One of the things to do when you visit Beijing is go see the pandas. For isn't China famous for its captive panda breeding? So I went. And what I saw was just as symbolic as any lion, phoenix, dragon or waving cat strewn across the 22million-strong metropolis.

What I saw were animals depressed by overstimulation. Overwhelmed bears, sleeping with their butts toward the crowd. Except one, facing the glass and resting his heavy head on a rock. An advertisement for human encroachment on natural space. Homeless bears at a shelter, on a welfare program.

When I saw what I saw I thought: is it any wonder that they have trouble breeding in such a place? I also wondered if anyone there understood just how depressed the animals were--everyone seemed blind to the plight of the animals.

I took my pictures like anyone else, but only a handful and I wasn't smiling.