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Reviews 203 PeterNan-shongLee is aprofessor in the Department ofGovernment and PublicAdministration specializing inpublic management and organization in HongKong, andpublicpolicy in China. m Cui-Rong Liu and Mark Elvin, editors. Jijian suo zhi: Zhongguo huanjingshi lunwenji (Sediments oftime: Environment and society in Chinese history ). 2 volumes. Taipei: Institute ofEconomics, Academia Sinica, 1995. iii, 1191 pp. isbn 957-671-336-6 (volume i), isbn 957-671-337-4 (volume 2). This two-volume anthology in Chinese contains the proceedings ofa symposium on "Chinese Environmental and Ecological History," held in Hong Kong in December 1993. In his introduction, Mark Elvin offers a definition of "environmental history" and traces its historical development. According to the avaüable Western literature, this multidisciplinary field is still in its germinal stage in mainland China. Therefore, this work may have great significance for stimulating an interest in a new field in Chinese studies. The coUection ofessays presented here offers a summary of many aspects of Chinese environmental management experience from recorded Chinese history. John R. McNeül cites some ofthe principal ones in his essay (p. 49), namely "the fate ofthe forest," "the control ofnature's water [resources]," and "the enduring function of ecology." Sou and water resources in China are the first concern of the authors in both volumes. As one ofthe world's largest agricultural countries, China has continuously exploited its natural resources, especiaUy its sou and water, ever putting new areas under cultivatation in order to aUeviate the pressure to provide food for an increasing population. As a result of fhe expansion into areas not suitable for agriculture , the loess plateau in northern China and fhe hub/ areas in the south have suffered terribly from erosion; irrigation systems have deteriorated and silt in the rivers and canals has contributed to periodic droughts and flooding. Lack ofwater and the loss of sou are now fhe most serious environmental problems in China. Forest resources are the second principal topic examined in diese volumes.© 1997 by University Deforestation in China has been taking place over thousands ofyears as land has ofHawai'i Pressbeen cleared for the cultivation ofvirgin sou and as the result of collecting firewood . Both government policies and popular conceptions have encouraged deforestation because forested areas were considered to have less value tiian land 204 China Review International: Vol. 4, No. 1, Spring 1997 under cultivation. Few people realize that deforestation is a major cause of environmental deterioration in China, just as in many countries around the world. The tiiird major focus in this coUection is "fhe enduring function ofecology ." John R. McNeül, as well as other authors here, argues that human activity has damaged fhe resüience ofnatural ecosystems in China. Within its vast territory , encompassing a diversity of geographical and climatic zones, China has benefited gready from an abundance of species living in a large and complex ecosystem , in which the subsystems have complemented each other so that fhe whole could function in a natural balance. But from the beginning of the nineteenth century, the population began to expand too rapidly to maintain diis ecological balance. Many ecological buffer zones were lost due to rapid deforestation and to agricultural expoitation of the hiUsides, resulting in the depletion of China's ecological diversity. Within the framework of this historical background, twenty-seven international scientists from different disciplines came together and, employing historical data on China's environment, produced twenty-four papers that are organized here in ten parts. Most ofthe essays included in these volumes are Chinese translations of the original papers presented at die symposium. In part 1, two papers summarize Chinese environmental issues from a comparative historical perspective. In John R. McNeUl's view, although the geography of China has special distinguishing features (e.g., a highly artificial landscape), the environmental management experience of the Chinese people, relatively speaking, has been similar to that ofother countries. Rhoads Murphey traces the history of fhe destruction ofthe natural environment in China through agricultural development , and compares this development to what has happened historically in Japan , India, and aie countries of Souüieast Asia. It is clear that population increase is the critical factor in China. The long-term negative impact includes fhe depletion...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-9367
Print ISSN
1069-5834
Pages
pp. 203-206
Launched on MUSE
2011-03-30
Open Access
No
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