highlight of the week for me was Walter Pitman's lecture to the summer interns on "Plate Tectonics." Walter peeled back the decades to show how oceanographic and geophysical observation was fundamental to the development of the plate tectonic paradigm, and supplied the audience with a few stories about seafaring hijinx and several sub-aural
expletives. It was lectures like that that I'm sure got many of us interested in the field as undergraduates. Call it an epiphany.

It's Friday, and I'm sentimental. Have a good weekend.