People in Glass Houses

Nicholas Quirke was deeply appalled on the morning of 28 December 2020 to see an Australian news report that purposefully demonised and mocked the Chinese Government for a policy it had initiated and its tone and content made him realise just how biased reporting on China was. The item started by berating the Chinese government for introducing a policy which policed and fined people for wasting food in restaurants. Globally we need to to reduce food waste as one third of the worlds food is wasted. 25% of water, a precious resource, used in agriculture is accounted for in the the growth of food that is ultimately squandered. Sustenance that is thrown away from the hospitality sector and households, has significant economic and environmental impacts and produces eight per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions. In Australia it costs the economy around $20 billion each year, wasting around 7.3 million tonnes of food. This excess equals about 300kg per person or one in five bags of groceries. Food waste accounts for more than five per cent of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions and the cliche ‘people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones’ came to mind. He found the news item hypocritical and utterly ignorant. He had been impressed since being in Beijing how China were addressing the issues of pollution and climate change. Having launched a recycling campaign the ‘Clean Plate’ crusade that President Xi Jinping embarked on after finding the amount of food thrown away ‘shocking and distressing’ , seemed a reasonable step in the right direction. In fact as a result of the move restaurants were already offering customers discounts if they left with clean plates and no ‘Doggy Bag’. The idea of collective responsibility appealed greatly to him and whilst there were evidently policies and practices that were dubious in the workings of the Chinese government, linking the goal of eradicating food waste and setting a path for the good health of its people to a human rights violation was hysterical and mindless. He was full of rage as he made his way to Beijing Fun and the calm, relatively normal routine he had returned to the day before, on Sunday 28 December 2020, felt far behind him. When he left the house in near darkness on the now familiar chilling, sub zero temperature to go to work on Sunday, it was with a heavy heart as he had expected the class to be cancelled due to half a dozen cases of COVID being found in Beijing’s northern suburbs and the strict measures that were introduced. The class though went ahead, with temperature checks and a firm insistence on face masks in the classroom. It meant though that once it was over there was no gallivanting round the city for him. he went straight back home where he had lunch on the leftovers from Peng’s parents and idled the time away watching films, George Clooney’s intriguing ‘The Midnight Sky’ and and an oddly disturbing thriller, ‘The Bloodhound’. The result of his staying indoors was that on the Monday he was anxious to get and go somewhere relatively safe. Whenever he went to Beijing Fun, he always drank tea at InWe and this visit was no different. He made him self comfortable in the window and watched the world go by. There were now severe weather warnings, bringing a cold spell with winds and temperatures down to -12 degrees and nothing above -2. He visited a french patisserie to get some macaroons for Peng and walked home through the Hutongs again, taking photographs and video of some new discoveries including a commemorative site at the location of China’s first silent movie which was a 6 minute episode, Ding Jun Shan from the Peking Opera and acted by Mr. Tan Xin Pei in 1905. Exploring the Hutong’s always turned up a couple of treasures and he was particularly delighted with this one. It seemed that every night was movie night, and for a change of pace they watched the delightful animation from Pixar, ‘Soul’. By the time it was over he had put the angst over the news item he had taken offence to and managed to get a relatively calm and good nights sleep.


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