» THE DEFINITION OF SCARY: China’s Cancer Villages (癌症村, Aizheng Cun)

by Brian Awehali

I woke up this morning and considered going outside. Lately, I have been avoiding the outdoors here in Chengdu, in Sichuan province, because I fear the industrial haze and the cough I seem to develop whenever I spend more than a few hours out and about. There are ominous smells here: acrid metallic clouds of gas with something like formaldehyde that have me breathing as shallowly as I possibly can when I pass through them.

Despite this, last night I was reconsidering my aversion to the Chinese outdoors, wondering if I was being paranoid. Sunlight is still moderately healthy. And after all, I drink heavily filtered water, wash any fresh vegetables I buy several times (they recommend using diluted bleach as well, but I refuse to trade one poison for another), and I live, sleep, run and work out in a heavily insulated building with industrial grade air filters going 24/7.

I also drink lots of coffee, which I seem to remember reading somewhere renders me all but impervious to cancer.

But then, after my coffee, any anticarcinogenic confidence I had evaporated when I sat down to check email and a friend of mine had forwarded on a ghastly article entitled “Made in China: Cancer Villages,” by Lee Liu, from Environment Magazine. The article goes into great depth about China’s unprecedented levels of cancer and the “grow first, clean up later” approach to industrial development driven largely by the forces of economic globalization.

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» REMOTE CONTROL HIP HOP: An interview with Jeff Chang

Brian Awehali interviews Jeff Chang

Jeff Chang, aka DJ Zen, has been at the epicenter of hip hop for over a decade. In 1993, he co-founded SoleSides (later, Quannum Projects), a staggeringly protean independent label out of Davis, California, whose brainiac impact hit hard, twisting heads in the underground and beyond while helping launch the careers of Blackalicious, DJ Shadow, Lyrics Born, and Lateef the Truth Speaker. His writing has appeared in the Village Voice, Vibe, Spin, The Nation, Mother Jones, the Washington Post, and more. He was also an organizer of the National Hip Hop Political Convention in 2004.

Chang’s book, Can’t Stop Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip Hop Generation (St. Martin’s Press), is a near-encyclopedic and always lyrical exploration of how a generation marginalized by deindustrialization, globalization, and planned shrinkage turned their abandonment into a vibrant multiracial movement that dramatically transformed America’s musical and cultural landscape. Hip hop’s ongoing struggle to translate its considerable influence into serious polycultural political power is nothing less than the battle to define the soul of the United States in the 21st century.

READ THE FULL INTERVIEW (PDF)