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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating, informative, persuasive, and relevant!,
This review is from: When a Billion Chinese Jump: Voices from the Frontline of Climate Change (Paperback)If you're even half-considering getting this book, I highly recommend you do. This will appeal to anyone even vaguely interested in China, its history and culture, or its role in the world today and in the years to come.
Divided into 16 chapters each based on a different region of China and a slightly different environmental/social issue, each section balances hard, often jaw-dropping, facts and figures with interesting, often amusing and compassionate, accounts of individual lives and interviews. The result is a persuasive, highly educational book which uses human interest to bring the issues to life and still ensure this is a genuine pleasure to read and never hard work for the reader.
It's also a very fair book. Watts presents views of differing sides of each issue and, though passionate about environmental issues and the need for humanity to change its culture, doesn't lecture the reader nor side against one factor, be it Chinese rulers, consumer culture, capitalism or historical Western practices. Not without well explained reasoning, anyway.
This is a book that could and should interest someone with an already substantial knowledge of China and the issues concerned. But it is also a book written in such a way that is very accessible to a more casual reader who has enjoyed the odd Sunday papers world news article. For the latter, if 400 plus pages seems like too much of a commitment, each chapter would stand up pretty well on its own for more casual dipping into. If you need more convincing, maybe read some of Watts's online Guardian/Observer articles as a taste. Not that they quite do justice to the scale of the project he has undertaken here.
Journalism at its best.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An eye-opening read,
This review is from: When a Billion Chinese Jump: Voices from the Frontline of Climate Change (Paperback)This is travel writing at its best. Having lived in China for a number of years it is clear that Jonathan Watts knows a great deal about what he is talking about and manages to weave together one story about an emerging China with another about the unique characteristics of each region and what makes some more successful, both economically and environmentally, than others.
The book follows Jonathan Watts as he travels through regions of China, some regions being a chapter by themselves and others being combined together. Each chapter combines a potted history about the region(s) presented alongside the current state of the region(s), astounding facts and figures and personal testimonies about the effects of economic development upon the environment.
As stated by previous reviewers, this book is non-judgemental in its assessment of China. It does state the environmental pitfalls of economic development and as said, gives some astounding facts and figures in doing so, but also states quite clearly the progress that China is making towards green development. In doing so, you are allowed to come to your own conclusion about China's green credentials and whether China is seeking dominion or stewardship over their (and others) environments.
An eye-opening read.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Making sense of China in an age of climate change, and a great travel book too,
This review is from: When a Billion Chinese Jump: Voices from the Frontline of Climate Change (Paperback)China overtook the US as the world's biggest emitter of carbon this year, and has doggedly stood by its rights to develop and industrialize, and nobody is going to tell China what to do. At the same time, China has more installed solar capacity than any other country, has the biggest high speed rail network, and is pioneering green technologies from carbon capture and storage to electric car batteries.
'When a Billion Chinese Jump' is the book that makes sense of China's role in a world of climate change, and what an excellent book it is too. The title comes from the author's childhood fear that if everyone in China jumped at once, the earth would tilt off its axis. Now, he reasons, a billion Chinese have jumped - economically speaking - and the earth needs to rebalance.
The book is written as a travelogue. Jonathan Watts makes his way across the country from West to East, investigating a variety of environmental issues along the way. It's a great travel book in itself, full of local characters and exotic places, both pleasant and unpleasant. Watts travels to disaster zones, goes down coal mines, and is shown around eco-city building sites and model communist villages. Each chapter in the book covers a different region of China, and also a different issue: deforestation, pollution, erosion, conspicuous consumption, carbon emissions. It is at times a little terrifying, more often tragic - the price of China's industrial success is misery for millions of ordinary people.
Watts puts this all in its historical context, from the peasant culture of rural China to Mao's 'Great Leap Forward', and teases out the cultural trends behind China's actions. He also sees China's role as crucial to the future of the planet. "The planet's problems were not made in China," he writes, "but they are sliding past the point of no return here."
China can never extend an American way of life to every one of it's billion citizens - the climate would be destabilised in the process, and resource limits breached. If it is to succeed, China must re-invent industry and follow a different development path. With its huge reserve of labour and remarkable ability to pull off national projects, it may well pull it off. Through that great project, the book's tagline suggests, `China will save the World - or destroy it'.
5.0 out of 5 stars Good,
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb Journalism,
Filthy coal power emissions and desertification are major problems, which impact strongly on what I find the most disturbing problem; increasing pressure on water resources. China's waterways are under stress and in many cases too polluted to use. Himalayan glaciers, which provide a steady supply for the lands below, are being steadily depleted. Talk of redirecting waterways from India to irrigate Northern China hint at major conflicts in the future. Both countries have areas of severe shortage. Watts points out that China is buying land in Africa to feed its citizens. Dark shadows of carbon wars hang in the future... Watts searches hard for the seeds of hope, investigating China's much-vaunted green investments and conservation programs, finding many serious flaws. Throughout the book, he contrasts Confucianism, which focuses on human society, with Daoism, which focuses on harmony with nature. His conclusion draws on these roots: science must help, but it cannot be the solution. In China the limits to growth are being hit. The global economy will have to restructure. In order for this to happen, there must be a shift to Daoist values.
4.0 out of 5 stars Insightful travelogue,
5.0 out of 5 stars must read for everybody in environment!,
for everybody interested in how china manages its environment - often impressive (the reforestation) but often also frightening (the south north waters, the multitude of dams) or amazing (the breeding of pandas) this book is a must read - very much the shape of things to come
5.0 out of 5 stars Vital reading,
This review is from: When a Billion Chinese Jump: Voices from the Frontline of Climate Change (Kindle Edition)If you read Watts' Guardian articles then much of this will be familiar, but it's still worth buying as an important and very readable summary of at least one aspect of modern China. Although Frank Dikotter's 'Mao's Great Famine' was a well written and scholarly historical work, I think this book should have been the one winning awards. It's more relevant to present-day China and the effect it will have on the rest of the world. It's scope extends far beyond narrow environmental concerns. My one criticism, as someone based in China for a few years, is that Watts is perhaps too optimistic regarding the logical endpoint of what's happening here. The subtitle is 'How China Will Save Mankind - Or Destroy It', as though these are two possibilities carrying equal weight. The text of the book, rightly, suggests otherwise.
4.0 out of 5 stars Great,
Best of all the book is not preachy...although the authors does manage to make a few pertinent poitns.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Michael Wadge of Bristol,
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When a Billion Chinese Jump: Voices from the Frontline of Climate Change by Jonathan Watts (Paperback - 1 July 2010)
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