Richard Rayner has a short piece in this week’s New Yorker that offers a fascinating glimpse of the extent of China’s Olympic efforts. A few years back, Beijing’s deciduous trees were hit by a blight that left them bare of leaves, and concerned about the impression this would make, Chinese officials enlisted the help of Finnish entomologist Kari Heliövaara. He and a team of Chinese scientists discovered that moth and sawfly larvae were the source of the destruction, and rather than resort to chemicals, they devised a method of infecting the larvae with a fatal parasite. On a tight deadline because of the games, China built about 20 huge facilities for breeding what are in effect parasite-infected cocoon bombs. After a trial run showed that they worked–the leaves in a control area returned within weeks–they bred millions more infected larvae. Twice earlier this year, Rayner writes, “an army of more than a thousand Chinese students, supervised by entomologists, went from tree to tree all over Beijing, putting cocoons on two hundred thousand trees.”
Despite the screwed-on cocoons, in Heliövaara’s words, “the trees look great on TV. Beijing is green.”
I think of the sad little mottled pin oaks I walk by on the way to the el each morning and muse on what our Mayor of the Landscaped Medians would do were we to win the Olympics 2016 bid–call on Moore Landscapes, Inc.? And I gotta ask again, does the mayor (for life?) really think the Olympics won’t cost taxpayers a dime?