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

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

Readings for Unit 5: FROM LOCAL TO GLOBAL

For our final Unit, we move away from the national scale we looked at in Unit 4, and go both down to the village, to describe just how the local communities we studied in Unit 3 are faring today, and up to the globe, where we look at China's environmental footprint and at international concerns about biodiversity and conservation.

Friday, Feb 28: Han Chinese Farmers Now

As soon as the Communists took over China in 1949, they began trying various top-down ways of increasing food supply, particularly grain production, which went along with various programs to revolutionize rural society in various ways at different times. Here we will look at the effects on, and reaction by, local communities.

  • We can begin with a local account of the Great Leap Forward and ensuing famine that you have been reading about in Shapiro's Mao's War: A Life and Death Struggle from Edward Friedman, Mark Selden, and Paul Pickowicz's Chinese Village, Socialist State.
  • Then look at an outstanding (though it's incomplete, as are all web pages produced by amateurs and academics) web-based ethnography of a village in Sichuan, compiled by Pamela Leonard and John Flower. You won't have time to read the whole thing, but try to read the introduction and some of the articles in the "landscape" section.
  • In recent years, the New Socialist Countryside Construction Program is if anything an even more comprehensive program to reshape the countryside physically as well as socially. You can read about a few of its effects in
On the basis of this and other material, we will talk about many facets of the changes in the ecology of Chinese rural communities, including the role of scientific management.

Wednesday, March 5: Upland Minorities Now

Back to the Akha and the Nuosu. Read the rest of Border Landscapes, and listen to me talk about the Ecohistory of the Baiwu Valley in terms relating explicitly to sustainability and resilience. You might also want to look at a comprehensive analysis that Aga Rehamo and I wrote of how ecology, economy, education, and ethnicity fit together in that area, A New Dilemma in China's Borderlands. I will also talk about opportunities for cooperative research in Sichuan.

Friday, March 7: Pastoralists Now

There seems to be a particularly sharp conflict, as James Scott would predict, between pastoralism, with its fluid movements of people and animals across the landscape, and the High Modernist projects of classifying and boxing in. Dee Williams has written provocatively about this conflict in Inner Mongolia; read his Representations of Nature on the Mongolian Steppe.

More recently, Astrid Cerny received her Ph.D. in geography from the UW, for a study of Kazak nomadic pastoralists in Xinjiang as they face various aspects of modernization, globalization, etc. Read a chapter from her dissertation, One Family's Decisions in the Face of Change, and also have a look at The Grassland Law of the PRC.

Finally, no discussion of pastoralism in China would be complete without reference to Tibet. Read about the blame game in R.B. Harris's Rangeland degradation on the Qinghai-Tibetan plateau.

You will notice a certain consistency in these articles. We can talk in class about whether the "blame the government and its pseudo-science" is as facile an explanation as "blame the greedy, ignorant herders."

Wednesday, March 12: China's Global Environmental Footprint

China, like so many economically growing country in today's world, is no longer self-sufficient in a lot of resources, including wood, minerals, energy, and increasingly food. Today Dr. Robbins will give an overview of the ways in which China's growing economy impacts world resources and the environment in other parts of the world. In preparation, you should read David Mitchell's China and the Developing World in The China Balance Sheet, 2007 and Beyond, as well as Wenran Jiang's Fuelling the Dragon, and David Zweig and Bi Jinhai's China's Global Hunt for Energy.

Friday, March 14: Biodiversity, Conservation, and Enviornmentalism

The problems of biodiversity and conservation are set forth nicely in a general sense by Liu Jianguo's article in Science on Protecting China's Biodiversity. Here we are less interested in the facts than in the way biodiversity and conservation provide a window into Chinese culture and Chinese views of the environment. So you should read chapter 4 at least, and if you want, chapters 5-7, of Weller's Discovering Nature.

In addition, we have a guest speaker today: Professor Michael Hathaway from Simon Fraser University, author of Environmental Winds. Read the book and come prepared to ask him questions about his presentation on the triangular relationship between government environmental bureaus, environmental NGOs, and local communities.