Mao's War Against Nature: Politics and the Environment in Revolutionary China (Studies in Environment and History) Illustrated Edition

4.4 out of 5 stars 19 ratings
ISBN-13: 978-0521786805
ISBN-10: 0521786800
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Historians have well chronicled Mao Zedong's crimes against the people of China over his four decades of rule, but his crimes against the Chinese land have been less studied. Judith Shapiro, a historian at American University, tells that dark story with admirable thoroughness.

A central tenet of Maoist ideology was the rejection of both ancient Chinese tradition and modern Western science, both of which offered an ample store of evidence to suggest that rivers flow best when unimpeded, that biological diversity is a good and necessary thing. Instead, Mao Zedong insisted, the laws of historical materialism mandated that everything in creation be put into the service of the revolution: Forests had to be felled to make steel for China's industrial development, mountains had to be leveled to make room for agricultural fields, rivers had to be reversed in their courses to provide power and irrigation. Marshaling the people of China in campaigns to clear land and destroy grain-hungry birds, among other things, Mao remade the landscape in just a few years, ordering imperial-scale projects such as the Three Gorges Dam. His policies led to disaster, to deforestation, air and water pollution, and ultimately famine--but some of those policies are still in force.

Shapiro observes that Mao Zedong cannot be held entirely accountable for the destruction of China's land, water, and air; he had, after all, many willing deputies. Still, the political repression he put in place made resistance almost impossible--and even today, Shapiro writes in her impressive study of Mao's war on the environment, his actions have proved difficult to undo. "Until China confronts its uneasy Maoist legacy," the author concludes, "it may struggle fruitlessly to achieve a sustainable relationship with the natural world." --Gregory McNamee

From Scientific American

In China during the Mao years, Shapiro writes, "coercive state behavior such as forcible relocations and suppression of intellectual and political freedoms contributed directly to a wide range of environmental problems ranging from deforestation and desertification to ill-conceived engineering projects that degraded major river courses." Indeed, "few cases of environmental degradation so clearly reveal the human and environmental costs incurred when human beings, particularly those who determine policy, view themselves as living in an oppositional relationship to nature." Shapiro, who teaches environmental politics at American University in Washington, D.C., examines closely such disastrous Mao projects as the Three Gate Gorge Dam on the Yellow River and the devastation of agriculture through campaigns that imposed a uniform agricultural model on the entire country regardless of local conditions. China's environmental problems continue today, 25 years after Mao's death, although Shapiro sees some "apparently serious efforts" by the central government to deal with them. She also sees the possibility that "a government may yet evolve that is environmentally responsible and responsive."

EDITORS OF SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN


Product details

  • Publisher : Cambridge University Press; Illustrated edition (March 5, 2001)
  • Language : English
  • Paperback : 332 pages
  • ISBN-10 : 0521786800
  • ISBN-13 : 978-0521786805
  • Item Weight : 15.9 ounces
  • Dimensions : 6 x 0.83 x 9 inches
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.4 out of 5 stars 19 ratings
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4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5
19 global ratings
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Reviewed in the United States on August 25, 2001
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Top reviews from other countries

Desiree
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on December 2, 2015
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Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant original work that will ring bells with anyone who ...
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on March 8, 2016
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Luis M Castellvi
3.0 out of 5 stars Just samples of ecological disasters
Reviewed in Spain on December 23, 2018
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洋書の友
4.0 out of 5 stars 毛沢東時代の中国自然大破壊の全貌
Reviewed in Japan on February 15, 2015
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