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Thursday, September 29, 2005

Beijing Hypermarket: Golden Resources Mall

Under Wen Jiabao's reform leadership of China's "new" capitalist regime The Chinese have grown their economy faster than any country in history. With a population of 1. 3 Billion and a hunger to raise their standard of living, China today has put a new face on capitalism, a face that promises to change the world's economy. There may be more than economics at stake however as retailers rush to engage this new market and social activism mixes with free enterprise chances are that China will change its political landscape along with its economics.

In part 1 of this 3 part series, China, a capitalist giant awakened our correspondents Carole To in Beijing and Europe Desk Editor Nidhi Kaushik in London have prepared this report on Golden Resources Mall.

Does size matter? Does the size of a new mall matter or is their success based on how well they serve a community.

In a world where shopping seems to be one of our favourite past times, welcome to the world’s largest mall – visible from space - and as impressive as “The Great Wall Of China”. Embracing the multi-level look rather than the sprawling two level style common in the U.S., China’s biggest mall – Golden Resources Mall also known as Jin Yuan in Beijing spreads over a whopping six million square feet. The five story building has 90 flagship (anchor) stores, 200 escalators and 1,600 retailers, selling a plethora of products ranging from FMCGs to entertainment, it is a shopper’s paradise. As the name suggests, this mall has brought the best resources from all over the world together under one gigantic roof. Be it Victorian style furniture, American bathrooms and DVD stores or children’s playgrounds and restaurant cuisines such as Korean, Italian, Chinese or French, there is something here to suit everyone’s palette.

Completed ten months ago, Golden Resources Mall is the work of Huang Rulun, a real-estate entrepreneur from the coastal factory-belt province of Fujian, he figures somewhere in the middle of China's top 100 richest people. A mall this size not only commands wonder from the consuming public but also draws the attention of critics who look at the economics as a possible sign of an overly aggressive economy; they wonder whether the world’s biggest mall will perhaps face an even bigger failure in the future. Additionally, rivalries with other firms continue to encourage Chinese developers to build ever bigger and better malls. Of the 10 largest shopping malls in the world, five are in China. But it doesn't stop there, Fu YueHong, General Manager of Golden Resources Mall claims that this giant mall is the best among the existing malls. She says, “Shopping malls from inner China, are still in between the shopping mall and grocery store stage“. Though, this mall will be facing enormous market challenges from Tianhe Cheng Mall and two projects currently in development: South China Mall and Triple Five Wenzhou Mall - which will be even larger - and shoppers are pouring more money into the mega centers China's state-controlled banks are not.

According to Fu YueHong, “The standard of living in China has improved a lot. Chinese consumers prefer to spend their disposable income on franchised products. Therefore they have over 400 franchises in the mall.” She also says that, “Chinese have more leisure time, which they have addressed by way of providing various leisure activities such as movie theatres, restaurants, gymnasiums and badminton courts.”

Developers are confident that these "hypermarket" centers are what the consumers are demanding. Others feel that their survival is based upon repeat customers. Hypermalls do offer a large assortment of merchandise and a shopping experience that draws in families, friends and people of all ages however, unfortunately, they may also appear as a dizzying labyrinth of shops services, congested atmosphere and inconvenient parking. Fu YueHong says that they have addressed the problem of inconvenient parking by making “10,000 free parking places, outdoor and indoor, underneath and above, “ still one customer says, “They should build some playgrounds for kids, put some in trees and add a tunnel so that the cars could park like in Carrefour.”

A mall, the size of a small city may not bring customers back if they feel confused and frustrated. Looking from the retailer’s perspective - based on the principle of cumulative attraction, a large shopping mall attracts not only the big brands but also a great many potential customers. Building a mall that is too large or poorly laid out may turn consumers away rather than attract and ultimately prove devastating for the surrounding community.

By Carole To - Beijing
and Nidhi Kaushik - London
Greener Magazine

Next week Part 2: An interview with Golden Resources Mall Manager, Fu Yue Hong

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1:42 PM

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Biofuels may help offset high gas prices

This devastating hurricane season with its record high gas prices has riveted the attention of the American public on energy availability and cost. Now as never before, people are looking to downsize their cars and drive less in order to save money. Recent weeks have seen a flurry of stories in magazines and newspapers extolling the virtues of bicycling and hybrid cars along with the promise of energy alternatives like fuel cells and wind power. Some of these technologies are too expensive or experimental to provide much in the way of immediate relief from high energy prices. Other gas saving options, like bicycling, mass transit or car pooling, are just not practical for everyone.

One exception, Biofuel, is gaining popularity across the country however, as civic leaders, business and consumers look for ways to lower fuel costs without investing heavily in new technology. Biofuels are derived from plant sources such as corn and soy. Cars use these fuels in the same way that they use conventional fuel. Many industries and organization across the country are using biofuels to help offset high gasoline prices which in turn helps ease the impact of shortages of the petroleum based supply caused by hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

For example, in Nebraska, a combination of high crude oil prices and tax breaks on corn based fuels has made gas which is 10% ethanol (corn-based gasoline) about 10 cents per gallon cheaper than regular unleaded gas. School buses in Chicago have recently switched to a biodiesel mixture (20% biodiesel/80% conventional diesel) in an effort both to save money and create less pollution.

Truckers are getting in on the act, buying more and more biodiesel for their trucks. According to the National Biodiesel Board, biodiesel is available at over 450 retail pumps from more than 1400 petroleum distributors in the US, and growing. Some 500 commercial and government organizations currently use biofuels in their fleet.

You can support this growing trend by using biofuels where appropriate for your car (make sure to check with your auto-mechanic). Urge community leaders to switch their fleets to biofuel if they have not already done so. And finally, support companies, like L.L. Bean, that use biofuels to ship their products. For more information on biofuel, go to www.biodiesel.org

By Jodey Byers - Omaha
Greener Magazine Staff Writer

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3:47 PM

Monday, September 26, 2005

Britons consider US storm response

Massive evacuations, emergency planning and quick response to environmental hazards have many people in other parts of the world asking: what could America have done better, what did we do right in response to the havoc wrought by hurricanes Katrina and Rita,? Are there lessons to be learned? We asked European Desk Editor, Nidhi Kaushik to talk to people on the street in London and learn what others are thinking as Americans cope with disaster. Here is her report.

Kevark Djansezian, AP

"Hurricane Katrina: Al-Qaeda is claiming responsibility for it." was just one of the reactions in the UK. On a more serious note, when asked: Why do you think it took so long to evacuate the city?

  • Jason - Ayrshire - responded, "Thousands are now feared dead and it is only now that the media are beginning to ask any sort of relevant questions! Last year Cuba managed to evacuate over one million people before a similar hurricane hit its shores, not one life was lost, yet the world's super power idly sits back with a false smile and shrugs its shoulders? "

  • Lynn - London - said, "Absolutely sickening! The U.S. can get supplies into Iraq in 24 hours but it takes them over 5 days to get supplies to their own country!"

  • Esther - Nottingham, "The aftermath of Katrina is sad and terrible and my heart goes out to the people that survived. Right now there is confusion and anger among the survivors and all are saying "Where's the President?" Well he's the guy who's leading the fight on global terrorism and now finding the means to help and provide means for those who have survived the aftermath of Katrina."

  • Ali - Bradford, "Where is the help the World's biggest superpower should be able to provide for its citizens? Would it kill Bush to accept the help of those who are experienced with the aftermath of natural disasters, such as Rapid UK? He may argue that America has the resources to fend for themselves - but if they do, where are they?"

Concerned about the environment? some answered:

  • David - Wiltshire , "The world's weather is getting worse year after year. In fact, the longer Bush takes to realize that America is one of the big reasons for this, through pollution; the longer it will be before we can try to sort it out. I feel for the people affected by this tragedy but we have to take some responsibility for what we've done to the state of the planet."
    The Britons are not happy with the way things were handled by the president but their heart goes out to the people who are suffering and would like to do what they can to help.
    "Stop the blame game."

  • Janet - Surrey, "There has been too much wasteful armchair quarterbacking on this event. Please, it is time to stop, look ahead, and plan for the future. Complaining about the past is just that, complaining. And it's a fact that no one is without fault in this disaster, including the people who lived there and saw no reason to do their own planning. Hindsight is wonderful if anyone can figure out a way to use it. But looking back and saying, "We should have done this...." is no where near as valuable as thinking about what to do, independently, and as a nation, when the next disaster comes.

  • Stanley - Lancaster, "I have yet to understand why so many Americans living in USA seem to believe that Europeans hate them. This is simply not true. Disagreeing with decisions that the American government makes does not mean that there is general hatred towards the people of America. The truth is that countries all over the world have offered to help by sending manpower as well as technical equipment to the disaster area and many offers have either yet to be accepted or specialist teams from other countries who have flown to New Orleans have yet to be allowed into the disaster area. The victims of hurricane Katrina deserve all the help they can get, of course they do. I do not think it is right to argue about who is to blame for the sluggish relief efforts and trade insults whilst forgetting that it is the victims of this tragedy who deserve to be the center of discussion - all the people who have lost everything but their lives in the wake of Hurricane Katrina."

  • "Dear United Kingdom, thanks for the rice pudding in the military ration packets. Such comfort food in a time like this. We in America salute you." Suzanne - USA,

Times, 11th September 2005

"Bush bungled Katrina crisis, say Britons"

"An overwhelming majority of Britons believe that President George W Bush has mismanaged the response to Hurricane Katrina, a Sunday Times poll has found. Fully 86% of people said his handling of the crisis was "bad" or "very bad", while 70% said he was a generally incompetent president."

By almost three to one, 63% to 23%, people think the response to the hurricane would have been speedier and more effective if most victims had been white and middle class. By 67% to 19% they think race and class divisions in America are as bad as ever.

The poll of a representative sample of 1,856 adults, carried out on September 8-9 by YouGov, the online pollsters, is the first major test of UK public opinion on the crisis." Read More at http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2087-1775072,00.html

"Hoping for the best:" Times, Friday 23rd September 2005, "Mr. Bush determined to avoid mistakes that preceded the catastrophe in New Orleans, announced that he would visit Texas today to oversee preparations."Let's hope that things are handled in a better fashion this time for Rita.

By Nidhi Kaushik - London
Editor, European Desk

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12:05 PM

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Hurricane Rita

Prompts fear of chemical storage disasters

As the National Guard arrives on the scene and relief efforts step up, it is of paramount importance that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Gulf Coast state agencies inform first responders, relief workers and the public of any toxic chemical threats in the areas damaged by Hurricane Katrina. Those agencies should immediately release the list of chemicals stored in the dozens of oil refineries and chemical plants in the area, with information on possible health and safety threats and how they can be avoided.
The contamination from the mix of sewage, pesticides, fertilizers and other toxic chemicals in the waters in New Orleans and other communities ravaged by the hurricane needs to be a top priority. However, the Gulf Coast, including the area around New Orleans, is home to one of the largest concentrations of chemical plants and oil refineries in the U.S. There are 140 petrochemical facilities along the Mississippi River just in the stretch between New Orleans and Baton Rouge. These facilities store hundreds of millions of pounds of toxic chemicals that could endanger the health and safety of first responders, rescue workers, and the public.

There could be severe health threats if any chemical or toxic waste storage facilities were breached by flood or debris damage. A tank breach could release chemicals that form toxic clouds and leaked chemicals could contaminate flood waters. Some of the acute effects—skin irritation, burning eyes, dizziness, and fluid buildup in the lungs—could not only cause significant health impacts, but also interfere with rescue and cleanup operations. Many of the chemicals could also have long term health impacts on those exposed.

As far as we know, none of the chemical plants or oil refineries has sustained damage that would cause a chemical release, though we have heard reports of a major oil spill and a flooded ExxonMobil refinery. To make sure that emergency responders and the public can protect themselves in the days to come, U.S. EPA and Gulf Coast state agencies should release to the public:

- a list of chemicals stored at facilities in the area, as well as approximate volumes of storage;
- possible means by which the chemical could be released (through flood water or as a gas-release caused by breach of a storage vessel)
- possible health effects of exposure; and
- protective steps available to the public and emergency responders.

More Interactive Live Coverage

By Jeremiah Baumann, Environment & Public Health Expert recorded for PIRG (Public Interest Research Groups)

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12:49 PM

Monday, September 19, 2005

NESEA Showcases Green Buildings in October

The Northeast Sustainable Energy Association (NESEA) is organizing the 2005 Green Buildings Open House on Saturday October 1st from 10am to 4pm, showcasing energy efficient homes in New England, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, and Pennsylvania. The Open House is part of the American Solar Energy Society's National Solar Tour, offering special opportunity for the public to see first-hand how clean energy and green building practices are put to functional uses.

"The idea is to show the public that renewable energy systems are available now, work and can be economical..albeit in the long term," stated Christian Grieco, a local NESEA coordinator for the event. "Our attitude is you have to pay for energy anyway-why not invest in the future and buy a system that produces electricity, passive heating or cooling, or hot water. The 'fuel' is free and the savings on the utility bill allow the system to pay for itself over time," he explained. "And we get cleaner air to boot."

Attendees of the open house can learn basic principles of green buildings: designing for solar heating (passive solar), energy-efficient building techniques such as superinsulation and air sealing, safe indoor air quality, and resource-efficient and healthy building materials. The green buildings demonstrate many energy-efficient applications including how solar hot water is collected and stored, how photovoltaics can be placed on or integrated into the shell of a building to produce electricity, or how wind can be used to generate power.

Homeowners and facility managers will be on site to describe their green buildings technologies, and to answer questions. For a list of participating homes or further information visit http://www.nesea.org/buildings/openhouse/. If you can't attend this years Open House Greener Magazine will be there to provide you with a virtual tour including interviews, photos, product/technology updates and more.

By Greg Hitchcock - New York
Greener Magazine Staff Writer

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10:06 PM

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Greenpoint urban initiative

Greenpoint knows it’s on the waterfront. Even though walking to the river's edge is almost impossible, shimmers from the East River catch the eye as the visitor looks down the tree-lined streets that intersect Manhattan Avenue. The impression is that an inviting view, some benches and shady gardens wait in the distance.

But Greenpoint has no waterfront parks. The streets to the river end at chain-link fences topped with barbed wire, torn-up parking lots and scrap yards. Each dead-end is a page in the story of the neighborhood’s industrial past. But these same relics stand for residents as a barrier to what some consider New York City’s greatest natural resources—its rivers and harbors.

The Olympics would have brought to this area—located across the river in Brooklyn from the Empire State Building— an arena for swimming and diving and a two-mile park along the river. Those plans were shelved following the city's unsuccessful bid for the games, but they added momentum to efforts by activists and residents to open up Greenpoint’s waterfront.

"A single road down to the waterfront for a community without access can be more meaningful than a 400 acre park," said Carter Craft, Director of the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance, at a lecture held at the Urban Center in August. "With the price of park land through the roof, the wave of waterfront design is to get people on and in the water."

The Alliance is a collection of architects, academics, environmentalists and civic leaders who advocate for parks projects along the city's rivers. Some projects, such as Gantry State Park in Long Island City, Queens, are complete, to rave reception; others, such as a riverfront park at the end of India Street in Greenpoint, are just beginning. And some are still in the conceptual phase—a glimmer of green in the designer’s eye. The Alliance formed around a 1999 study that concluded the 13 million inhabitants of the New York metropolitan area were cut off from the 800 miles of waterfront that surrounded them.

Donna Walcavage, who is planning the Greenpoint Waterfront Park on Greenpoint Avenue, said: "Waterfronts used to be active centers of life. Today, in some neighborhoods, you can be a block from the water and not know it."

But Greenpoint is on the water—and knows it.

Although the Olympics are a no show, the waterfront in Greenpoint and Williamsburg (the neighborhood just to the south) got a boost this year when the city approved rezoning the area. Community groups lobbied for modification of the plan amidst fears that developers, in the scramble to build condominiums with unobstructed city views, would edge out residents for waterfront access.

The Greenpoint Waterfront Association for Parks and Planning (GWAPP) is working to ensure completion of a 1.6-mile river walkway beginning with a one-block park on India Street. The group says the park “will provide Greenpoint’s very first legal access to the East River.” It will also test how well the new zoning accommodates parkland.

A glimpse at what Greenpoint's waterfront has in store for it can be found just up the river in Gantry State Park. The park's plaza and gardens are fastened to the shoreline at the bases of four original gantries-- structures used to unload steel from railroad cars. The city wanted to fence off the gantries, said lead architect Thomas Balsley, and some doubted their visual appeal, but at Balsley’s persistence, the gantries were allowed to stand as they had 75 years ago.

"Our goal was to create a unique, provocative park that would spark the public's imagination," Balsley said. "The park exploits the diverse, post-industrial coastline of coves, peninsulas and pier remnants. We didn't want to cover the region's historical economic engine. We wanted to celebrate it."

The New York Times wrote, "The miracle of Gantry State Park is that it takes risks." If risks lead to miracles in projects like these, the future of Greenpoint’s waterfront looks glorious.

Jonathan Kirschenfeld has in mind an architectural showstopper—a “floating swimming pool” moored at the Greenpoint Waterfront Park. The pool will sit on the deck of a 250-foot long converted barge. Changing rooms, a snack bar, fountains for “water play” and a dining terrace finish Kirschenfeld’s design.

“The floating pool is a way to bring people to the waterfront, to let people know it’s there,” said Kirschenfeld, who was inspired by the floating bathhouses along the East River at the turn of the twentieth century. He announced the $3.5 million budget for the floating pool, and then took a pause to entertain chuckles from the audience at the Urban Center. The project proceeds undaunted, though. The floating pool is being built today at a shipyard in Louisiana; upon completion, it will be towed northward through New York harbor and up the East River to Greenpoint. Kirschenfeld hopes to throw a party onboard for the city’s July 4, 2006 fireworks.

Kirschenfeld isn’t the only one showing creative flair. Peter Gillespie, Executive Director of Neighbors Against Garbage, along with several other groups, is running an open invitation for residents to draw up plans for their visions of Williamsburg State Park—a two-block waterfront lot scheduled for re-development. And colorful ideas for the “Add Your Mark to the Waterfront” competition are rolling in from a neighborhood known as a home to many artists.

“We’re working with the community’s desire to participate in development,” said Gillespie in a telephone interview. He said that between five and 10 proposals will be selected for additional funding to fill-out the concepts.

One after another, the lectors at the Urban Center painted the edges of the East River green. “There was a time in the '80s when a 12 foot walkway along the river was considered a victory,” Balsley said.

By Gregory Yanick - New York
Greener Magazine Staff Writer

View slideshow - photos, G. Yanick

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7:04 AM

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Planning for disaster: part tools

Part 2: Tools for survival

Now that you have the basic necessities to survive the first few days in a disaster we have a secondary list of the "tools" which not only make your survival more likely but may actually extend your ability to survive over a long period of time.

Our list is loosely categorized, unlike the previous list, because each need will require some different interpretation based on individual skills, personal choice and circumstance. For instance, if you expect that your survival could be subject to cold weather you'll want to alter your list and upgrade to cold weather gear.

We suggest, however, that all the equipment and tools on your 'grab-n-go' list be light weight, less than 200 pounds for a family of 4, and energy efficient; you may have to carry this stuff on your backs if your transportation breaks down.

Hygiene items

  • hand sanitizer
  • sanitizing wipes
  • toilet paper
  • water purification tablets or bleach - 1/2 teaspoon per gallon allow to set 1/2 hour
  • tooth paste or "Dental Dots"
  • hand soap
  • dry shampoo
  • disposable diapers
  • foot powder or corn starch

Identification and personal papers

  • Identification papers for each member of your group including children and pets with a photo attached
  • contact information for extended family members or friends
  • emergency phone numbers: local, state and federal
  • name and phone number of your doctors, dentists, veterinarians
  • name and phone number of your pharmacy ( drug chains will have a computer record of your med script history in their main bank. If your local drug store is destroyed they maintain a record in the central files.
  • insurance information
  • insurance photos of you property and possessions, on disc is best
  • mortgage papers, lease agreements store separately - originals should be kept with other singularly important papers like birth certificates, marriage licenses, passports etc.
  • credit cards
  • $100-200 in fives or tens


  • multi-tool for minor repairs, chores (we purchased ours - a Sheffield, pictured - from Lowes for less than $9.00)
  • butane lighter
  • flashlight and or lantern, extra batteries (check LED versions)
  • pencils/paper
  • chalk for marking and leaving messages*
  • can of fluorescent spray paint *(same reason)
  • camp stove with butane cylinder
  • cooking/eating utensils, pots and pans
  • nylon rope-200 feet
  • compass
  • pet leashes and or carriers
  • back packs, 1 for everybody in your group - including pets
  • binoculars or a scope
  • cell phone


  • plastic sheeting (typical painters drop cloth from a hardware supplier)
  • duct tape
  • flares
  • 1 blanket for each person
  • chemical light sticks

Finally, we concede that this is by no means a comprehensive list but it is, at least, a framework for creating your own survival kit. Pack everything in water resistant plastic bags and store altogether in a plastic storage container which can be easily accessed for a quick departure.

If you have additions to our list or comments that would add to our reader's knowledge or safety during emergencies please send them to us and we will add them to this archive. It's that important.

You might also visit floods for further information on disaster preparedness.

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10:24 AM