China’s Environment: History, Problems and Solutions
The growth of China, with twenty years of Historically, rapid growth has produced environmental destruction. China is no exception. Because of its huge and growing population, 20 years of over nine per cent per annum growth, a history of neglect and adverse geography, China faces crises. China has a reputation throughout the world for being a country with large amounts of pollution and environmental degradation. Like many Western nations, China’s environmental impact became most prevalent as the country became increasingly industrialized. The policies of Mao Zedong led the Chinese to believe dominion over nature was not only possible, but essential in China’s rise to global prominence. The reform period of rapid economic growth also resulted in rapid environmental depletion.
Currently China is the largest emitter of green house gasses in the world .
As it currently stands, China’s rapid economic growth and development has come at a large cost the environment. GROWTH STAT HERE China is faced with heavy amounts air pollution, water pollution, water scarcity, deforestation and desertification. Given the secretive nature of the Chinese Government, it is difficult to determine the actual amount of environmental damage done, but even the most conservative estimates indicate that parts of China are among the most polluted in the world.
Roots of Environmental Degradation
When tracing the routes of China’s environmental problems, it is important to reflect on the era when the China was ruled by Mao Zedong. The leadership of Mao and the radical policies which were instituted can be seen as the beginning of large-scale environmental problems in China. Perhaps the best example of policy which negatively affected the environment was Mao’s Great Leap Forward.
The Great Leap Forward was Mao’s grandiose plan to transform China from an agrarian society to an industrial society. An integral part of the Great Leap Forward was the idea of the People’s Commune. Although they were intended to increase overall grain production, “their highly coordinated efforts to transform nature often led instead to the degradation of arable lands”
Mao hoped to increase China's agricultural output. He relied, however, on nonsensical Soviet farming ideas, such as planting crops very close together so that they could support one another, and plowing up to six feet deep to encourage root growth. Mao also encouraged the use of backyard smelters to create steel in an effort to increase steel production.
Mao’s policies encouraged Chinese domination of nature. Mao made nature into the enemy, and exclaimed, “Man must conquer nature.” Nature was a “great enemy, to be conquered and forced to yield grain in a rapid agricultural transformation.” Over just a few years, the Great Leap Forward caused massive environmental damage in China. The backyard steel production plan resulted in entire forests being burned to fuel the smelters, which left the land open to erosion. Dense cropping and deep ploughing stripped the farmland and left if vulnerable, as well. Although Mao’s intent was to increase overall production, the Great Leap Forward disrupted the ecological balance of many of China’s agricultural regions and resulted in a terrible famine which killed millions.
Mao’s environmental domination continued in events like the Cultural Revolution of 1966-1977, which is often thought of in terms of it’s cultural rather than environmental effects. . The Cultural Revolution is best known for its political excesses and purging of intellectuals. This event is lesser known for the ecological transformations that resulted from orders to fill lakes and plow grasslands in order to make more land available for grain production. (Pressures of Industry)
Complementary to policies like the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution, Mao’s strong anti-rightest sentiments led to...
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