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THE DEVOURING DRAGON by Craig Simons Kirkus Star


How China's Rise Threatens Our Natural World

by Craig Simons

Pub Date: March 12th, 2013
ISBN: 978-0-312-58176-3
Publisher: St. Martin's

A frank, depressing wake-up call of impending environmental disaster.

You can’t fault the developing Chinese world for wanting the same prosperity enjoyed by Americans and Western Europeans. Yet, as China-based journalist Simons notes, the world’s resources are nearly exhausted, and there are simply too many Chinese growing too quickly for healthy sustainability on the planet. In alternating chapters, the author looks at significant facets of the shrinking natural world in China and affected environs due to pollution, exhaustion and extinction resulting from China’s staggering economic growth and industrialization since the 1970s: vanishing fish, such as the Chinese sturgeon and the ancient, blind white river dolphin (baiji), from the polluted Yangtze River; thinning numbers of endangered animals such as tigers, orangutans, rhinoceroses, tortoises and others due to their relentless, widespread use in traditional Chinese medicine cures; and greenhouse gas emissions that have surpassed the West. Simons explores why there is not more of an ecological outcry: New “baselines” of sustainability are continually set, and expectations continue to slide, so ideas about normality have shifted. Simons suggests a helpful way of thinking about and managing the crisis—biologist E.O. Wilson’s acronym HIPPO, or “habitat destruction, invasive species, pollution, population growth, and overharvesting”—and the author reports from shrinking forests in Papua New Guinea and neighboring India for a deeper look at the extent of the environmental devastation. He cites some of the failed progress after the Kyoto Protocol and Copenhagen Accord and suggests that a shared sense of responsibility can help “save what’s left.”

A step-by-step grasping of the enormity of an impending biodiversity crisis.