Four Students Present Their Global Research in CUGS Common Hour

Luce Foundation Grants Fund Student Research in China and Vietnam

Hartford, CT, November 20, 2014 – In Tuesday’s Common Hour lecture at the Center for Urban and Global Studies (CUGS), four students presented the research that they conducted over the summer in China and Vietnam. Their research was made possible by grants from the Henry Luce Foundation.

Three of the students conducted their research in Shanghai, and the other in Vietnam. Each focused in some way on the environment and sustainability. Chinmay Rayarikar ’17 studied air pollution in Shanghai. In particular, Rayarikar examined how rates of air pollution correlated with income and the presence of mass transit.

Chinmay Rayarikar ’17 (left)
and Soham Madnani ’17
 Gathering the samples himself, Rayarikar measured the suspended particulate matter per cubic foot in a few neighborhoods of Shanghai’s central district. He found that there was no correlation between a neighborhood’s income and the presence of air pollution, and while the presence of mass transit did not indicate cleaner air, the presence of highways did correlate with higher rates of pollution.

Soham Madnani ’17 also did his research in Shanghai, analyzing the processes for certifying buildings as environmentally friendly. In the United States, the U.S. Green Building Council developed the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, rating system, which is used around the world. The China Green Building Council has its own system, with some key differences.

As evidence of this, Madnani presented two examples of green certified buildings in Shanghai. The Shanghai Tower, set to open in 2015, has through the use of models already been granted the highest ratings using both the American and Chinese systems. However, the Jin Mao Tower, built in 1999, has the highest LEED certification, but never sought a Chinese rating. This is because the LEED rating system accounts for a building’s age, whereas the Chinese system holds all buildings to the same set of standards. As Madnani put it, “The LEED system compares apples and oranges differently. The Chinese system compares apples to rotting apples.”

Johanna German ’15
 Johanna German ’15 compared two popular tourist districts in Shanghai and the sustainability of their efforts at cultural and historic preservation. The M50 art district in Shanghai is an industrial district that has been largely gentrified by a growing community of artists. What was home to Shanghai’s flour and textile industries is now decorated with galleries, shops, and cafes.

This approach to preserving the industrial heritage of the district, German says, is sustainable. The tourism doesn’t disrupt the region, and actually enhances Shanghai’s status as a global city. German points to the extensive graffiti art in the M50 district as an example of the global influences in Shanghai; artists from Turkey, Scotland, and around the world have all left their marks on the district.

She contrasts this sustainable approach to the one found in the ancient water city of Zhujajiao, another part of Shanghai making efforts at cultural preservation. In Zhujajiao, however, there is little industry providing anything other than blue-collar tourism jobs. So, German says, the cultural preservation is in fact unsustainable and disrupts the life of the local community.

Jeremy Dam ’17
 Jeremy Dam ’17 presented research from his study of the Tô Lịch River in Vietnam. The river was once central to the economy and spiritual life of Hanoi, but it has struggled to keep up with the city’s growth. Today, it is highly polluted and what Dam called “a dead river.” In an interview, a resident of Hanoi described the current state of the Tô Lịch River, saying that the pollution has increased to the point where the river often ceases to flow.

Dam described the multitude of health problems this can cause for residents of the Tô Lịch River region. The common toxins in the river lead to such ailments as skin problems, bone diseases, various cancers, and more.

The students all conducted their research abroad last summer with the support of the Luce Foundation, which was founded by Henry R. Luce, the co-founder and editor-in-chief of Time, Inc. Luce started the foundation to honor his parents, who were missionary educators in China, and today supports a wide variety of educational endeavors, including research on Asia and the environment.