The Ordos Plateau of China: An Endangered Environment

The Ordos Plateau of China: An Endangered Environment

The Ordos Plateau of China: An Endangered Environment

The Ordos Plateau of China: An Endangered Environment

Synopsis

The Ordos Plateau of China is an account of the regional human-environmental history of the Ordos Plateau, a dryland region inhabited by Chinese farmers and Mongolian shepherds. The book surveys the environmental change (i.e. changes in vegetation and soil) during 1942-92, it also examines such societal factors as government policy, resource use institutions, economics, population, and cultural attitudes and beliefs; and investigates how these factors have contributed to environmental change in th Ordos Plateau. Throughout the discussion, the author retains keen awareness of the intricate interrelations among the environmental and societal factors. Following the theoretical framework of human dimensions of regional environmental change, this book seeks to contribute to the understanding of human-environment relationships in the Chinese socio-political and historical contexts. The Ordos Plateau of China is among a few books written on China's regional human-environmental issues by a Chinese- and US-trained geographer in recent years. It reflects a combination of the Chinese strength in regional environmental studies and the western tradition of nature-society geography. Based primarily on first-hand materials, and other documents that are not readily accessible in English, this book provides a richly contextualized account of Ordos environmental history and its relationship with society, to the English-speaking world. It also helps the reader to better understand human-environmental issues in China in general.

Excerpt

The Ordos Plateau has an extraordinarily lengthy record of human transformation of the environment. Since the Mao revolution and the installation of a socialist economy, the pace of change has accelerated dramatically, leaving extensive devegetation, soil erosion, and sandification in its wake. Meanwhile, the power of the central state has increased greatly, and with it intervention into the local economy and nature-society relations. The context of substantial climate variability in a sensitive arid and semi-arid region and the presence of Han and Mongolian cultures renders distinguishing human-induced transformation from a backdrop of natural change and discerning long-term trajectories of change unusually challenging.

Hong Jiang profiles at length the distinctive deceleration in the rate of change since 1949. The early 1950s were a period of recovery from war in the regional economy, a time during which farmers and shepherds received land rights. The period between the late 1950s and the early 1970s marked a time of extraordinary, even cataclysmic, fluctuations in human imprint on the environment, involving the Great Leap Forward and its drive for a communal structure of agriculture during the late 1950s, and the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s and its extensive expansion of cultivation into marginal areas. In the late 1970s, the Household Responsibility system mandated a return of . . .

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