Despite the occasional display of eurocentric arrogance of  Guardian correspondent Jonathan Watts, most of observation and assertions he made in his book When A Billion Chinese Jump: How China Will Save Mankind – Or Destroy It are supported with concrete evidence and should not be dismissed at once.

The disturbing fact I learnt from Watts’s’ Book is not that in China they still eat lions, crocodiles, peacocks, snakes or tigers (which I found acceptable if they are not endangered, what’s the different between them and chickens or pigs anyways). What shocked me to the core from Watt’s 10-year-long investigation is how we (Chinese) have mutated from a civilisation that founded on Confucian’s Nature-and-man-harmony philosophy, to a nation that finds its pride in bending the rules of nature.

The so called animal “reserves” in China serves no purpose in preserving the endangered species. For many of these reserves, including the world-famous Giant Panda breeding ground in Xichuan, their main purpose is to become the number one for-profit tourist attraction, conservation always comes second. The “scientists” in these reserves do not have a plan on how to repopulate them in the wild. Their major focus is to breed as much as they can so that the numbers look good on the books, and hence generates more profits from tourists.

In China we are used to Beijing love for world’s first, world’s biggest, world’s fastest and everything that would put us in the “world’s x” category, and we understand that pursuit comes at the cost of our environment. Still, Watts’s observation blew my mind, and for the first time, I am seriously considering the fact that many of the floods or earthquakes happened in China is nature’s revenge on our constant exploitation of the environment over the past decades. As Watts travelled across the northeastern provinces, communist comrades told Watts that they could shift rain patterns by “milking the mountains” (by adding coal dust on snow to absorb heat to melt the snow caps of the mountains) and “shoot down the clouds” (by adding Silver Iodide in the troposphere to enhance condensation). The world’s biggest dam promised to become the mightiest irrigation and flood control project, but in the mean time created the world’s biggest lake that generated the world’s greatest human-induced pressure on the earth crust. If “harmony” is as vital as Beijing has always preached us, nature would be in desperate need for an earthquake-like-event to harmonize what we did to her.

For Chinese readers, his words might sound condescending, in particular, his critique on consumerism in China, considering that fact that his nation was the one pioneered the industrial revolution. But he always reminded us that he felt sympathetic towards the fishermen, farmers, local cadres, ministries chiefs and even the Chinese leaders, for one simple reason – you cannot deny people a happy life. This gives a humanistic touch and universality to the book, and make it a must-read for all who is concerned about the current state of environment of China, and our planet.

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