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Reviewed by:
  • The China Environment Yearbook, vol. 4, Tragedy and Hope: From the Sichuan Earthquake to the Olympics
  • Herman F. Huang (bio)
Dongping Yang, editor. The China Environment Yearbook, vol. 4, Tragedy and Hope: From the Sichuan Earthquake to the Olympics. Leiden: Brill, 2010. xxvi, 367 pp. Hardcover, $169.00, ISBN 978-9-004-18241-7.

While many countries are slowly recovering from the global economic downturn that started in 2007, China continues to experience rapid economic growth. Its gross domestic product (GDP) grew by 10.3 percent in 2010 and is forecast to increase by another 9.0 percent in 2011.1 This growth has brought about severe pollution and soaring energy consumption. For example, an article in the New York Times reported that air pollution in China causes hundreds of thousands of deaths annually and that nearly 500 million Chinese do not have access to safe drinking water.2 As of 2007, China had overtaken the United States in emissions of carbon dioxide (a greenhouse gas) from fossil fuels.3 In response to these conditions, the Chinese government’s Eleventh Five-Year Plan (2006–2010) set targets of a 10 percent reduction in pollutant discharges and a 20 percent reduction in energy consumption per unit GDP, both by 2010.4 According to the Twelfth Five-Year Plan (2011–2015), carbon dioxide emissions per unit GDP are to be lowered 17 percent and energy consumption per unit GDP, an additional 16 percent, by 2015.5

The China Environment Yearbook, vol. 4, Tragedy and Hope: From the Sichuan Earthquake to the Olympics examines the state of China’s environment in 2008 and discusses ongoing actions to address environmental concerns. (The first three volumes of the China Environment Yearbook series were previously reviewed in China Review International.) This book is the translation of Huanjing lü pi shu: [End Page 501] Zhongguo huanjing fazhan baogao (2009) (环境绿皮书:中国环境发展报告 [2009]), edited by Yang Dongping (杨东平) and published in Beijing by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in 2009. Yang is a cofounder and president of the Friends of Nature, China’s first official environmental nongovernmental organization (NGO). Altogether, the book has twenty-seven contributors, including university faculty, graduate students, NGO staff, and journalists.

Volume 4 consists of an introduction, twenty-two unnumbered chapters, and an appendix. The introduction provides a brief context for and overview of the book. The first chapter, “We Are All Victims of Pollution and Responsible for Our Planet,” is a synopsis of China’s main environmental issues in 2008, including climate change, pollution, and biodiversity. The remainder of the book is organized according to six parts: “2008: An Eventful Year,” “Ecological Protection,” “Pollution,” “Policies,” “Green Economy,” and “Appendix.”

Part 1 looks at two key events of 2008: the Summer Olympics and the Sichuan earthquake. While Beijing’s air quality improved in 2008, the city still faces problems with air pollution and water shortages (Li Hujun, pp. 43–54). The earthquake in Sichuan damaged hydropower projects and chemical plants, thereby causing secondary environmental impacts (Fan Xiao, pp. 55–70).

Part 2, with five chapters, covers ecosystems. According to Feng Yongfeng, the decentralization of forestry management — by leasing state-owned forests to rural households — may harm forest biodiversity and ecosystems (pp. 73–82). The 18 million hectares of plateau wetlands are vulnerable to human exploitation (Tian Kun, pp. 83–95). Gai Zhiyi attributes the shrinkage and degradation of China’s grasslands to policies that favor farming and industry (pp. 97–106). Zi You discusses regulations relating to, and public acceptance of, genetically modified crops (pp. 107–114). Piao Zhengji and Shen Xiaohui present case studies of how road construction has impacted wildlife in nature reserves (pp. 115–127).

Pollution is the theme of part 3. Peng Yan notes that efforts to improve air quality for the 2008 Olympics have transformed air quality management into a regional and health-based approach (pp. 131–144). As shown in Tables 9.1 and 9.2, the prevalence of agricultural pollution is highest in Central and South China and lowest in Qinghai and Tibet (Liang Shumin, pp. 145–160). Recent threats to the marine environment include new urban development and chemical industrial plants along the coast (Yu Chen...


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