Ban in China’s coal country

Source: NYT (2/10/18)
In China’s Coal Country, a Ban Brings Blue Skies, Cold Homes

A black market coal store in Qiaoli, China. The nearby city of Linfen was once one of the world’s most heavily polluted cities. CreditGilles Sabrié for The New York Times

QIAOLI, China — A monument to China’s efforts to wean itself from coal rises on the outskirts of this village deep in the heart of the nation’s coal country.

Scores of old coal stoves have been dumped in a lot, removed by government decree in recent months in favor of cleaner-burning natural gas furnaces.

“Defend blue sky and breathe together,” an exhortation painted on the brick wall surrounding the lot says. “Manage haze and work together.” Continue reading

Becoming Environmental–cfp

Please see the below CFP for a special issue of the peer-reviewed journal Synoptique: An Online Journal of Film and Moving Image Studies, based out of the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema at Concordia University, Montréal.

Deadline for submission is March 31, 2018.

Call for Submissions: “Becoming Environmental: Media, Logistics, and Ecological Change”
Special Issue of  Synoptique: An Online Journal of Film and Moving Image Studies

Synoptique is inviting submissions for an upcoming special issue entitled “Becoming Environmental: Media, Logistics, and Ecological Change.” The focus of this issue will be on the increasing entanglements of global economies of extraction and the circulation of media. The title of this issue is inspired by Jennifer Gabrys’ “becoming environmental” of sensory technologies (2016), where computational media becomes constitutive to the very environment, and subject formation within it, rather than simply operating in the environment as a backdrop. We propose to expand this imperative to the distinctive ways media—from computation, infrastructures, screens, technologies of circulation, and different modes of visualization—become environmental, remaining attentive to how these emerging human/nonhuman relations are constantly reconfigured, if not naturalized, via the state, global market, or other ideological projects. Continue reading

The eco-conscious photography of Duzi

Source: Sup China (12/14/17)
The Big Picture: The Eco-Conscious Photography Of Duzi
“Science can help us understand the facts, but art communicates them in a way that gets people really talking.”

From “Marine Reclamation”

The 2017 Lishui Photography Festival 丽水摄影节 in Zhejiang Province was held in November with the kind of razzmatazz one has come to expect from a large-scale Chinese event bearing the official seal. Festivities began with the obligatory opening ceremony comprising predictable song-and-dance routines punctuated by vaguely jingoistic speeches from local honchos. The pomp set the tone for a festival gigantic in scale: More than 1,500 exhibitions infiltrated all quarters of Lishui 丽水, from North American exhibitions curated by New Yorker Jim Ramer to community photography projects peppering the alleyways of the old town. Legions of volunteers equipped with high-school English were on hand to point lost festival attendees in the right direction, while public buses were free, ensuring visitors could get from photo seminar to workshop to bar with as little bother as a third-tier Chinese city might otherwise cause. Continue reading

Ambitious national park system

Source: Sup China (11/21/17)
Inside China’s Ambitious Plan To Create Its First National Park System

When Zhu Ziyun 朱子云 first set foot in the area of Sanjiangyuan 三江源, he was taken aback by the natural beauty that unfolded before him. It was July 2011, a fierce summer month for those on the Tibetan Plateau in Qinghai Province, and Zhu, then a junior studying bioscience at Peking University, experienced mixed feelings of trepidation and excitement. Born and raised in a metropolitan environment, Zhu had never been to a place where cell phone reception was a luxury, power failure was the norm, and the best hotel in the region lacked private showers. But as an aspiring bioscientist eager to explore nature, he was amazed by how unspoiled Sanjiangyuan remained while urbanization swept across the rest of the country.

Sanjiangyuan’s lack of blemish owed to its isolation. Resting on a high-altitude plateau exceeding 3,000 meters (9,800 ft.) on average, the region is geographically unfriendly to city dwellers, who prefer taking less arduous tours of Jiuzhaigou in Sichuan Province or Lijiang, Yunnan Province. Culturally, Sanjiangyuan covers a vast area of about 140,000 square miles, comprising 43 percent of Qinghai Province, and is home to about 600,000 people, 90 percent of whom are Tibetan nomads who herd livestock and sleep in tents. While Sanjiangyuan has always been adored by nature lovers like Zhu, it was largely unknown to the population at large. Continue reading

Pollution inspection teams

Source: SCMP (9/16/17)
China to send over 100 pollution inspection teams to cities around Beijing
Experts will investigate sources of smog and advise local authorities on how to tackle the problem
By Mimi Lau

Premier Li Keqiang in March promised to spend “as much as it takes” to address the smog problem. Photo: AFP

China will send out over 100 environmental inspection teams to more than two dozen cities around Beijing as part of a new campaign to tackle the smog problem plaguing its northern region.

The Hebei provincial government also announced on its website on Friday that 1.8 million households would switch to natural gas from coal for fuel and heating in order to improve air quality.

The push to eradicate smog by tackling its source came after Premier Li Keqiang promised to spend “as much as it takes” in March to address the public health issue. Continue reading

Plastic China review

Source: China Film Insider (7/28/17)
Film Review: Plastic China
By Jonathan Landreth

Grade A+

There’s a strong temptation to suggest a matinee screening of director Wang Jiuliang’s stunning documentary Plastic China [塑料王国]. Its implications are so dark that viewers would do well to exit the theater into the daylight and thank their lucky stars that life is better for them than it appears to be for the family of migrant workers at the center of this brave film.

The film revolves around the lives of seven humans just scraping by at a stinking mom-and-pop factory sorting waste imported from the West for recycling. All the heaviness of hardscrabble poverty is there in stark, uncomfortable relief, and yet this un-narrated, stripped-down non-fiction testament to our environmental challenge is a must-see. Continue reading

Religious revival fuels environmental activism

Source: NYT (7/12/17)
China’s Religious Revival Fuels Environmental Activism

MAO MOUNTAIN, China — Far from the smog-belching power plants of nearby cities, on a hillside covered in solar panels and blossoming magnolias, Yang Shihua speaks of the need for a revolution.

Mr. Yang, the abbot of Mao Mountain, a sacred Taoist site in eastern China, has grown frustrated by indifference to a crippling pollution crisis that has left the land barren and the sky a haunting gray. So he has set out to spur action through religion, building a $17.7 million eco-friendly temple and citing 2,000-year-old texts to rail against waste and pollution.

“China doesn’t lack money — it lacks a reverence for the environment,” Abbot Yang said. “Our morals are in decline and our beliefs have been lost.”

Hundreds of millions of people in China have in recent years turned to religions like Taoism, Buddhism, Christianity and Islam, seeking a sense of purpose and an escape from China’s consumerist culture.

Continue reading

Hol Xil joins World Heritage list

Source: Sup China (7/7/17)
Hol Xil joins UNESCO’s World Heritage List
By Jiayun Feng

The 41st session of the World Heritage Committee decided to add a large nature reserve at Hol Xil — 可可西里 kěkě xīlǐ in Chinese — to its World Heritage List. The vast park is located in the northwest of Qinghai Province, covering 45,000 square kilometers of almost uninhabited land.

Part of the high-altitude Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, Hol Xil is home to more than 200 species of wild animals, including the endangered Tibetan antelope, or chiru, whose existence has been threatened for years due to excessive poaching. Most people who live in the area are Tibetan nomads, who maintain their pre-modern lifestyle of sleeping in tents and raising livestock. Continue reading

Dams threaten homes and sacred mountains

Source: SCMP (6/26/17)
China’s drive to build dams for green power threatens homes and sacred mountains
A huge dam in southwestern Sichuan province will force people from their homes and monasteries to be relocated, and has stirred anxiety among locals over the impact on their traditions and beliefs
By Agence France-Presse

A woman stands next to the debris of demolished houses and her makeshift hut near Lianghekou in Sichuan province, the site of the latest huge dam to be built in China’s drive for greener sources of power. Photo: AFP

Towering walls of concrete entomb lush forests on mountainsides in southwest China as workers toil on the dry riverbed below to build the country’s latest massive dam.

The colossal construction site in Sichuan province swallows three rivers, providing another display of China’s engineering prowess but also of the trauma it inflicts on people and nature along the way.

Once completed in 2023, the 295-metre construction will be the world’s third-tallest dam, producing 3,000 megawatts of energy. Continue reading

Maybe China isn’t an environmental vanguard

Source: Sup China (6/14/17)
Maybe China isn’t an environmental vanguard

Elizabeth Economy, director for Asia studies at the Council on Foreign Relations and a leading scholar in the study of Chinese environmental politics, took a pessimistic view on China’s role as a leader in the fight against climate change in a Politico op-ed this week. She points out the contrasting trends in China’s environmental influence — the good, the bad, and the ugly — and concludes that China is not yet ready to “fill the void that Washington is leaving” on climate change.

  • The good includes a forecast that China will meet its Paris commitment to have emissions peak by 2030, an increasing number of canceled new coal-fired power plants, and a whopping $78.3 billion that the country invested in renewable energy in 2016 — far more than either Europe ($59.8 billion) or the U.S. ($46.4 billion). Continue reading

Art out of polluted air

Source: National Geographic (5/19/17)
Three Quirky Projects Make Art Out Of China’s Polluted Air
Filthy air has inspired Chinese citizens to speak out—and in some cases, to create art.
By Beth Gardiner

Artist Liu Bolin wears a mask and vest with 24 mobile phones as he live broadcasts dirty air in Beijing. It was December 19, 2016—the fourth day after a red alert was issued for dangerous pollution.

BEIJING, CHINA: Dirty air is part of life in China, unavoidable and in your face. It has inspired a tremendous boom in renewable energy, as the Chinese government begins to try to wean the country off coal. It has also inspired a level of citizen action that is unusual in an autocratic country.

And some of those active citizens are artists. Continue reading

Study disputes success of forest effort

Source: NYT (5/4/17)
Trees or Shrubs? Study Disputes Success of China’s $100 Billion Forest Effort

HONG KONG — China has invested more than $100 billion over the last decade alone in a nationwide campaign to plant new forests, and its top leaders speak of the effort with pride.

“Planting trees now will benefit our future generations, and we should roll up our sleeves to plant more trees year after year, generation after generation,” President Xi Jinping said in March at a tree-planting ceremony in Beijing. Continue reading

Wang Jiuliang’s films go viral, then vanish

Source: NYT (4/28/17)
China’s Environmental Woes, in Films That Go Viral, Then Vanish

BEIJING — Achieving fame was not hard for Wang Jiuliang, but staying in the spotlight has proved more difficult.

His career as a documentary filmmaker has followed a distressing pattern: spectacular internet reactions to his movies and videos on environmental topics, followed by their rapid disappearance from the web in China.

The latest, in January, was a video showing him standing before a large screen displaying appalling photos of indiscriminate quarrying and other environmental woes and delivering a talk about them. In one, mountaintops have been obliterated. In another, an aerial shot, a rocky landscape has been pockmarked with gaping holes where the stone was extracted. Continue reading

China plans world’s biggest national park on Tibetan plateau

Source: SCMP (4/22/17)
China plans world’s biggest national park on Tibetan plateau
Survey to help draw boundary of 2.5 million sq km park scheduled for this summer
By Stephen Chen

Tibetan nomads ride a motorcycle on the Tibetan plateau in Qinghai province. Photo: AFP

China is considering turning the entire Tibetan plateau and surrounding mountains into a huge national park to protect “the last piece of pure land”, according to scientists briefed on the project.

Dubbed the Third Pole National Park because the plateau and mountains, including the Himalayas, have a natural environment that in many ways resembles polar regions, it would be the world’s biggest national park. The plateau covers an area of more than 2.5 million sq km, mainly in Tibet and Qinghai, dwarfing the biggest national park at present, Greenland’s 972,000 sq km Northeast Greenland National Park. Continue reading

China’s animal neighbours

A new publication just out: a chapter on human-animal relations in China, both the neighbourly and the not-neighbourly.

Fiskesjö, Magnus. “China’s Animal Neighbours.” In: The Art of Neighbouring: Making Relations Across China’s Borders. Edited by Martin Saxer, and Zhang, Juan. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2017, pp. 223-236.

My own chapter is an outlier: All the others are about human neighbours, not animals.  

The whole book Art of Neighbouring is open access, download here:

Magnus Fiskesjö ,>