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READING
Here's a state of things
How did it get this way?
Local Communities
Development
Local to Global


WRITING
How did it get this way?
Local Communities
Development
Local to Global

Essay Assignments for Unit 5, Environmental Problems


Due electronically to the instructor at 5:00 p.m. on Monday, March 17

Write on one of the following topics:

A) Given that China's energy demands between now and 2035 are expected to almost double, and given that you have read about all sorts of reasons why China should not develop coal, nuclear, or hydroelectric power any further, and since solar and wind energy, even at the unexpectedly high rates of recent growth, don't promise to be able to fill all these enormous demands any time soon, what should Chinese leaders do about energy? Where can they conserve, and where conservation is impossible or impractical, what sources should they develop and why? How do you compare the negative environmental effects of the different forms of energy? Then come up with a concrete plan, not just a discussion of the pros and (mostly) cons of various strategies.

B) Your readings on pollution present in grim statistical detail the human health and economic costs of water, indoor air, and outdoor air pollution. Put yourself in the position of an official at the Ministry of Environmental Protection, and draft a 1500-2000 word report to the State Council on pollution control priorities for the next 10 years. What are the most pressing problems, and what measures would you recommend taking to alleviate them? Keep in mind not only the physical and health costs of the problems themselves, but also the power structures that will have to implement them and the public discourses about environment and development.

C) In the conclusion to The Struggle for Sustainability, Bryan Tilt reflects on sustainability, one of the issues with which we began this course back in January. On page 159, he asks what is perhaps the key question of all, "what should be sustained?" Drawing on your understanding of sustainability as a scientific concept, a mantra of the cosmopolitan environmental movement, a slogan of the Chinese government, and a buzzword, and on materials that you have read and thought about throughout this course, address Tilt's question: what should be sustained? What should be the most important goals of both policy and activism in China, what are the obstacles to achieving those goals, and how might the obstacles be overcome? You can probably think of way more goals than you have space to write about in 2000 words, so concentrate on two of the goals you think should be most important. In your analysis of these goals and the means and obstacles to achieve them, make sure you present specific instances of places and communities where these goals are important.

D) Robert Weller's Discovering Nature is, in his own words, an attempt to discover the possibility of "an alternative Chinese environmentalism." What is your own opinion of what form such an environmentalism might take? Those of you who know about the history of conservation thinking in the United States will recognize the names Gifford Pinchot and John Muir, associated with the ideas resource conservation and nature preservation, respectively. To what extent would either of their philosophies be a suitable guide for environmental preservation and restoration in China in the next few decades? Does the recent move toward "green Confucianism" fit with either or both of these philosophies? Where else would a practical philosophy for the Chinese environment come from?

E) James Scott's book Seeing Like a State analyzes High Modernism as primarily a phenomenon of the 19th and 20th centuries (in the broad sense of those terms). Now, however, we see the program for Constructing a New Socialist Countryside in full swing today. To what extent do you think the principles of High Modernism are still at work in this campaign, and perhaps in other programs with important environmental effects, such as dam-building and huge coal-gasification schemes to reduce urban air pollution?

Essays should be between 1500 and 2000 words in length, not counting bibliographic references. You may use any style (footnotes, endnotes, or embedded author and date) for references, as long as it is clear where you have gotten your information. Quotations should always be referenced, as should any information that is taken explicitly from a given source.