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:  http://www.oapen.org/search?identifier=621899

Magnus Fiskesjö ,nf42@cornell.edu>

Most and least polluted cities of 2016

Source: Shanghaiist (1/23/17)
China’s environmental ministry announces the most and least polluted cities of 2016

No matter how bad the smog gets in Shanghai or Beijing. There’s at least one thing that residents can take solace in — the fact that they don’t live in Hebei.

China’s embattled Ministry of Environmental Protection recently released the country’s smog statistics for 2016, including the list of the top 10 most polluted cities in China. The first six cities on the list are all located in central, smoggy Hebei province.

1) Hengshui, Hebei
2) Shijiazhuang, Hebei
3) Baoding, Hebei
4) Xingtai, Hebei
5) Handan, Hebei
6) Tangshan, Hebei
7) Zhengzhou, Henan
8) Xi’an, Shaanxi
9) Jinan, Shandong
10) Taiyuan, Shanxi Continue reading

Under the Dome article

Dear MCLC members,

My new article, Chai Jing’s Under the Dome: A multimedia documentary in the digital age, has just been published by the Journal of Chinese Cinemas. The press allows 50 free e-print downloadd, if you are interested in using Chai Jing’s film and this article in your course teaching materials. I composed the article with students in mind. Here is the link will take you to full article:


Shu-chin Tsui <scui2@bowdoin.edu>
Bowdoin College

Wang Jiuliang’s Plastic China (4)

Those two Youtube links in the previous posting in this thread point to an early, incomplete, 23 minute clip from Plastic China. It’s called a “media version” whatever that might mean. But the film wasn’t finished until last year, and its complete running time is 82 minutes.

Shelly Kraicer <shellyk@me.com>

Qing environmental protection (1)

I visited the Tianchi (Heavenly Lake) of the Changbaishan in 2006 when the area was not yet widely visited. Sleet and rain prevented us from having a glimpse of the beautiful lake. This is not only considered the birth place of the Manchus but also of the Koreans. Even in those early days, SUV-loads of South Korean visitors were transported to the top of the crater and they knelt, kowtowed and wailed when they saw the body of water said to be the birth place of their nation.

Lily Lee <l.lee@sydney.edu.au>

Qing environmental protection

Source: Sinosphere, NYT (1/6/17)
How the Qing Court Sowed the Seeds of Environmental Protection in China

Rogue trappers and poachers. An imperial court battling corruption. Border guards defending a giant wall and patrolling a vast wilderness beyond.

This is not “Game of Thrones,” but “A World Trimmed With Fur: Wild Things, Pristine Places, and the Natural Fringes of Qing Rule,” a new book by the historian Jonathan Schlesinger that analyzes the complex relationships among the exploitation of natural resources, environmental regulation and ethnic identity under the ruling Manchus of the Qing dynasty, China’s last. Continue reading

Poem in praise of smog

Source: Sinosphere, NYT (1/6/17)
A Poem Praises Smog, and Why Not? It’s From Cancer’s Perspective

BEIJING — For millions of Chinese, the new year opened under an oppressive shroud of smog that has closed highways, delayed or canceled hundreds of flights and shut down schools, forcing some students to follow their lessons from home through online streaming.

The toxic air has also drawn attention to a poem written by a Chinese surgeon from the viewpoint of an ambitious lung cancer that revels in the “delicious mist and haze.” The poem was first published in English in the October issue of Chest, the journal of the American College of Chest Physicians, under the title “I Long to Be King.” Excerpts from the poem were posted in Chinese this week in The Paper, a news website, and widely reported on by other Chinese media. Continue reading

China has made strides in addressing pollution

Source: Sinosphere, NYT (12/16/16)
China Has Made Strides in Addressing Air Pollution, Environmentalist Says


The Qian’an steelworks of the Shougang Corporation in Tangshan, a leading steel manufacturing city in China, in January. Credit Xiaolu Chu/Getty Images

In his offices in central Beijing on a recent afternoon, Ma Jun, the director of the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs, a nongovernmental organization, moved his mouse over a computer screen showing a map of real-time air emissions from more than 4,600 Chinese factories. The red rectangles, one for each factory, overlapped one another like badly laid mosaic tiles. Continue reading