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The River Runs Black: The Environmental Challenge to China's Future
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The River Runs Black: The Environmental Challenge to China's Future

3.71 of 5 stars 3.71  ·  rating details  ·  107 ratings  ·  14 reviews
China's spectacular economic growth over the past two decades has dramatically depleted the country s natural resources and produced skyrocketing rates of pollution. Environmental degradation in China has also contributed to significant public health problems, mass migration, economic loss, and social unrest. In The River Runs Black, Elizabeth C. Economy examines China s g ...more
Paperback, 337 pages
Published February 24th 2005 by Cornell University Press (first published April 28th 2004)
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Isabel Hilton, editor of the website China Dialogue has chosen to discuss The River Runs Black by Elizabeth Economy on FiveBooks as one of the top five on her subject -China’s Environmental Crisis, saying that:

“…This is one of the earliest and best books documenting the impact of China’s industrial development on the environment... It is dramatic. I remember many years ago having to walk across a wooden bridge at Lo Wu to leave China, and all around were paddy fields and farms. And now if you
Out of more than 1.2 billion people in China, the author couldn't tell a compelling story about anyone and how he or she was affected by the country's environmental problems. This book was informative, but never goes beyond citing other scholars, environmental statistics and (one of her favorite words) NGOs. I was surprised at my lack of interest in this book, especially considering it was really touted when it first came out.
Larry Bassett
I pulled this 2005 book off my bookshelf and decided I had better take a look at it before it was out of date. Books about China tend to be out of date within five years. Well, I was just a bit late. The second edition of this book was published in 2010, claiming to be up to date on China's environmental issues.

Be forewarned: this is a Council on Foreign Relations book so may be wonky and not get into the day to day environmental issues as experienced by your everyday Fu Ping. I am plunging in
Oct 26, 2010 Juha rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: people interested in China and/or global environment.
This is a well researched, excellent book. Elizabeth Economy has followed environmental politics in China for a long time -- and is able to do so in Chinese -- so she knows her subject intimately (and many of the key actors in the country personally). For this reason, the book provides huge amounts of detailed information, which is valuable but also makes it a somewhat tedious read in places. The other drawback in the book is that, since it was published in 2004, many things have happened in the ...more
Good insight on how environmental agencies work in China.

Interesting bits of info that surprised me include:

The Good:
Before initiating work on a pipeline in China, Shell "went beyond the demands of the Chinese government" and "insisted once the pipeline was operational , part of the revenues would be devoted to community developments needs such as poverty alleviation and education. (216-217)

Shanghai is "a center for the most advanced environmental thinking and cleaner production, prompting a b
Cambridge Programme for Sustainability Leadership
One of Cambridge Sustainability's Top 50 Books for Sustainability, as voted for by our alumni network of over 3,000 senior leaders from around the world. To find out more, click here.

The River Runs Black, as the title suggests, paints a fairly bleak picture of China's state of the environment. The book quotes 2002 figures, in which China had six of the world's ten most polluted cities, more than 300,000 people dying annually from air-pollution-related ailments, more than 75% of China's rivers be
Ross Perlin
A fine overview of China’s current environment challenge, Economy’s book devotes attention to China’s own NGO sector and regulatory bodies, international involvement, possible analogues (e.g. former Soviet bloc, other Asian countries), and, finally, possible scenarios for China’s environmental future. She makes a strong case for the fairly uncontroversial position that China’s environmental awareness began with UNCHE in 1972 and that the CCP has relied too much on NGOs, international assistance, ...more
The writing tends to have an investigative tone and is not as statistical and technical as I would like it to be. It is still extremely fascinating and well-researched. Whether or not it is completely up-to-date, the book provides useful information that is still relevant to China's manufacturing industries and economy, and the role that these play in the the world today. So far, the turning of every page becomes more and more heartbreaking.
Ariel White
THis is a good book about enviromentalism and environmental history in china, but extremely dry. Like that text book that you have to be assigned to read from in order to finish... aka... i wasn't assigned anything, so i think i stopped with 50 pages left. Its good, but i just couldn't get the urge to finish it...
Works for the audience it is aimed at (policy community; general non-specialist audience) but it doesn't tell the whole story and leaves you with questions about data collection

(I probably would have had a more glowing review if I had read this before academia brought me over into the dark side)
Jan 30, 2008 Jen marked it as to-read
I listened to this author on NPR and was captivated by the stories and terrible environmental state of affairs in China. The author seemed very balanced-concerned with human rights and finding real-life solutions to the problem...I'll let you know more once I read it :-)
Dec 17, 2007 Moming added it
a good book about China. focused not only on environment but also on economic and social issues. it could be better if the author can trim those unrelated information from the book. Trying to put everything in one book is annoying to me, at least.
An excellent way to begin thinking about and understanding China's environmental crisis.
Stefanie marked it as to-read
Mar 19, 2015
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