Review of Elizabeth C. Economy’s The River Runs Black

January 28, 2015 | By | Reply More

The-River-Runs-BlackAt the beginning of The River Runs Black, Elizabeth C. Economy paints the horrifying image of the Huai River, a body of water running murky and thick with “garbage, yellow foam, and dead fish.”  The Huai has essentially become a trashcan for the factories operating nearby, a place to easily dispose of chemicals, dye, and miscellaneous waste.  Despite its status as the fourth most polluted river system in China, upwards of 150 million Chinese citizens are dependent on Huai River as their water supply.  In this river, Economy argues, lies the central paradox of the Chinese environmental approach as a whole – while economic and industrial prosperity can bring reform and environmental protection, the industry itself is contributing to China’s already problematic levels of pollution and contamination.

Economy breaks down her book into eight sections, layering the history and context of the Chinese individual’s relationship with nature atop the government’s mentality of “first development, then environment,” before delving in to the problems and possible outcomes of the environmental state.  In particular, chapter two, which discussed the major religions of China and their bond with nature, was one of the book’s highpoints, as it provided a rich insight into the importance of protecting these natural bodies of water and land.

Elizabeth C. Economy’s The River Runs Black is a must-read for those looking for a comprehensive history and analysis of China’s environmental situation.  Additionally, those interested in globalized economy and the environmental future of the world should also invest in this book, as Economy discusses the influence of China’s situation on the world.  As a whole, The River Runs Black is well-written and well-structured with information that substantiates the relevance and significance of environmental reform in China.

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About the Author ()

I am a junior at UCLA majoring in English literature. I volunteer at the Mission Viejo library and with Pacific Symphony’s Arts-X-Press. Through IEA, I hope to learn and share knowledge about energy conservation and production.

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