Patterns of China's Lost Harmony: A Survey of the Country's Environmental Degradation and Protection

Patterns of China's Lost Harmony: A Survey of the Country's Environmental Degradation and Protection

Patterns of China's Lost Harmony: A Survey of the Country's Environmental Degradation and Protection

Patterns of China's Lost Harmony: A Survey of the Country's Environmental Degradation and Protection

Synopsis

The pace of environmental degradation in China has intensified in recent decades. With rapid demographic and economic growth, the current state of degradation has antecedents beginning hundreds of years ago. Patterns of China's Lost Harmonycombines historical documentation with contemporary assessment to determine the degree of human impact upon the country's vegetation, soils, water, air and wildlife.
This will serve as an important reference tool for understanding the historical scope of environmental degradation and for assessing attempts to control environmental degradation since the 1980s.

Excerpt

The global context and China

Degradation of our physical environment is one of the major problems facing the world today. Degradation in this context is either a loss of resources that makes a region less productive or the concentration of harmful materials in the food chain that are known to be harmful to living organisms, the latter often referred to as pollution. One must be careful in using the term degradation as change in the physical environment is a naturally occurring process that often can result in partial degradation—loss of some resources, while other resources and opportunities are being made available. With this in mind, it is still apparent that human activities have made certain ecosystems less productive and more dangerous habitats by creating a loss of balance. Increasingly degradation is being recognised as an all encompassing vicious cycle. a reduction in vegetation cover can lead to soil erosion and desertification which can lead to water shortages as well as declining soil fertility. the reduction in quantity of water can in turn reduce vegetation cover bringing the problem full circle. Lowered water levels will also increase water pollution densities which will affect flora and fauna setting off further changes in the ecosystem. These chains are often more intricate than we perceive.

The scale upon which environmental problems occur has also magnified since the 1950s (Price 1990:4-5). the shift in scale from the several thousand square kilometre area to that of the globe is an outgrowth of the increasing population and its ability to consume. the power of people to destroy as well as to manage their environment is greater than ever before.

The world human population has grown from a figure estimated to be slightly under 5 million in 8000 bc to over 5,000 million in ad 1987 with a projection of 8,000 million by 2025 and 10,000 million by 2050. the greatest increases in recent years have been and will continue to be in the world’s poor countries. As of 1990 there are also an estimated 1,400 million cows, 1,600 million sheep and 8,000 million pigs on the earth as well. This growth of human population and its preferred domesticated animal and plant food sources places increasing burdens on the other resources of the planet, especially as environmental degradation potential increases geometrically as the material

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