An Ecological History of Modern China
- PUBLISHED: July 2023
- SUBJECT LISTING: Asian Studies / China, Environmental Studies, History
- BIBLIOGRAPHIC INFORMATION: 582 Pages, 6.14 x 9.21 in, 31 b&w illus., 21 maps, 31 charts, 20 tables
- ISBN: 9780295751719
- Publisher: University of Washington Press
Is environmental degradation an inevitable result of economic development? Can ecosystems be restored once government officials and the public are committed to doing so? These questions are at the heart of An Ecological History of Modern China, a comprehensive account of China's transformation since the founding of the People's Republic from the perspective not of the economy but of the biophysical world. Examples throughout illustrate how agricultural, industrial, and urban development have affected the resilience of China's ecosystems—their ability to withstand disturbances and additional growth—and what this means for the country's future.
Drawing on decades of research, Stevan Harrell demonstrates the local and global impacts of China's miraculous rise. In clear and accessible prose, An Ecological History of Modern China untangles the paradoxes of development and questions the possibility of a future that is both prosperous and sustainable. It is a critical resource for students, scholars, and general readers interested in environmental change, Chinese history, and sustainable development.
Authors & Contributors
Stevan Harrell is professor emeritus of anthropology and environmental and forest sciences at the University of Washington. His many books include Ways of Being Ethnic in Southwest China.
The post-1949 period has cried out for a focused treatment. We now have it with this invaluable interpretation through environmental history.- David A. Pietz, author of The Yellow River: The Problem of Water in Modern China
A masterful overview of China's environmental processes from the twentieth century to the present that addresses topics central to the concerns of all scholars looking at China today.- Peter C. Perdue, author of China Marches West: The Qing Conquest of Central Eurasia
Forget about those fashionable Xi-centered speculations: in order to understand China's real problems read Stevan Harrell's book. It deals with the fundamentals of national well-being.- Vaclav Smil, author of How the World Really Works: The Science Behind How We Got Here and Where We're Going
Stevan Harrell's ambitious An Ecological History of Modern China embodies the best of his trademark scholarship. The book displays a tour de force of deep knowledge of China, a wry sense of self-deprecating humor, and an insightful ability to use a few core concepts—disturbance and resilience; ecological, infrastructural, institutional and cultural buffers; and eco-developmentalism—to draw a balanced but 'jury is still out' portrait of a China that might, or might not, overcome its environmental crises.- Judith Shapiro, author of China's Environmental Challenges
The breadth of its coverage and its acute assessment of the trade-offs between economic development and ecological resilience make this book essential reading for anyone seeking to better understand China's environmental predicament.- Micah S. Muscolino, author of The Ecology of War in China: Henan Province, the Yellow River, and Beyond, 1938–1950
This landmark book not only supplies an excellent synthesis of environmental and ecological studies of modern China up to date but also models an interdisciplinary approach to studying ecological history by integrating ecological theory, social scientific inquiries, and deep concerns of humanities. This book should be read by everyone who is worried about the ecological future of China and beyond.- Ling Zhang, author of The River, the Plain, and the State: An Environmental Drama in Northern Song China, 1048–1128
This landmark study provides an extremely detailed and thorough account of environmentalpolicies and their effects in the People's Republic of China over its seventy-four-year history. Stevan Harrell recognizes the enormous success of China in lifting the nation out of poverty and providing almost everyone with food, clothing, and shelter, but recognizes also the serious, and often unnecessary, environmental costs of doing so. The government has often adopted policies that promise to provide rapid growth in the short term, without considering environmental effects. This led to massive pollution, biodiversity loss that includes extinctions of major animals, and loss of farmland. The government has become increasingly aware of this problem over the last thirty years and has moved toward 'eco-development,' with considerable success. Dr. Harrell shows this success has been uneven: effective for air pollution, somewhat so in reforestation and energy, but so far unable to deal effectively with water problems, groundwater depletion, or biodiversity loss. This book is a major study with statistics and details on every environmental issue, from locations of plastic disposal to debates over big dams. The work will remain not only a vitally important resource for data and policy, but also a major summary of positions and debates, with the commentary of a uniquely qualified veteran of Chinese environment studies.- Eugene N. Anderson, author of The East Asian World-System: Climate and Dynastic Change