Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Lisa Pearce at the Wolong Nature Reserve

I am here in the Wolong Nature Reserve of Sichuan, China with Prof. Jack Liu and some of his colleagues and graduate students from Michigan State University's Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability. They have been showing Scott Yabiku (Arizona State) and I around to get a feel for their study area and helping us interview elderly residents about social change over the years. We are getting descriptions of when and why the various roads, schools, health clinics, police stations, and other social institutions came to be. We are gathering ideas for how we might collect retrospective social context data via Neighborhood History Calendars in this setting. Of course, a major point of focus is the massive earthquake one year ago. The epicenter was not far from here and the damage was considerable. Most residents are living in temporary housing along the river in the valley and walking to their fields each day to tend the corn and cabbage. Although the last few decades have brought striking social change to this area, nothing has been so dramatic and so quick to alter the social organization of life as the earthquake. The plan is to relocate farmers from all the surrounding hillsides to the river valley in group housing and provide them vocational training to work in what the government officials hope to be a booming tourist industry for seeing Giant Pandas, taking in the beauty of the valley and its forceful, boulder-filled river, and escaping the heat of Chengdu or other urban areas in Sichuan and beyond.

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