"Ma Jun's 1999 book China's Water Crisis may be for China what Rachel Carson's Silent Spring was for the U.S. -- the country's first great environmental call to arms.
A journalist turned environmental advocate, Ma has emerged as a powerful voice in China, raising the alarm about the potentially catastrophic consequences of heedless, unsustainable growth.
"One might wonder how an individual takes on the policies of China's tightly controlled one-party state apparatus without great personal risk, but Ma, 38, is surprisingly optimistic.
"'There is now more awareness of environmental rights and the rights of people as citizens,' he told the New York Times last year. 'For such a major problem, they believe they have the right to know about it and at least have their views heard. For the first time, there is some legal basis for public participation ... a major step forward.'
"My father Ed Norton Sr., who helped found the Nature Conservancy's landmark collaboration with the People's Republic in Yunnan province, says that during its first industrial century, the U.S. had plenty of time to learn from its mistakes. 'China doesn't have that kind of time,' he says. 'They are going to have to learn faster and leapfrog the problems we created in the West.'"
"It won't happen without people of courage and vision. People like Ma Jun." -- "Time Magazine" April 30, 2006 (Ed Norton writing Ma Jun's biographical note on his recognition by Time Magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world)
"[In]... this blockbuster tour of China's water horizon..., Ma reaches back into China's long history of reshaping and abusing nature; most importantly, true to his (journalism) profession, he adds a human dimension by focusing on livelihoods and politics. A tour d'horizon, yes, and a tour de force." -- "The China Journal" No. 56 (James E. Nickum, Tokyo Jogakkan College)
"[Ma's] fine empirical research on rivers, lakes, and mountains in the different regions presents a bleak panorama of the diminishing and deteriorating water pool of the country as a whole.
Finally, thought brief, his review of Chinese history -- from the time of the old dynasties to Mao -- to show the gradual onset of water problems is appreciated." -- "Pacific Affairs" V78.1 Spring 2005 (Jih-Un Kim, Webster University)
About the Author
Nancy Yang Liu is a professional translator.
Lawrence R. Sullivan is Associate Professor of Political Science, Adelphi University.