The 'Rat Tribe': Beijing's Dungeon Apartments

The 'Rat Tribe': Beijing's Dungeon Apartments


Beijing, a Chinese city that has nearly tripled in size since 1995 from eight million to 21 million people in 2013, has come up with some bizarre methods of housing its people. With very loose building codes, Beijing has taken advantage of all its space and is essentially packing in its 20 million plus residents wherever they can. I was always under the impression that American college housing was bad... and then I became aware of what researchers have labeled the “Rat Tribe” in Beijing, and never have I been so wrong.

In China, they have developed a system of household registration called Hukou. The Hukou system has significantly stratified, or in this case demographically segregated, China’s massive population into economic and origin groups. The system has had a significant impact on rural migrants who are looking for jobs in big cities, where they are abundant. The "Chinese dream" that most of these migrants are in search of comes with a cost, and the Hukou is to blame. Because they are leaving their so called “assigned” registration area, the migrants are unable to apply for low-income (government regulated) housing, nor can they participate in public schools or collect government welfare simply because they are not registered to live in the city. Therefore, China has a part of the population, which is registered to live in the big cities, enjoying the benefits of the culture, art, and economy of the big city, and migrant workers simply have no place to go.

With demand for housing so high in Beijing, the only place migrant workers have been able to look to for housing is down below. Beijing has become home to nearly one million underground residents who live in refurbished bomb shelters from the Cold War period (1960s to 1980s) and these “apartments” do not fit the American definition or standard of what an apartment is, whatsoever. Dark, windowless, damp, and lacking fresh air, these living quarters range in sizes up to 300 square feet, down to as little as 6 feet, 5 inches by 7 feet, 4 inches. Some residents, who live in quarters only the size of a twin sized bed, only have a twin sized bed in their room. Some apartments are as much as three to four stories below ground and access to them is only by bomb shelter style doors at the surface leading to the bustling city of Beijing. Residents share communal toilets and pay about 50 cents to take a five-minute shower. The biggest complaint is lack of sunlight, but workers compromise because of the amount of money they feel they save by living underground.

The modest beginnings of these Chinese dreamers, who consist of young actors, hair stylists, newlyweds and street sweepers, are more than humble to Americans, and are, arguably, unacceptable. In America, we often complain about what we have or more commonly, what we lack. After learning about the Rat Tribe, I personally have become more grateful for my dirty bathroom, runny faucet, my fan that is missing a blade, and my sliding door without a handle. How lucky are we? We have it made here in America.

For more information on this and to check out some of my sources refer to these websites:

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30 Things I'd Rather Be Than 'Pretty'

Because "pretty" is so overrated.

Nowadays, we put so much emphasis on our looks. We focus so much on the outside that we forget to really focus on what matters. I was inspired by a list that I found online of "Things I Would Rather Be Called Instead Of Pretty," so I made my own version. Here is a list of things that I would rather be than "pretty."

1. Captivating

I want one glance at me to completely steal your breath away.

2. Magnetic

I want people to feel drawn to me. I want something to be different about me that people recognize at first glance.

3. Raw

I want to be real. Vulnerable. Completely, genuinely myself.

4. Intoxicating

..and I want you addicted.

5. Humble

I want to recognize my abilities, but not be boastful or proud.

6. Exemplary

I want to stand out.

7. Loyal

I want to pride myself on sticking out the storm.

8. Fascinating

I want you to be hanging on every word I say.

9. Empathetic

I want to be able to feel your pain, so that I can help you heal.

10. Vivacious

I want to be the life of the party.

11. Reckless

I want to be crazy. Thrilling. Unpredictable. I want to keep you guessing, keep your heart pounding, and your blood rushing.

12. Philanthropic

I want to give.

13. Philosophical

I want to ask the tough questions that get you thinking about the purpose of our beating hearts.

14. Loving

When my name is spoken, I want my tenderness to come to mind.

15. Quaintrelle

I want my passion to ooze out of me.

16. Belesprit

I want to be quick. Witty. Always on my toes.

17. Conscientious

I want to always be thinking of others.

18. Passionate

...and I want people to know what my passions are.

19. Alluring

I want to be a woman who draws people in.

20. Kind

Simply put, I want to be pleasant and kind.

21. Selcouth

Even if you've known me your whole life, I want strange, yet marvelous. Rare and wondrous.

22. Pierian

From the way I move to the way I speak, I want to be poetic.

23. Esoteric

Do not mistake this. I do not want to be misunderstood. But rather I'd like to keep my circle small and close. I don't want to be an average, everyday person.

24. Authentic

I don't want anyone to ever question whether I am being genuine or telling the truth.

25. Novaturient

..about my own life. I never want to settle for good enough. Instead I always want to seek to make a positive change.

26. Observant

I want to take all of life in.

27. Peart

I want to be honestly in good spirits at all times.

28. Romantic

Sure, I want to be a little old school in this sense.

29. Elysian

I want to give you the same feeling that you get in paradise.

30. Curious

And I never want to stop searching for answers.
Cover Image Credit: Favim

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To The Generation That Might Not Care, A Green New Deal Is Crucial

Take care of our planet and our future.


The reality of climate change and method to address the issue has been a source of contention in the United States for far too long. While Republicans trail behind Democrats a great deal in the percentage who believe long-term, irreversible climate change is a real problem, an equally if not more important gap to acknowledge is that between generations.

A universally taught science concept in elementary school is the difference between weather and climate. Weather is the day-to-day condition of the atmosphere — rainy, sunny, etc. Climate is the weather of a particular geographic location over a long period of time. The weather in an area may be snowy on a particular January day but might overall have a warm climate (Trump has yet to learn this concept).

The gap between generational support for not only believing in the reality of climate change but if the government should take steps to prevent further harm on our planet is apparent. A few reasons that older generations may not support aggressive climate change policies are that many are not going to see the lasting impact of their harmful actions, may not want to acknowledge that their way of life for a majority of their life was detrimental to the environment, or that they simply do not think it is the government's role to further regulate current practices and lifestyles in the name of the environment (an argument supported by many conservatives).

Data For Progress

The "Green New Deal," proposed earlier this month by Rep. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Edward Markey is mainly a list of ideas and goals rather than a carefully laid-out plan, though aims to eliminate greenhouse emissions through the creation of millions of jobs in the renewable energy industry, moving toward public ownership (a major source of disagreement among Republicans and Democrats), and much more. This plan is a comprehensive overview of many sources of environmental degradation that our nation has not addressed, despite the majority of the nation believing the climate change is a real issue.

There will undoubtedly be a major shift in the operations of many companies due to aggressive climate change policies, which could have been avoided at a drastic level if our nation had chosen to make climate change prevention a priority. Unfortunately, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, global temperatures will rise to an irreversible level in 12 years if the United States and other countries that greatly contribute to rising temperatures do not take action. A sense of urgency has been lacking for far too long is crucial.

Written into the recently proposed Green New Deal is a section detailing how it will attempt to remedy the inequality of those most directly impacted by climate change. Vulnerable communities, particularly communities of color, are not seeing an equitable distribution in disaster funding to prevent damage inflicted by the increasing frequency and intensity of natural disasters that have resulted as an increase in rising global temperatures — Which, regardless of your age, should be a glaring flaw in our current system.

I personally doubt that the entirety of the recently proposed Green New Deal will be enacted, however, I believe that anyone who values the quality of human life, clean air, clean water, food sources, for not just those in the United States, but around the world, should be supportive of a Green New Deal.

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