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Green China
Jamais Cascio, 21 Jun 04

What would a positive environmental scenario for China look like? We've talked a bit here about the massive ecological challenges that China faces over the coming years. Population growth, economic growth, and a history of not paying sufficient attention to the environmental results of development result in a nightmarish combination, one not easily reshaped. In short, China is a mess. Nonetheless, Elizabeth Economy, author of The River Runs Black: The Environmental Challenge to China's Future, thinks that a more environmentally sustainable is possible.

In a brief essay for The Globalist web journal, Economy presents her take on a positive Chinese environmental scenario. (The article is excerpted from The River Runs Black; I'm definitely going to get my hands on a copy for review here.) The scenario is predicated upon a reasonable mix of solid economic growth, sound environmental policies, and supportive civil society; this seems to me to be the most likely combination leading to a sustainable China.

The article is brief, and the scenario suffers for it. The essay is more descriptive than analytical, providing a somewhat superficial overview of what the more environmentally sustainable China looks like without much discussion of how it got there. As a snapshot of a scenaric future, it's fine -- a plausible, reasonable vision of a functional, ecologically sound nation -- but it doesn't really tell us how to get there. Clearly I need to read the rest of the book to find what I'm looking for.

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One thing I'll say for China: the one child family policy is the most brutally effective piece of ecological action in the history of humanity.

I think I've mentioned the notion of corporatism vs. ecostalinism as the dialectic for the 21st century, those being the natural extensions of capitalism and socialism. China is fascinating becaue they're willing to hurt people to protect the environment.

We may not agree with that, or consider it ineffective, but so it stands: all of the evil done for One Child Family really has had massively significant long term ecological impacts, and their massive reforrestation plan is no slouch either. I know about massive growth, modernization, urbanization, chronic lung disease etc. but I can't shake the feeling that simply being able to compel people to stop doing things when the Govt. decides to has the potential to be an effective approach to the environmental problems of growth...

We shall see.

Posted by: Vinay on 22 Jun 04



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