• John McGary, Woodford Sun Staff

UK professor headed to China

DR. ERNEST YANARELLA, seen here with his wife, Elizabeth, last summer in Shantou, China, will be returning to semi-familiar ground soon: He's one of 10 scholars worldwide to receive a Shanghai Elite Collaborative Research grant and will spend parts of the next year there. (Photo submitted)

The chair of the University of Kentucky's Department of Political Science jokes that when he graduated from Syracuse University many moons ago, he wanted to work at a school without a big basketball tradition. That didn't happen, but Yanarella, who's taught at UK for 46 years and is stepping down in June after six years as department chair, did pretty well anyway. He's one of 10 scholars around the world to receive a Shanghai Elite Collaborative Research grant. He'll fly to Shanghai and be at Shanghai University "off and on" for a month and join colleague Lu Chao, a professor there, to study issues relating to low-carbon cities and what the Chinese call a "circular economy." "That is building facilities where the waste of one process is turned into the resources of another manufacturing facility. This is a form of industrial ecology, as we tend to call it here in the United States," Yanarella said. Yanarella and Chao will study five eco-cities, and travel to three of them: Suzhou, Tianjin and Wu Xi. "These are three cities that have what's called eco-city initiatives going on. All three of them have new areas of their city where the Chinese are working to put those cities in harmony with the surrounding nature," Yanarella said. Yanarella said in the U.S., such places are known as sustainable cities. "With my longtime collaborator from architecture, Dick Levine, we call them sustainable city regions. This is, for me, a really exciting opportunity to spend a full year off and on in China, but for the entire year, working on this particular project. It happens to be my sabbatical," Yanarella said. "I'll have a full year to work on this project and see what I come up with." Yanarella grew up in Beacon, N.Y., a city 60 miles north of New York City and slightly larger than Versailles. Yanarella said if you don't count the 2,100 inmates of a hospital for the criminally insane in his hometown, the two cities have about the same population. He moved to Versailles in 2015. "I've really enjoyed it. Versailles is maybe a small town, but in important respects, it's part of certainly a rich county, Woodford County. And the kinds of issues that the (Versailles-Midway-Woodford County Planning Commission) is dealing with are really the kind of issues that sustainable cities have to deal with," Yanarella said. "They have to deal with traffic, they have to deal with jobs, they have to deal with energy, they have to deal with agriculture. And those are the issues that are constantly on the docket of the mayor's office and the city council and certainly are issues that lead to very lively discussions ..." According to a news release from UK, China has more than 230 eco-city initiatives. Asked whether, with his expertise in political science and environmental-related issues, he'd find out if global warming is indeed a Chinese hoax, as then-candidate Donald Trump called it, Yanarella laughed. "I can't answer that question for you," he said. "The Chinese take the issue of climate change very seriously. Part of the reason that they are building eco-cities, part of the reason that they are building low-carbon eco-cities, is because they recognize that they contribute heavily to the amount of CO2 (carbon dioxide) that's in the atmosphere. ..." Yanarella said an increasing number of Chinese are forgoing bicycles for automobiles. "They have between 350 and 400 million people in the middle class who're demonstrating their preference for automobiles, and so the response to that among these various eco-cities is to build rapid public transit as an alternative," Yanarella said. "So if the current administration here in the United States considers global warming as a hoax, the Chinese are taking a very different approach to that question ..."

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