The Retreat of the Elephants: An Environmental History of China Illustrated Edition
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About the Author
- Publisher : Yale University Press; Illustrated edition (September 21, 2006)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 564 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0300119933
- ISBN-13 : 978-0300119930
- Item Weight : 1.84 pounds
- Dimensions : 8.22 x 5.82 x 1.58 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #1,284,029 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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The author almost entirely avoids comparison with present-day concerns and other places (except with industrializing Europe at the very end, and Three Gorges comes up once or twice). This was helpful in concentrating the mind on the subject at hand.
Only suggestion for content improvement is a few more illustrations - an old woodcut of peasants transplanting rice, maintaining levees or clearing trees, for example. One BIG recommendation, though, is indexing the notes in the digital version: I often found myself wanting to check a source or comment and it's just about impossible given that notes are numbered serially by chapter but chapter breaks are practically invisible in the end notes.
It maybe a stretch for people that to understand today's China, you need to go back to its 3000 years of environmental history. However, this book offers many potential answers to many questions that are still relevant today - e.g. Is China's growth sustainable? Why Chinese people have such relationships with their government? Where does her seemingly in-exhaustible labor pool come from?
The book illuminates the constant struggles between the Chinese population and her environments throughout her 3000 years of written history, with the Chinese state often being the driving force and the subsequent victim when nature eventually fought back. Many such struggles are still being repeated today - for example, the recent push of China to develop its north-west region resembled the same push Chin/Han dynasties started from 300 BC, which resulted in permanent soil erosions that gave yellow river its name and caused numerous disasters downstreams since. The Three Gorges Dam is an extension to the long running tradition of massive state-sponsored hydro-projects trying to control the river in the name for "growth". The list goes on and on...
History is bound to repeat herself if we ignore her. Hopefully this books will not be ignored.